An i nterview with Subir Chakravarty, SVP & Country Manager, VXI Global Solutions
In August 2023, VXI
inaugurated a new delivery center in Hyderabad, its first site in India.
After several months in operation,
Subir Chakravarty, a key player in setting up and now operating the site, shared his tips and advice for companies considering geographical expansion in an interview with the VXI marketing team. His insights are useful for not just a foray into India, but into any new country or region.
Q: What are some of the factors a business should consider proactively before entering a new geography?
Research and preparation, and a willingness to learn and adapt business processes, are key before committing to a new geography. Subir:
Consider Growth Potential
Companies often enter new geographies in search of profitable, sustainable, corporate growth. That may involve launching a new product, expanding the value chain, or strengthening service offerings. Any company interested in exploring a new geography should clearly define and evaluate the competitive advantage that the market offers: Is there a quality or cost advantage? Will clients benefit from a presence, and is there an anchor client with which we can show proof of concept right away? What’s the competition, and how viable are those businesses? Understand what competitors do and how they are performing.
Tap into the Labor Market
If you’re looking for labor arbitrage or your business is people-intensive, the quality and scalability of the talent pool is very important. How many people can we hire per week, per month? What is the maximum size a site can grow? How do we unlock the talent potential? Can we expand to nearby cities? Are there unique talent variables, such as language capabilities, working hours, or technology aptitude?
As technology becomes more and more important in business, how is this geography evolving? Are technology skills readily available? How would this geography work from a business continuity standpoint? Could it help to de-risk and avoid disruption overall? VXI chose India because it’s a hub for technology, DevOps, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning; VXI’s Technology Center of Excellence could also be in India eventually.
Navigate Barriers to Entry
Is it easy or difficult to enter the market? What will it take to set up a legal entity? Speak to some of the legal firms — not just one — to find out how long it could take. In India, one firm told us three months, and another told us six months. An in-country network may be able to help expedite this. What are the geophysical risks? Is it prone to natural disasters, like typhoons or earthquakes?
Work with Local Governments
Is the government stable? How flexible is it? What is the government’s appetite for business and how are they supportive in each dimension of your business — from the IT side, the real estate side, the labor side? You may need to educate government officials, walk them through your business plan, and spend some time with them to grow their comfort level. You want to impress them with what you’re doing globally so they can see how they will fit in.
Q: How can businesses prioritize the employee experience in new geographies?
Finding the right leadership early on is critical. The leader you hire for the new geography plays the role of a navigator. They need to have strengths in many areas. Subir:
Understand Cultural Nuances
It’s important to put someone in place who has extensive knowledge of the local market and someone who understands the nuances of the entire country — not just immediately around the site. VXI engaged me, for example, because I understand all the regions and cultural sensitivities of India — and what they each can provide for our business. Businesses must really do some due diligence, and not just on paper! It’s important to visit there and spend time there first.
India, as in many countries, is quite diverse. It’s not like in the U.S., where most people speak English. Things vary significantly within India. Every few kilometers, the language and dialect, the foods, and the cultures can change. The geo leader you choose should be able to help the business really appreciate what makes the people in the new geography tick.
Most issues arise when there is a lack of communication! Local leaders act as a bridge between the corporation and the new geography, and between the newly created entity and the new workforce. Consistent, transparent communication is key.
Design Proper Policies
Implementing policies in a new geography can be tricky. It’s always a balance to ensure policies are somewhat consistent globally, but adaptable to the local processes, laws, and even shifts.
Set Clear Expectations
The local leader should be able to set clear expectations across the corporate office, departments, and the new team. This must include measurable targets or KPIs, including employee satisfaction (ESAT) and retention.
Establish Inclusive, Human-Centric Operations
Employee engagement goes much deeper than Friday fun activities. It must include professional growth. In India, VXI wants to grow to 10,000 plus employees over the next five years. Employees need to understand that plan and know that there is a huge runway for them to grow. This opportunity for career growth, in addition to compensation, benefits, and pay-for-performance opportunities, is what can make you more competitive in a new geography.
