Business Today

1996: The world's back office

Back in 1994, when Gurgaon was just a sleepy hamlet in Haryana, American Express set up a processing centre in India to service its Asia-Pacific centres.

     Print Edition: Jan 9, 2011

Back in 1994, when Gurgaon was just a sleepy hamlet in Haryana, American Express set up a processing centre in India to service its Asia-Pacific centres. Around the same time, behemoth General Electric (GE) was looking at offshoring backoffice work to India. In 1996, Anderson Consulting, which had been mandated to explore the market for third-party vendors, recommended that GE go captive instead. GE Capital International Services (GECIS) formally started its operations in Gurgaon in 1997. British Airways also set up World Network Services to handle back end jobs like data entry in June 1996. These were the baby steps of the BPO industry. Today, GECIS has been rechristened Genpact, employs over 42,500 people and has revenues in excess of a billion dollars. Raman Roy, a former American Express and GECIS veteran, went on to found Spectramind, which was acquired by Wipro in 2002. In 2009, the BPO industry clocked revenues of $14.7 billion and employed close to a million people.

Ports opened up
Indian ports were a mess. Average ship turnaround time across ports was as high as 8.1 days in 1990-91, which worsened to 8.5 days in 1995-96. In 1996, against an installed capacity of 177 million tonnes, Indian ports handled 215.3 million tonnes. Then the government opened up the sector in 1996. The first major investment came from P&O Australia, which invested $250 million to set up two container berths at JNPT in Mumbai. By 2007-08, Indian ports were handling 723 million tonnes. The turnaround time of major Indian ports improved to 3.87 days in 2008-09, even though it is still well below Hong Kong's 10 hours.

Tendulkar's Million-dollar Baby
Kapil's Devils won the World Cup in 1983 and the team got �20,000 as prize money. Thirteen years later, Sachin Tendulkar raised the bar for cricket remuneration in India when he signed a marketing deal with WorldTel for $7.5 million for a five-year period. It was Indian cricket's first million-dollar deal. Five years later, Tendulkar signed on the dotted line again with WorldTel, this time for about $17 million.

Did you know?
P. Chidambaram's 1996-97 Budget introduced Minimum Alternate Tax in India.

 
Quote of the year
You've got to create heroes and you've got to pay them.
Mark Mascarenhas, President, WorldTel, on the multimillion deal with Sachin Tendulkar

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