Most of us have preconceived ideas about outsourcing to India, but how many of them are accurate? Emma Jones travels to CPA Global’s operations in Delhi to discover the truth behind many of the popular myths about Indian outsourcing
The journey from our hotel to CPA Global’s operations in Noida on the outskirts of Delhi is short, but eye opening. With the hazy skyline of the city behind us, cars interweave in no discernable order; a honk of the horn favoured over indicator lights, trucks ploughing the wrong way down one-way streets and workers darting across invisible or ignored pedestrian crossings.
Our guide chuckles as we look astonished and anxiously through our fingers. She reassures us that there is order to this chaos. It’s just the reality of the daily commute to work in one of India’s busiest and fastest-growing cities. At least the traffic is moving, we are told. Time it wrong and it can take hours to navigate the short journey to the office. The commute can be so difficult for some that CPA Global provide company taxis to shuttle its growing team to work each morning and home again each evening.
The office in Noida is CPA Global’s main Indian centre for outsourced intellectual property (IP) work with hundreds of employees – all lawyers or patent-focused science, technology and engineering graduates – managing the specialised day-to-day requirements of the company’s multi-national clients. CPA Global has a second office in Gurgaon, to the other side of Delhi, with space for a further 500 employees focused on clients’ more general legal service outsourcing (LSO) requirements, such as document and contract review, legal research and transaction support. The modernity of both offices is astounding, arriving as we do from Delhi’s dusty roads.
A booming industry
Indian-based outsourcing arrangements once focused predominantly on back-end office functions, such as the telephone call centres favoured by banks and mobile phone operators, and it is still with such operations that outsourcing to India is most commonly associated. Since the mid 2000s, however, companies and service providers have begun to turn their attention to much higher-end specialist tasks, such as outsourced legal support, including both IP and broader legal services outsourcing (LSO, also known as legal process outsourcing or LPO).
A number of high-profile companies, such as Microsoft and Rio Tinto, have been quick to take advantage of Indian-based legal service providers – the former in the IP sphere and the latter in its use of more general LSO services. But, as celebrated as legal outsourcing has become among these early trailblazers and the many companies that have followed suit, there remain a number of misconceptions about Indian-based LSO – and the types of services that the country’s legal graduates are able to provide.
Data security, for example, is an oft-quoted barrier to outsourcing legal work to India – as if the country’s infrastructure, technology and workforce is not able to ensure the security of the transfer or processing of sensitive documentation. So too are concerns about quality of work and working conditions. A visit to CPA Global’s offices in Delhi quickly shows that such fears are unfounded.
Focused on security
In Noida, as in Gurgaon, CPA Global’s employees work in spacious and state-of-the-art offices in a shared services team (working for a variety of clients) or for dedicated teams, behind closed doors in order to ensure confidentiality. The office of Microsoft’s team of 70 IP specialists in Noida is clearly adorned with its corporate logo, so too is the office of Rio Tinto’s dedicated LSO team in Gurgaon. Entry to the main office and each sub-office is securely controlled using access cards, while CCTV tracks the movement of people and paper. If needed, the security team is able to provide clients with a continuous video record of corporate paperwork from printer to shredder.
Overseeing the protection of client data and confidentiality at both Noida and Gurgaon is Rohit Kapur, CPA Global’s head of administration in India and a former officer of the Indian Army, who takes us on a tour of his nerve centre of operations. In addition to the system of swipe cards that control physical access to each of the rooms, his team also plays a key role in ensuring that client work is delivered consistently and to deadline. In a country that still suffers frequently from power cuts, this necessitates not one, but three additional power generators, as well as back-up servers that link Noida’s operations directly to those in Gurgaon so that staff in either office can access work and ensure client delivery should one of the offices experience a problem.
The rooms housing these back-up servers are accessible only to those cleared by senior security staff – and then only via a fingerprint scan. ‘Not even the CEO’s swipe card is cleared to enter this room,’ says Kapur proudly. He outlines how the company has moulded its tight approach to data security and confidentiality in line with the ISO international security standards. CPA Global was the first LSO provider to meet the strict compliance requirements of ISO-9001 for operational quality and ISO-27001 for IT security, and the company invests heavily in maintaining and exceeding these standards. Kapur explains that ISO standards are audited twice a year, but different clients have additional requirements, often sending their own auditors to verify compliance of CPA Global’s Noida and Gurgaon offices.
Employee background checks are an important part of CPA Global’s security standards too. The company selects its legal and IP talent from the graduates of India’s top (tier-1 or tier-2) law schools and engineering institutions, or from newly qualified lawyers in the country’s most prestigious law firms. Reference requests for new recruits are often a formality in the UK or US, but background research into prospective employees is much more thorough in India. Rakesh Kher, CPA Global’s vice president of human resources in India, tells us that CPA Global is hiring for long-term growth and not short-term projects: ‘We want the best local talent to be working for us,’ he says.
The clients we meet agree that data security and confidentiality is important to them, but they stress that their fears in this area have been largely unfounded. ‘It’s taken a lot more seriously here than it is in most corporate headquarters in the US or Europe,’ says one. Having seen Kapur in action and the vigour with which security is enforced in both Noida and Guargaon, I have to agree.