One-to-One: Keshav Murugesh, group chief executive, WNS

Keshav MurugeshOn a recent busy visit to Mumbai, I was lucky enough to meet Keshav Murugesh, group chief executive of WNS (at right).

WNS, a leading business process outsourcing company, offers business value to more than 200 global clients. It prides itself on combining operational excellence with expertise in key industry verticals, including travel, insurance, and banking and financial services.

The group provides a full range of business process outsourcing (BPO) services and boasts an exceptionally strong global presence, with more than 25,700 professionals working across 30 delivery centres worldwide. In recent months, WNS acquired a South African BPO provider, Fusion Outsourcing Services, and added a delivery centre in Poland and its first in North America. For the quarter ending September 30th 2012, the company reported net revenues (revenue less repair payments – non-GAAP) of $107.3 million, up 7.1% from $100.2 million year over year.

Murugesh is tasked with executing the group’s ambitious business strategy and directing the organisation’s growth. Prior to joining WNS, he served as the president and chief executive of Syntel Inc., where he was responsible for the company’s global IT services and knowledge process outsourcing businesses.

Murugesh is a Fellow of The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India. He is a highly respected industry speaker, and has spoken at various events including at the World Economic Forum.

I was immediately struck by Murugesh’s passion for the role of ethics and integrity in business. He also puts an admirable focus on supporting the communities in which his company is active. This is highlighted by the WNS Cares Foundation, which focuses on the welfare of children in the communities around each WNS centre. The foundation supports approximately 24,000 children globally and runs a number of schools across India.

Murugesh’s insights on achieving sustainable business success include:

Put the customer at the centre of the business and adapt your business model. We believe that clients’ requirements, largely due to the stress of the current economic climate, are changing dramatically. They now want to interact with partners, not just providers. They need people who understand their business, people who can talk their language, people who can help them stay ahead of their competition.

Over the past 18 months, we have changed our corporate structure to ensure we are now first to market. We have designed a vertically aligned system that ensures each business area is led by someone from that sector who can best act as a strategic adviser. Our senior people understand the client’s business well, they understand the vertical extremely well, and they are ensuring that WNS is the ideal strategic partner.

Get the right people. One question business leaders must ask is, “How are we going to focus on getting the right pool of talent into this business?” My focus is to bring in more industry-ready graduates, and this is why we are reaching out to the various institutes and the learning academies. We want to bring in smarter people, bring in people who not only have the knowledge but also come in with some kind of commercial acumen.

Transparency is integral to business success. I think it is a very good thing to be transparent, and I think we are extremely transparent within our client relationships. We have weekly meetings, monthly meetings and a quarterly business review where we discuss what is good, and what is bad, with the relationship. It is a two-way conversation, and clients love that level of engagement that we promote. It is not just talking about [service-level agreements], it is also talking about new ideas that we can present to them so that they can stay ahead of the competition. Being transparent, being open, being ethical in your behaviour is something that is a given now. People expect it from you, and stakeholders actually demand that from you.

Innovation is vital. We allow people to think innovatively, we allow them to compete with each other, and we allow them to bring in new ideas to the company. We tell them, “You do not have to leave the company in order to create this idea.” Through WINCUBATE, the yearly contest we introduced for spurring “entrepreneurship” within the organisation, you can still stay at WNS, keep building, and build market cap for yourself and WNS.

It’s rather reassuring to see how Murugesh’s insights align so well with the work we are doing to promote long-term success.

Grasping the power of transparency was a crucial theme emerging from our Rebooting Business work, and we’ll be looking to develop these ideas further in a follow-up project in 2013.

Being able to report on all the factors that drive long-term business success is at the heart of what integrated reporting is all about, and at the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), we believe that you need to be a well-managed business in the first place to be able to produce a good integrated report. We are currently helping to develop the business model component of the International Integrated Reporting Council’s proposed integrated reporting framework, and this is going to underpin a CGMA programme in 2013 on what makes a resilient business model.

Just recently, we’ve explored the challenges of human capital management in a series of reports that are available in the resources section of the CGMA website, and we are about to turn our attention to a deeper understanding of how organisations can create the type of innovative culture that Murugesh talks about whilst still managing the associated risks effectively.

It is good to know that we are focusing on the issues that business leaders tell us are crucial to their success.

Charles Tilley is chief executive of CIMA.



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