As India announced a three-week lockdown in March to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, [24] had a problem on its hands. The American business process management (BPM) company has offices in Bengaluru and Hyderabad, which house over 5,000 people—half of its worldwide talent pool. With India shutting down, [24] had to figure out how to continue responding to the customer support needs of several clients in the United States—in real time.

The company began transporting 1,300 computers and nearly 1,000 back-up power systems to its employees’ homes in vans labelled ‘Essential Services’. And it wasn’t alone.

According to an official with direct knowledge of the matter, Sopra Steria, a technology consultancy from Europe, transported more than 8,000 uninterrupted power supply (UPS) systems to its employees in India. IT giant Wipro dispatched 30,000 desktops to its employees across the country.

However, the pace of enabling remote working was hardly ideal for the companies. It involved a cumbersome process of obtaining approvals from local authorities. To ensure this delay did not affect its operations, [24] decided to increase its capacity in other countries like Colombia. The South American nation has reported fewer Covid-19 cases (~3,500) than India’s 14,000-plus.

Apart from reshoring its operations, the company also accelerated its path to automation. “We started seeing more volumes in the automated channels,” said Shanmugam Nagarajan*, co-founder of [24] The automated channels refer to bots that respond to customers without the need for human intervention. “All put together, we were able to save the day.”

At another BPM firm in the healthcare industry, nearly 38% of its claims in March were done by bots, according to an official who requested anonymity as they were not authorised to speak with the media. The figure typically hovers around 22%.

“The speed at which automation will come into play for BPO BPO Business Process Outsourcing BPO is the practice of a company hiring a business process management (BPM) company to perform its operational processes and tasks activity will increase right now,” said Bhanumurthy BM, president and chief operating officer, Wipro, during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call last week. “Different opportunities will emerge in the BPO landscape.”

But a Renaissance moment doesn’t make the present any easier for India’s $33 billion BPO industry, which employs 1.3 million people across over 3,000 companies. The sector has been built on a delicate seesaw model. For long, it has been about balancing the needs of enterprise clients from the US and Europe on one side, and trained human agents on the other.

The greater the demand from the West, the more India’s industry has reinforced talent (human agents) for its customers, snaring more than 35% of the global market share. Now, trade body Nasscom has appealed for a bailout package for smaller BPO firms to help them partly compensate entry-level professionals.


Kunal Talgeri

Kunal is a Bangalore-based business journalist who has dabbled in editing and reporting since 2001. He has covered the technology industry for the Indian editions of Fortune and Forbes, as well as The Economic Times. A commerce graduate, Kunal also studied at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai.

View Full Profile

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750


Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 60+ new stories with 3-months worth of archives from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 1,750


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120


Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 35+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 50


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20



What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at detailing the error or queries.