Are Indian suppliers IBM Global Services' biggest threat?

India’s IT services industry has grown fast, but who would have thought that TCS is now IBM Global Services’ biggest threat.

That’s what one management consultant told me last week. I was writing an article about talk of IBM reducing its workforce in India. IBM is one of the biggest IT services firms in India in terms of workforce and even if it is true that it will cut about 50,000 staff there, it will still be very big with about 100,000 people.

Read my article here.
I have has quite a few emails from readers about this.

But the industry is changing and the provision of low cost full time equivalents is no longer the way to grow and profit for IT services firms. They want non-linear business models and they are doing this with less labour intensive services that harness cloud and automation technologies for example. At the same time customers want services using the latest technologies.

For example Scandinavian IT services firm Cygate has expanded its business without needing to recruit more staff by using automation software from IPSoft. In 2010, the company, which serves more than 1,000 customers including some of the biggest corporates in the Nordic region, was experiencing 20% growth in sales. This meant the company needed to add resources or risk service levels deteriorating. But just adding manpower would have reduced its margins.

So you would think the Indian suppliers who grew their businesses through offering highly skilled IT workers at a lower cost to Western corporates, would struggle the most. But it seems this is not the case. In fact it could be another phase of growth for these firms.

Mark Lewis, outsourcing lawyer at Berwin Leighton Paisner, says, “TCS, India’s biggest IT services supplier,  is achieving both linear and non-linear growth. It is still recruiting heavily in India and is building its global workforce at the same time,” said Lewis.

While IBM Global Services is always a default consideration businesses outsource IT it is not winning as many deals as it used to. Peter Schumacher, Value Leadership Group, said conversations with large corporates in Europe reveal that Indian suppliers are now  now IBM Global Services’s biggest competitor, and TCS is the biggest of these.

The Indian advantage of lower cost skills may have diminished overtime because western IT services firms have built huge offshore workforces of their own. At the same time wages in India have increased. But during the hay day of low cost IT services companies like TCS, Infosys, Wipro and HCL have build strong businesses and developed domain expertise, by moving beyond pure IT services to business services using IT.

The other interesting point is that western IT services forms have shot them in the
Have the western IT services firms let the foot by reducing the fear associated with offshoring. There was a time that offshoring IT was a brave and perhaps a risky strategy for a big business. But companies like IBM have used offshore staff and as a result made it the norm for outsourced service delivery.

Today service levels from offshore and western suppliers are little different and CIOs will make decisions based on the pure business value, rather than perceived risks.

“In Europe, TCS will add almost $1bn in new business in 2014, which underlines the enormous market momentum and customer confidence they now enjoy,” says Schumacher.

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