Bharti, IBM, Mahindra, Spanco sign African pact

(R-L) Manoj Kohli, CEO (International) and Joint Managing Director, Bharti Airtel; John Lutz, general manager, IBM Managed Business Process Services; and Kapil Puri, Chairman and Managing Director, Spanco, during the announcement.
The African Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector which promises to deliver economic growth to many countries across the continent is all set for rapid growth following Bharti Airtel’s selection of IBM, Tech Mahindra and Spanco as partners to drive world class customer service across 16 African countries. An agreement is expected to be finalized soon.

Under the agreement Bharti Airtel, which owns and currently operates the ‘Zain’ brand in 16 countries across Africa, will outsource core customer service functions like call centres and back office as it prepares for significant growth in the region. The mobile telecommunications operator currently has over 40 million customers across its African operations and is targeting to achieve 100 million by 2013.

The selection of world class partners like IBM, Tech Mahindra and Spanco will enable Bharti Airtel’s mobile customers to enjoy world class customer service with the partners introducing quality best practices based on their experiences of working with international organisations in the telecommunications, banking, finance, insurance and retail sectors.

The widespread adoption of the BPO model by Bharti Airtel across its operations will also have tangible benefits for development of the sector in each country, create additional job opportunities and develop local talent. The partners will provide services in each market which will sustain and build skills, capabilities and resources

The outsourcing of customer service operations will play a key role in making Bharti Airtel competitive in Africa as it focuses on making mobile communications affordable and available to everyone across its 16 markets of operation.

Manoj Kohli, CEO (International) and Joint Managing Director, Bharti Airtel, said: “Our partnership with IBM, Tech Mahindra and Spanco is aimed at redefining and providing a world class and seamless customer experience in all 16 countries. The BPO model has significant benefits for our customers, the countries in which we operate and their economies. Partnering with world class organisations on such a massive scale will galvanise the BPO sector in Africa and be a catalyst for growth in the sector.

“These partnerships will offer career enhancement opportunities to our team in this specialist field as they will now get exposure to global best practices and the latest technologies.”

This is the second major partnership announcement from Bharti Airtel on the African subcontinent. In September this year Bharti selected IBM to build and manage IT systems to power the mobile communications network across 16 African countries.

“IBM’s strategic relationship with Bharti Airtel illustrates its focus on emerging markets like Africa,” said John Lutz, general manager, IBM Managed Business Process Services. “IBM’s business process outsourcing unit helps clients manage functions like customer care so that they are able to channel critical resources to essential growth activities such as product design and marketing.”

According to a Deloitte report for the GSMA, the mobile communications industry association, less than 40 percent of Africans has access to a mobile phone. However, demand is growing at an average rate of 25 percent annually, and a 10 percent rise in mobile penetration could increase gross domestic product by 1.2 percent in developing markets.

Vineet Nayyar, Vice Chairman, Tech Mahindra, said: “Practically, there are three major benefits to Bharti Airtel from outsourcing its customer service functions. It can scale quickly to manage its expected growth, customers will receive first class service to global standards, and each market will benefit from talent training and development.

“By seeding the African BPO market with these three world class partnerships, Bharti Airtel is effectively kick-starting the onshore business process outsourcing sector across Africa.” The three partners collectively employ over 90,000 people for providing BPO services in more than 100 countries.

Kapil Puri, Chairman & Managing Director, Spanco, said: “Bharti Airtel was the pioneer of adopting the BPO model across all its areas of operations in India. The experience and success that it achieved created a whole new sector in the country that is now regarded as the global centre of excellence for outsourcing.

“Bharti’s vision is to replicate that success in Africa, not only for the benefit of its customers, but also to create an entire industry in Africa as a centre of BPO excellence. With its advantages of time zone location, multi-lingual fluency especially in English and French, operational cost and robust network infrastructure, Africa can grow as a world class off-shoring destination for global organisations.”

Currently over 4,000 people are employed in Africa supporting Bharti Airtel’s customer service operations. Going forward the number of people employed in managing Bharti Airtel’s customer service functions will increase as Bharti Airtel expands its network and customer base.

Bharti Airtel has operations in Burkina Faso, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.