Regional Collaboration on IT Enabled Services in South Asia

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Go directly to the upcoming event: SARC Information Technology Enabled Services Conference - March 10, 2010

South Asian countries share many characteristics that lend themselves to collaboration; particularly in IT Enabled Services (ITES). These include a young population, high adoption of the English language, and a strong quantitative focus in education. This provides an environment where the ITES Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry can thrive. India has dramatically shifted its export-led economy through services mainly in the ITES-BPO industry; it has 37% of the market share in global off-shoring. Nonetheless, India is facing a talent crunch and wage inflation which has prompted a shift in location to minimize talent cost. The rest of the eight SAR countries are following suit through different paths. However, those countries require support to build their capabilities in the industry. This effort can be facilitated through effective regional collaboration based on the cost advantages and talent pool the smaller countries can bring and the knowledge and infrastructure investment the more established SAR countries can provide.

The ITES-BPO industry offers much needed foreign exchange and is a significant employer in major cities in the region and has the potential to become one in less urban areas as well; it requires relatively low investment in infrastructure and on behalf of the government and potential employers. It is also an attractive employment option for women as it offers more flexibility and usually offers a workplace that is more conducive than one finds within traditional male dominated industries.

Stimulating a strategic dialogue leading to regional collaboration and integration within the SAR has many gains for each country within the region and the region as a whole. Knowledge partnerships resulting from such collaboration can be a key growth driver for the ITES- BPO industry.

CLIENT VOICES

Interviews with Key Stakeholders in Industry and Government in the SAR


IT Enabled Services for Accelerated Growth and Job Creation
Previous Event SARC Information Technology Enabled Services Conference - July 14, 2009

The GDLN session on IT Enabled Services was organized to highlight collaboration-oriented activities in the ITES sector carried out to date by the region and bring together the key policy makers to share their experiences in building the sector in each country. The session also addressed the key constraints to collaboration in ITES in South Asia and defined the areas, level of engagement and the potential benefits of Collaboration in IT Enabled Services in SAR. This was the first full scale model of the series. In which all facets of collaboration were brought together; it demonstrated the benefits of preparatory discussions among a core group of protagonists, effective use of networks, WIKIs, and the need to ground these with in-country trade associations to bring ideas into action.

Preparatory consultation for the GDLN event was allocated sufficient time so the participants could come prepared with "actionable ideas" and develop their own approach on how to make use of available resources. An example is our conference call with one of India’s leading IT entrepreneurs which: (i) identified his interest in risk financing on a regional basis and (ii) showed his willingness to get buy-in from the right partners from India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). The WB team provided him with potential entry points (SAARC Development Fund, USAID PACT, BIRD, etc.) and encouraged him to participate in the videoconference to gauge the response of the other participants.

It was voiced during the videoconference that SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry is an acceptable institutional hub for championing the cause of regional collaboration. In order to explore this with the SAARC Chamber, a follow-up videoconference will be scheduled. The other alternative of leveraging the capacity of existing country trade associations such as NASSCOM, bringing together its respective leadership team as constituents to virtual regional body was also discussed. Indeed, there is an opportunity to build their capacity to lead regional initiatives, which would mutually benefits their members. Assistance to and help them develop a coherent plan of action was then necessary.

Alternatively, NASSCOM Foundation and CII, who are not members of the SAARC Chamber have the necessary experience and capacity to facilitate collaboration may be a third alternative.

Therefore, key recommendations for regional collaboration in ITES for SAR included:

SAR Venture Fund - it was suggested that a multi-country fund should be mobilized (e.g. SAARC venture fund) and/or a risk fund to catalyze/incentivize regional entrepreneurial activity; such as intra–SAR collaborative ventures in training, assessment, infrastructure sharing, and promotion.

Virtual Organization - a virtual regional organization comprising all country ITES trade associations was also discussed as a expedient way to create a regional body to champion the regional cause, given that such composite entity will not face the usual geopolitical challenges which have hitherto plagued collaborative efforts in SAR.

The WBG Role - SASFP’s role, along with WBI and GICT, was emphasized as the ‘Convenor’ and impartial catalyst to launch this agenda and move it to the next stage.

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