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Demand for global capability centres likely to rise in India on mounting cost pressure in US, Europe

The UK-headquartered shareholder management fintech company Equiniti, which has its GCC in India, plans to increase its headcount by 15-20% this year and in 2023

Anand Ramakrishnan, Managing Director, Equiniti India
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Anand Ramakrishnan, Managing Director, Equiniti India

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As the world is staring at a possible economic slowdown, technology captives of global enterprises, known as Global Capability Centres (GCC) may see the impact. However, cost pressures may also prompt more companies to move more work to India, some feel. In a conversation with the Bizz Buzz, Anand Ramakrishnan, Managing Director of Equiniti India said more cost pressure in the US and Europe is likely to ensure more growth for Indian GCCs. The UK-headquartered shareholder management fintech has its Global Capability Centre (GCC) in India with around 1,300 staffers working in India out of its 6,000 strong workforce globally. He said the Indian centre is driving many innovations, both in operations and technology spaces, for its parent group. The India unit plans to grow its headcount by 15-20 per cent this year and in 2023. The company is setting up centre of excellences in specific digital technology domains for ensuring better service delivery with critical insights for customers. He said that despite slowdown fears, India centre will continue to grow, given its rising importance for its parent

What kind of support Equiniti's India GCC (global capability centre) is providing to its parent company and global customers?

Equiniti (EQ) is the largest shareholder management company in the UK and the second largest in the US. And when I say shareholder management, we do the entire part of shareholder management, including ESOP (employee stock options) management. We also manage shares vesting along with trading for those vested shares among others. So, we are essentially a B2B (business to business) company, and work with other corporates. Our genesis is actually from banks. In the UK, we started from Lloyds Bank. In the US, we started from Wells Fargo. So, essentially, we started from the banking industry and then became an independent entity. We are around 6,000 people worldwide out of which about 1,300 are in India centre. So, around 20 per cent of our workforce sits out of India. In India, we do four broad things. First is the operations that comprise of entire share management as I mentioned earlier. Around 700 people are involved in that operations. And then if somebody moves addresses in the UK, a large part of it is still manual, paper based, not completely dematerialised yet. So, we do paper-based transactions. Also, if anybody wants to sell the shares they hold, they can call us and we will sell the shares as well. All these operations are being done by our teams here. We also conduct the dividend pay out shareholders as per companies' directions.

We have a pension fund in the UK. So, part of the pension fund operations is also done from India. But most of the pension work happens out of UK itself because of regulatory reasons. Our entire software platform for management for pensions and other operations is developed inhouse by us. Apart from these functions, the team in India also manages internal HR (human resources) and finance functions.

So, India GCC is a cost centre. Is that the right inference? Also, we want to understand that whether you serve the India units of your global customers?

Yes. We serve a lot of customers who have their GCCs in India, but our customers will be in the UK or US. For example, if, say, Wells Fargo is running an ESOP programme, there may be some of the Indian staffers getting the same. But for us, our contract is always with the Wells Fargo in the US. Wherever they ask us to do the work worldwide, we do it for them. So that could include India GCC, but we have no connection directly with the India GCC (of these global firms).

What kind of innovation in technology segment is driven out of India centre? Can you throw some light on this aspect?

Currently, we are running a very large transformation project called Vega, which is basically to transform that entire shareholder management platform. Also, in the US, we bought another company called AST, which is another shareholder management firm. We're integrating all the platforms along with doing technology simplification. A significant part of that work is being driven out of India. We are also bringing in a lot of other areas into the Indian centre. For example, we are doing a lot of work on the global compliance. For the entire company, the resilience model will be driven out of India. Similarly, global procurement, a large part of global procurement is actually done out of India. We are also building a testing centre of excellence, because since we are fintech and we have so many applications running, there's always a need for testers. So, we're building that testing CoE. Then, we are working on analytics CoE (centre of excellence). There's a lot of work that we're doing out of India that will enable our global footprint. For example, through analytics applications; customer profitability, profitable products and contracts can be analysed. It has a direct impact on our customers business.

What are your expansion plans in India? Will the global slowdown impact your plans of growing Indian operations?

No. It has not. If you look at it, even just after the pandemic, we grew (our headcount) by 21 to 22 per cent. For next year, our plan is around 15 to 20 per cent again. For us, as I was saying, our global population itself is only 6,000 and we will not cross 6,000. So, the intensity of the work that each person does within the organization is very high. From that perspective, we will create more value. As far as growth in terms of people is concerned, we should grow by 15 to 20 per cent this year and next year. But having said that, I think over the period, India will be covered more by the value we bring in than the number of people.

Do you think that many global enterprises will hold back their plans to set up technology centres in India due to this global economic uncertainty? Will existing players be cautious in spend?

I have two thought processes. One is the rational thought process. If there is an industry slowdown, then automatically the GCCs in India will also slow down because they may not be able to afford expansion. But on the other side, if I were a CEO of a large company in the US and I'm struggling with cost because my revenues are coming down, I may actually decide to expand in India and reduce in the UK or US. Some companies, my feeling is, will actually grow at this time in India. Specifically India because they would rather take costs out of those locations and move those costs to India, which will be probably one third or half of the cost of the US or UK or in Europe. So, my view is some of the GCCs may actually expand.

Debasis Mohapatra
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