On call centres, IT industry and govt policies
Tell me a little about TRG.
TRG is an information technology (IT) services company which was established in 2002. The company was founded by Pakistani entrepreneurs based in the United States. The idea was to jump start the call centre services in Pakistan. I would say, there are two ways to establish a business; either you start from scratch or you buy already established companies. Our idea was to establish a business process outsourcing (BPO) service firm by acquiring already operative firms within the industry. Therefore, we started buying US companies – primarily the ones which provided call centre services to various clients in the media, healthcare, banks, and telecom sectors.
Who are your major customers?
Banks, telecom and FMCG companies.
What is TRGs unique selling point?
Every business tries to be as cost effective as possible. What we provide our customers is the ability to have their needs addressed from a variety of locations at competitive rates. Many firms also look for a US customer base, and TRG is the only local company to be able to provide that as we have about 3,000 employees in the US alone, which is a huge number. Moreover, we give them a one-window service facility along with tailor-made solutions from multiple locations around the world.
What are the solutions that you provide?
We provide a variety of IT and IT enabled services. We provide contact centre services to our clients; we develop software solutions, call centre software and solutions; and manage customer satisfaction programmes . So we offer software and also provide solution to it.
What is the TRGs contribution to the economy?
TRG is the largest IT services company in Pakistan. Our global revenue base is $170 million and we have more than 6,000 people working for us all over the world, of which 2,000 are in Pakistan. We are the only multinational company of Pakistani origin in several nations including Philippines, West Africa, US, Canada, South America, etc. We are also, by Pakistani standards, the largest IT firm based here.
How do you keep your employees motivated?
In the labour intensive services industry, people are your assets. You retain employees by providing them a good environment, and providing them with a culture of learning and development. We have a wide variety of training and development programs. We give employees basic management skills; we train them on how to handle people, how to deal with pressure; skills that they will take with them and which will help them for the rest of their lives. The second angle is that the human resources department should be highly efficient, empowered and competent; the systems and process should be robust to deal with staffs grievances. Furthermore, financial benefits and provision of a level-playing field to employees is pivotal.
What are your Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities?
We usually have employee engagement activities. Our staff has volunteered with Dar ul Sukun; we have held blood drives and organized earthquake and flood relief activities. We are also heavily involved with The Citizens Foundation (TCF). We designed a programme where we brought students of TCF and gave them 3-month training programme here and then hired them as employees.
Genius Hunt is another programme of ours which has won the P@SHA Award. What we did was that we went to low tier schools of which you might not even have heard the name. We picked up 10 Intermediate/FSc students with IQ of more than 150 and taught them Math, English, Algebra, along with software development. They are currently working with us, developing software solutions. After the completion of three years of training and working with us, we will pay for their education anywhere in the world. Our aim is to promote education in the country, especially at primary and secondary level.
Where does the BPO industry of Pakistan stand in the region? What is its potential locally?
If you look at the BPO industry in the region, the Indian industry is about 15-year-old and there are one million people working in it. In Philippines, a similar number of people are employed. In Pakistan, the entire BPO sector employs between 25-30 thousand people. So there is no comparison. Having said that, this industry is highly labour intensive and Pakistan has that labour available; the number of college graduates is increasing every year and employment opportunities do not match that number. This creates a have a large pool of labour which is much cheaper than India or Philippines… so in that sense, Pakistan is very competitive and it has an advantage. Pakistan has the right infrastructure and competitive telecom costs. But again, the problem is the geo political and law and order situation, which is a mess and therefore, customers do not want to come to Pakistan. The local companies, however are realizing the benefits of outsourcing and have developed into a significant share of our business.
How has the Pakistani BPO sector been able to benefit the local job market?
About 200,000-250,000 students graduate with a basic degree in Pakistan every year. The BPO industry allows such people with basic skills to start their career at very good salary levels. BPO employees develop essential professional skills and gain experience in customer service and sales. They either grow into managerial levels within the company across different departments or move out to other industries. So the BPO sector has been able to create well-paying respectable jobs for fresh graduates.
As a multinational operating in Pakistan, have you ever faced any problem? Do you have any complaints against the government?
We are the largest IT service provider in Pakistan, however, our government has shown no interest in us. Even generally speaking, there has neither been any interest or focus on how to develop the industry nor any engaging dialogues. It is the private entrepreneurs creativity that has developed this industry basically. Furthermore, even though we have the most advanced telecom infrastructure and good supply of labour, the lack of government focus has not helped in promoting this industry internationally. Pakistans exports are $200 million in the IT industry and the total revenue is $2 billion annually so it is a very important sector with tremendous opportunities of growth. Serious efforts are needed to promote the industry through all the channels available. This industry also needs a wider space and therefore software technology industry parks are required. IT education promotion is also extremely pivotal as this will eventually produce skilled labour and improve the overall quality of IT sector of Pakistan.
What are the TRGs future plans?
The focus of the company has shifted from being purely a services provider to being a products provider as well and in the next five years we will be more of an enterprise software provider globally. This is because the services industry is more competitive now and less profitable, so now our focus is going to be on providing more value added services.