The battle for winning information technology contracts is getting fiercer as leading software exporters are either paying money upfront or buying assets to swing the deal in their favour, a trend some industry executives and experts believe will gain traction in a year that has $55 billion (Rs 3.3 lakh crore) of contracts up for renewal.
At least four large deals bagged by the country’s largest IT firms, including TCSBSE 0.18 % and WiproBSE -0.85 % this year, have seen the homegrown firms edge past competition from global outsourcing firms after innovative structuring of contracts.
“Any deal you do, there will be a certain level of structuring that goes in,” said TK Kurien, chief executive officer, Wipro, after the country’s third-largest software exporter paid about $200 million to buy the IT subsidiary of Canadian utility Atco as part of its single-largest outsourcing deal worth $1.2-billion.
In April, TCS signed an agreement with Mitsubishi under which the country’s largest software company merged its Japanese subsidiary with IT Frontier Corp (ITF), a unit of Mitsubishi. The deal was structured in such a way that gives TCS 51% holding in the new entity.
“It’s very much a trend,” said Sid Pai, who heads the Indian arm of outsourcing advisory TPI. “As deal economics move inexorably toward usagebased models to include the adoption of cloud technology, service providers will have to absorb an ever increasing portfolio of client hardware and software and human resource assets,” said Pai.
The strategy of paying cash upfront is not an entirely new trend. Back in 2007, when ABN Amro signed an over $1 billion contract with InfosysBSE 0.05 % and TCS, the deal involved transfer of people and assets, and some upfront payment. Then, in 2012, IBM beat both Infosys and Wipro to win a billion-dollar contract from Mexico’s biggest cement firm Cemex.
As leading IT firms now bid against global outsourcing firms, homegrown IT majors have started structuring deals to stay competitive. In May, the country’s fourth-largest software services firm, HCL TechnologiesBSE -0.95 %, bagged a $500 milion contract from PepsiCo for infrastructure management services, thereby pipping IBM. Experts said the Gurgaon-based company’s decision to sweeten the deal by putting in money upfront helped the company seal the seven-year deal. The money paid upfront to a client is a part of the sum which the IT outsourcer expects to spend over the total deal.
“It is not a standard kind of payment term,” said Suresh Senapaty, chief financial officer at Wipro, adding that buying the captive IT centre brings its own benefits. “Depending upon how the customer is looking at, it varies. I won’t say across the board but there are quite a few deals where you are able to protect your downside and able to structure the deal to take it forward by putting something upfront,” Senapaty told ET. However, some experts doubt if the structuring done by companies can be dubbed as a secular trend and said that taking “over assets and people is the DNA of outsourcing.”
“Given the maturity of the outsourcing market, most providers apply a portfolio management approach to sourcing large deals based on their penetration of specific verticals,” said Tom Reuner, an analyst at Ovum, a Londonbased IT research firm.