The Corona Pandemic – Bane or Boon?

From the lens of a GCC, 2020 has been a transformational year, bringing the GCCs directly under the spotlight. The journey from here promises to be exciting and rewarding, but with its fair share of hurdles.

Today we have more than 1250 GCCs, with over a million people directly employed across a wide range of industries, displaying a diverse spectrum of maturity and value.

When GCCs were set up in India, the focus was on cost arbitrage and scale, and success was measured by how big we were. We were willing to take on any type of work and worked hard to prove that we could do it well. In due course, we progressed to measuring ourselves against various ‘maturity curves’, with higher maturity defined as a desirable goal. Value maps were produced, showing how much work was being done at what value point.

The “Ownership” of products/platforms/processes became important, but it was a double-edged sword. When we got good sponsorship from the right executives, we were celebrated. But when we pushed for ownership against the prevailing mindset, we subconsciously and unknowingly contributed to the “us versus them” mindset. The success measures then evolved to assess where the GCC was anchored in the parent organisation, which reflected a transition from being order-takers to decision-makers. Overtime, global teams reporting into GCC leaders and operating models became the new parameters of measuring success.

Then came 2020 with the pandemic, where GCCs rose to the challenge, quickly pivoted to work from home, and stabilised service levels in a remarkably short period of time. Employee safety, employee wellbeing, employee efficiency, and employee engagement were quickly stepped up in a virtual world. We quickly learnt how to onboard new hires, run full internships, and train our employees without losing a beat. Employee satisfaction scores went up during this period. Managers quickly learnt to manage virtually, and leadership also quickly adjusted its game. The criticality, skills, and capabilities of the GCC suddenly became more visible in the broader parent organisation. Trust levels significantly improved. Global executives started realising that a lot more of the parent’s work could be done anywhere, and not just near the headquarters; thus leadership could now be distributed globally. We also witnessed an inevitable comparison of GCCs versus IT Services companies, with GCCs leading the race.

Therefore the pandemic surfaced much for GCCs to be proud of.

However, as we move ahead, there are also things to look out for. With GCCs getting more visibility, regulators for the BFSI industry have started reviewing our performance and resilience plans closely; questions around GCC concentration in India are surfacing with virtual working becoming the norm; skill demand is increasing in areas with a demand-supply mismatch; and the fragility of India’s retail internet infrastructure is more evident.

So as we come to the end of 2020, we – the GCCs, are at a crossroad, and therein lies the opportunity.

Trust and credibility are at a record high, but fragile. Parent businesses globally are under tremendous pressure due to the global recession, and they need ideation and solutions unlike anything seen before. No longer is being a best-in-class services/solution provider enough. Demand-supply imbalances are challenging established notions of cost saves in India. The capabilities we are building today can cannibalize a lot of the work being presently done in GCCs. This also means the scale trajectory of the GCCs is no longer guaranteed to move only one way we are used to so far – upwards.

So to cement a robust future, our go forward approach should:

  1. Demonstrate the right level of forward thinking and establish the GCC as an equal, strategic, innovative partner of the parent.
  2. Be ready for global roles to be based out of our GCCs.
  3. Invest in building future capability and make tough decisions of what skills we need to let go, what we need to acquire, and how we will build / acquire that. We can no longer afford to look at just skills, but at business capability.
  4. Build a truly commercial mindset.
  5. Be more focused and impactful, rather than broad based and large in scale.
  6. Become the channel to bring global talent to our firms, even at the risk of changing the current GCC construct.
  7. For many of us, the GCCs are a microcosm of the larger firm, but with an opportunity to be less siloed. We should leverage this by using the GCCs as test sites for optimisation and transformation experiments.

At this crossroad, we can capture these opportunities and step up our game, or we can continue to do more of what we do now. While the direction of movement for the industry is broadly similar, each GCC needs to find its own path, depending on its industry, its maturity, its organisation culture, its parent organisation imperatives, and its hunger to do more.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

1 thought on “The Corona Pandemic – Bane or Boon?”

  1. Poulomi Saha Mukerji

    Very well written piece. Really spotlights the right themes. I especially liked the journey depicted in the article around what GCCs considered success measures, and how that changed over time, with the times. Point No. 3,4,5 in the suggested way forward is quite insightful. Kudos !

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