I hold a weekly retention meeting, where we talk about attrition rates, training throughput rates, building a culture of inclusivity and respect, and how to bring out the passion of our people. It’s ultimately your people that affect customer satisfaction (CSAT). Their well-being and satisfaction will ensure you’re delivering exceptional customer experiences.
When your staff are thousands of miles away, it’s easy to forget that employees are individuals. Don’t let them be just numbers or headcount. Don’t let them cease to be people. Make everyone feel included.
VXI is a minority business enterprise (MBE) that prioritizes diversity, and that translates in every geography. You always need to factor inclusion efforts not just from an ethical perspective but also a strategic one in terms of supply chain and new partnerships.
Q: How should businesses vet potential new partners and suppliers in new geographies?
Businesses should always respect their brand values and priorities, in any geography. Any partner should respect what you’re trying to achieve, too. They often need to match the level of quality and scale. But there’s much more to selecting the right partner abroad. Subir:
Create a Partnership Brief
When vetting new partners, a brief that includes intentions and expectations, problem statements and initial potential solutions, and details on how you want to work with a partner will lead to higher rates of success.
Ask for Local Examples & References
Partners need to be prepared to share examples of similar work that they’ve done. For example, in India, I asked real estate partners for details and examples of past work, not just generally, but for the same industry. Reference checks within the industry are key. Leverage your local leader’s network.
Meet in Person
You need to meet any potential partner in person rather having discussions by phone or virtually. You can learn so much more about a partner in person and that really builds relationships.
Don’t Cut Corners
It can be very tempting cut corners to meet timelines and budgets! The bureaucracy in some countries can be tough, but always work with integrity. Think about the long-term impacts of negotiating deep discounts. You may need this partner for another project.
Maintain Strong Governance
Decide on a meeting cadence and stick to it. It could be daily or weekly, depending on overall timeline and the sense of urgency. Typically, for example, at VXI we build out new sites in three to six months. The goal in this case was about 45 days, which is unheard of. With this kind of cadence, it’s imperative to have measurable targets, milestones, and partner governance.
Q: The new operations in India have been a success, resulting in high CSAT and low attrition. What led to this success?
Building something from the ground up, in a new geography, is very, very difficult. You need a reliable support team, even if they are located in other countries. Subir:
Lean on the Support of Executives, Family, & Network
When setting up a legal entity, learning about the city, building out a new office — you need the support of your company’s executive leadership. I am incredibly grateful for the support of the VXI leadership team. They empowered me and trusted me to make decisions on their behalf. They took a leap of faith, and I did, too.
Having the support of your family, including your extended work family, is key. Settling into a new geography can be a lonely endeavor, especially when you are the first to plant feet on the ground. You may be working with partners locally, but you need people who know you, understand your goals, and can support you and guide you. I had folks helping from the Philippines and in the U.S., across HR, operations, training, quality, marketing, finance, procurement, technology, and more.
Verify with Data
Essentially, success in a new geography is about planning every detail, executing while minding those details, hiring and training the right people well, watching key data points every day, and keeping everyone aligned to a shared, big picture and vision.
Talk to the New Staff Every Day
Get your hands dirty, talk to agents and team leads, and use training as a tool to help everyone. It’s not enough to read PowerPoints and spreadsheets; you need to talk to people and do some of the work they’re doing.
I have so much more to share with any company considering a new geography. I could help with the transition. At VXI, we are able to put literally one person on the ground in a new geography, empower that person through the extended teams around the world to build up the partnerships within that geography, and then build up HR and operations ready to go for any BPO client. When I look back at the experience, I’m amazed. That kind of capability opens many doors for companies looking to expand.
Interested in expanding your horizons? Learn more about VXI’s global expansion and service delivery locations at vxi.com/global-footprint , or contact us .