The Future of Outsourcing

An exclusive look inside GE's back-office machine.

Following GE’s sale last December of its 60 percent stake to U.S. private-equity firms Oak Hill and General Atlantic Partners, Gecis is extending its services to non-GE businesses. That, says Gartner research director Sujay Chohan, “could redraw the global outsourcing map.” The reason? Gecis is a vital, if little-known, factor behind GE’s reputation as one of the world’s most admired companies. “India has largely been seen as a destination for call centers and low-level transaction processing, and multinational companies in North America and Europe have been reluctant to outsource more complex tasks,” says Chohan. As Gecis reaches a wider market, this view will significantly change, he adds.

With characteristic aplomb, Gecis CEO Pramod Bhasin gets keyed up when he talks about what the BPO industry in India is capable of. “In the past, outsourcing was typically around finance and accounting,” he says. “But now there’s no reason why you can’t outsource part of the risk underwriting for a financial services company, claims processing for an insurance company, and a large part of the supply chain for a manufacturing company.” It was Bhasin, a chartered accountant, who gave birth to the idea that India could serve as a back-office hub for GE globally, a notion that came to him while he was scouting for a similar solution for GE Capital in India.

The 450 processes that Gecis has been doing for GE businesses go beyond just finance and accounting. These processes are undertaken by ten “centers of excellence” — COEs — which are categorized according to industry or function. For example, the insurance COE provides underwriting, claims processing, and actuarial services for units such as GE Insurance Solutions. Come October, says a smiling project manager working for GE’s property and casualty reinsurance business, his team of 23 people will take over the job of the U.S.-based claims handler, who decides the amount of insurance payouts. The claims handler will only review the amount calculated in India.

The finance and accounting COE does the full suite of financial processes — from accounts payable to financial analysis to statutory reporting at the consolidated level — for 26 financial and six industrial businesses at GE. Here, the financial planning and analysis team, comprising 250 employees with an average age of 27, crunch the requested data — inventory turns to usage of cash and working capital; or productivity, efficiency, and yield analyses; or operating margins at product level — within an hour after receiving an e-mail request from GE staff across the globe.

And then there’s the analytics COE, considered the jewel in Gecis’s crown. Led by Sanjay Goel, an engineer who used to head operations for GE’s lighting and industrial systems businesses, this team of 700 statisticians, MBAs, and PhDs serve as quasi-vice presidents of their clients. Most often, they’re commissioned to create models from which market-development strategies are made, from pricing schemes to competitor profiling to cross-sale opportunities. They also do due diligence for GE’s targeted acquisitions, and demand forecasting and optimization of warehouses, logistics, and inventories for the industrial businesses. Short of executing strategies, Gecis is “at very high-end levels,” says Bhasin.


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