KPO: Cross between a BPO and consulting

POSTGRADUATES and those with professional qualifications find opportunities in KPOs, which are essentially BPOs that offer high-end services, which in turn demand specific skills. For instance, Infosys BPO hires those with a Master’s in Statistics and a Master’s in Economics to do ‘Statistical Modeling and Analytics’ for clients.

“We also hire CAs, CFAs, MCom degree-holders, lawyers and MBAs for HR, Solution Design and pre-sales,” Raghavendra shares. KPOs in India offer a variety of services, but the largest chunk comprise Legal Process Outsourcing (LPOs). Vivek Menon Director HR, Integron  sheds light on what LPOs do. Also, read our interview with Dr Alok Aggarwal to understand the career scope in a KPO. 

Professional Speak
: Dr Alok Aggarwal, Chairman & Co-founder Evalueserve

What is the career potential of a KPO for the Indian workforce? Is the future growth promising? Dr. Aggarwal from a KPO firm in Delhi-Gurgaon, discusses  jobs profiles, remuneration and more, with Urmila Rao.

Vishal Kaul/Outlook Group

Q: How is a KPO different from a BPO?
A: A KPO firm requires substantially more domain expertise. A typical KPO firm lies somewhere between a BPO firm and a consulting firm.

Q: Are KPOs hiring at the same pace as they were in pre-downturn times?
A: In 2007-08, the industry grew by approximately 40% worldwide, which caused overheating in the market, thereby leading to significant employee attrition and extremely high wage inflation. We believe this industry will grow globally at approximately 24% annually .

QWhat do KPOs look for in candidates while hiring?
A: The person must be innovative, an excellent problem-solver, a good communicator and a team player. Because of the nature of the work involved, soft skills are significantly more important in the KPO industry; these include good presentation skills with respect to speaking/ writing, good leadership and good project management skills.

Q: Are companies hiring across all the verticals and job functions?
A: Yes. The three sub-sectors BFSI Research and Analytics Services, Legal Research and Legal Process Services and Offshore Outsourcing of Publishing Services seemed to have grown the fastest.

Q: Which other jobs will a KPO-experienced candidate fit in?
A: After five to six years of work experience in the KPO sector, an employee can work in the front office of a bank, private equity group or become a part of a strategy or operational consulting firm, accounting firm, or a law-firm. He or she can also become part of the strategy group and/or market research and analytics group in a large or medium-sized corporation.

Q:   What are the entry-level salaries for a KPO employee?
A: Entry-level salaries are approximately Rs. 3 lakhs to Rs. 4.5 lakhs depending upon the experience and educational qualification of the person who is joining the KPO firm. These salaries tend to be approximately one-third higher than similar salaries in BPO firms.

Q: How do you see the KPO sector panning out in two-three years?
A: Going forward, the future of the KPO industry looks reasonably bright; especially if the United States and other developed economies can avoid a double-dip recession. 

Meghna Dharma, Senior Analytics Specialist, Integron

She clearly remembers one project that she handled four years back of an offshore client. Meghna,  26 had just completed MBA (Finance) and started working as an Associate at Mumbai-based outsourcing company Integreon, which specialises in Legal Process Outsourcing.

“The project had a very short delivery timeline,” she recalls. “The client wasn’t articulating clearly and I was still inexperienced in grasping its requirements straight away,” she adds. This was in 2006.

Meghna went on to prove her mettle and now works as a Senior Analytics Specialist at Integreon. She reminisces how she, along with other six members of the team, worked 12-15 hours for three months to match the timeline and requirement of the particular client. “It was a great learning experience,” she shares.

Since then Meghna has worked with clients like Investment banks, business plan developers and consulting firms in non-voice based process.

The reason for joining an outsourcing firm abandoning offers from traditional companies, she says, was the positive feedback she got from her friends. “When I started out, I made financial models for clients,” she says. It meant analysing a company’s financial statements, working on ratio of liability and assets and writing research reports among other finance-related functions.

As she moved ahead from her first role in about nine months, Meghna was entrusted with more responsibilities. “I got to enhance my technical skill-sets, and refined my communication and leadership skills,” she says. Her profile includes interacting with clients as and when the need arises.

The training that the company provided at the introductory leg and later on a quarterly basis helped the commerce graduate to deliver quick and efficient results. The other benefit drawn in the process was getting an understanding of a different work culture and gaining familiarity with it. “That more or less trains us for a global work-culture,” observes the Mumbai-based girl who is preparing for Certified Public Accountant Exam (CPA; title for qualified accountants in the US, equivalent of CWA of India.)

The remuneration package of an approximate Rs 3 lakhs per annum, has been one of the attractions for Meghna as it is for prospective candidates. There is also Retention Bonus and 12-20 percent increase in annual salary based on performance, she says. “Odd timings of the industry, however, is a dampener for most interested candidates,” Meghna feels. But then who says good professional investment comes sans riders?

LPOs decoded...

He dismantles the popular misconception that legal support work is repetitive, Vivek Menon, Director HR of Integreon speaks to Urmila Rao.

Q. What kind of background is required for an LPO job?
A. Professionals typically possess a law degree, strong domain knowledge and excellent English. A perfect candidate would be analytical and detail-oriented, work well in teams, thrive on deadlines and respect client confidentiality.

Q. What are the verticals in an LPO?
A. The support services can be generally categorised as: e-discovery, document review, legal and business research, regulatory compliance, intellectual property and business support services among others.

Q. What are the salary levels?
A. On an average, salaries can range from Rs. 3 lakhs per annum to 15 lakhs per annum and even higher, depending on the position, experience and skills of the individual.

Q. What are the typical issues that an employee faces ?
A. Legal support services require employees to be adept at interacting with clients in different time zones.   Those who thrive on in-person interaction with clients may find this difficult. Because clients are often located around the globe, meetings and calls can sometimes occur early in the morning or late at night. The urgent nature of many client requests necessitates meeting of strict delivery deadlines while satisfying the client’s needs.