In a major reversal of the outsourcing trend, enterprises across verticals have started to build and strengthen their internal IT teams. They don’t want to depend on outsourcing service providers any more to gain the ‘India advantage’ in terms of low cost and talent, say experts.
Companies like General Motors, AstraZeneca and Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) have started to set up their own captive units or build on the existing ones to do IT work that was earlier outsourced to external vendors. The ‘in-sourcing’ trend has started and is here to stay, said David Smoley, chief information officer of AstraZeneca.
“It is a silent trend. Companies like General Motors are on it for the last three years. This is unlike the earlier outsourcing trend, which had people shouting from rooftops. So nobody is talking about ‘insourcing,’ at least not yet,” he added.
Global pharma major AstraZeneca inaugurated its offshore IT development centre at the Ramanujan IT City SEZ in Chennai last Tuesday. Starting with 60 people, the company plans to scale up to 300 by end of the first year. The overall strategy is to bring outsourced IT work back into the company’s fold to improve efficiency and time-to-market.
Eight global vendors including Cognizant, TCS, HCL and Wipro have been providing IT services to AstraZeneca.
The company’s aspiration is to cut down the amount of work outsourced to external vendors over the next 3-4 years, he added. For 2013, the pharma major spent about $1.3 billion on IT projects and services.
Large companies have started to recruit directly in India to build their captive units. They seem to have learnt from IT vendors how to go all-out to find the necessary talent.
“Our vendors focused on their profit margins and not ours. On an outsourced model, there are three or four arm links by way of vendors’ people working on projects, teams managing them and further teams from our side managing overall activity. By ‘insourcing’ work, we will have fewer handoffs and simpler controls,” Smoley said.
“We see a decisive trend in which large companies including the big four consultants have started to hire directly from colleges. They recruit students from across streams for their IT operations pretty much the way the IT vendors do it. They are trying to cut costs by hiring freshers directly from colleges to build their in-house IT teams,” said Sekar Viswanathan, vice president of VIT University.
Cost, though, is not the only reason for insourcing, said Vinod Baya, director- technology and innovation at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). As more businesses go digital, IT products become intellectual property, which cannot be outsourced.
“What is true is that IT is increasingly becoming a source of competitive differentiation. As a company, you’d want to own it because your vendor won’t know your business enough. As a critical part of the digital enterprise, technology becomes your business and not your vendor’s,” he added.
Outsourcing started to gain steam when companies set out to find experts to do non-core work. However, for most B2C businesses that have gone digital, IT has become a part of their core activity. For example, a company like FedEx uses a lot of technology and its IT is its intellectual property and a market differentiator.
“Even non-digital native companies have become tech players and they sure want to own their future,” Baya reiterated.
However, insourcing may not be the death knell for the Indian IT industry. From being vendors, they can now become partners, said S Ganesh, chief executive officer of D&B Technologies and Data Services.
“It is a great opportunity for Indian IT players. More so for the mid-size IT companies, which can now reach out to large enterprises with flexible pricing policies. We ourselves are setting up a captive unit and are more comfortable with mid-size vendors.
“The vast pool of talent was, is and will continue to be India’s biggest advantage. It is so difficult to build even a 20-member IT team in Europe. Enterprises including Standard Chartered, Pfizer and Goldman Sachs have their captives in India and continue to strengthen them mainly for this reason,” he added.
Indian companies will have to change their pricing methods, account management and delivery models to deliver services within India. IT work will become more collaborative and in future, vendors may even go up to the level where they can jointly own intellectual property, Ganesh said.