Clients want access to CEOs at Indian outsourcers: report

They attach great importance to their relationships with the heads of Indian outsourcers, according to the report

Clients of Indian outsourcers consider it critical to have access to, and to build a relationship with, the heads of these companies, according to a study by Offshore Insights, a research and advisory firm in Pune, India.

Fewer of the clients polled considered it important to have access to the CEOs of their hardware, network or telecommunications service providers, said Sudin Apte, principal analyst and CEO of Offshore Insights. Some of the CEOs of Indian outsourcing companies make a point of meeting customers and building relationships with them, Apte said on Friday.

Some of the heads of Indian outsourcing companies are iconic and have very close relationships with the customers, he said.

The result of the survey assumes significance as some key Indian outsourcers are seeing changes of leadership.

N.R. Narayana Murthy, co-founder and chairman of Infosys Technologies, India's second largest outsourcer, is due to step down in August. His successor to the position of chairman is expected to be announced on Saturday. The succession plan may also include a change in CEO, with the current CEO moving to the position of vice chairman, according to reports.

Wipro, another large Indian outsourcer, said in January that it was abandoning a dual-CEO structure for its IT services business, after a lackluster financial quarter. The joint CEOs were replaced by a single CEO, T. K. Kurien.

At MindTree, a mid-size outsourcer, executive chairman Ashok Soota quit to start another outsourcing company.

A change of leadership at Indian outsourcers need not necessarily be disruptive, said Amneet Singh, vice president for global sourcing at Everest. Existing clients are usually reassured in advance by the company about the continuity of operations and strategy after a change in management, and they are in any case tied in by contracts, he added.

But if there are reports of operations getting disrupted, or staff leaving, or the company's share price taking a beating after the change in leadership, some prospective clients may revaluate their options, Singh said.

Customers always want access to the CEO, because it gives them the message that they have a special relationship with the service provider, Singh said. If 10 years ago, it was possible for the CEOs of Indian outsourcers to meet personally a lot of customers, now they have to cherry pick to include only key clients, while leaving the relationship building to the second line, he added.

Indian outsourcers have to cultivate a new line of extroverted leaders who are approachable and are able to build deep relationships with customers, Apte said.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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