In the past 15 years, outsourcing has gone from the outer to out in the open. Cyient’s Sanjay Krishnaa talks about the importance of local partnerships, making field engineers more productive, and the explosion in demand for GIS information.
Though it still sometimes gets bad press – following the 2016 census, for example – outsourcing is a bigger part of the economy than many people realise, and it continues to grow steadily.
According to research from IBISWorld, business process outsourcing in Australia is a $31 billion market, and grew at an average of 2.2 per cent for 2011-2016. It employs nearly a quarter of a million people in more than 20,000 businesses.
Changed local attitudes were behind Cyient setting up an Australian presence a little over a decade ago, says Sanjay Krishnaa, the company’s communications business unit global head and Asia-Pacific President.
“Fifteen years back, offshoring or outsourcing was not something that Australia had adopted into its business culture,” Krishnaa said.
“Large corporations like ANZ Bank or Telstra had adopted outsourcing a long time back. But most Australian companies were not used to the concept. They were adapting to understanding how the model operates where offshoring and outsourcing is concerned. So we decided then it was the right time for us to set up a base here.”
Among its diverse portfolio – including engineering, data analytics, networks and operations – the company provides end-to-end communications solutions.
Surprisingly, within the telco sector, they find demand greater in Australia than anywhere else.
“It is not the US that is the largest market for Cyient for telecom. It is not Europe. It is Australia,” Krishnaa said.
“We have got about 500 people that are supporting the telco business in Australia. And we’ve got about another 600 people who are supporting Australian telecom customers from offshore, in India.”
The third party support required comes in a number of forms. For a major telecoms customer, Krishnaa describes this as four-fold.
Networks are being updated constantly – for whatever happens in the field, such as a new suburb being laid out – and in real-time.
“The second aspect is assisting in the mobile market in the designing and engineering aspect,” he added.
Then there is supporting the client’s major customers, ensuring that connectivity is 100 per cent reliable.
Lastly is the field activities. The client’s hybrid fibre coaxial field activity work must be taken care of, with a crew that handles field survey activities.
Growing local skills
The local engineering shortage is well-known. According to a 2012 study The Supply of Engineers in Australia: A Decade of Skilled Migration, there are 18,000 roles needing to be filled every year, and only about a third of that number of graduates produced. The remainder are imported.
The company addresses the skills shortage issue through local partnerships with universities such as Western Sydney and Deakin to locate bright graduates and get them ready for a field where it can be hard to find the right talent locally.
“What we are seeing from the market point of view – you have a huge shortage of those skills available in Australia,” he offered.
“In order for us to still meet customers’ requirements, one of the unique ways is to get fresh graduates from the university, train them on the skills and technology, and make them ready for the next level.”
Deakin, in particular, has responded to the growing demand for a different skill set. It was the first Australian University that Cyient developed a major partnership with, in the form of an MoU signed in March 2015 for a five-year project on medical additive manufacturing R&D.
As part of the two-way industry/academia exchange currently, Krishnaa sits on the School of Engineering’s advisory board.
Professor Guy Littlefair, the former Dean of Deakin’s School of Engineering (and currently Pro Vice Chancellor, Industry Development) said the university decided about three years ago to be more strategic with board appointments, hoping to help produce graduates better equipped for the workforce.
“The very important thing for industry when they recruit graduates is that they would like to see novel and creative thinkers coming through, or people that already have a good understanding of what it is to work in the industry,” Littlefair said.
The Indian firm has also put together two undergraduate scholarships for Deakin’s mechanical engineering degree.
The University of Western Sydney has been similarly responsive, officially opening campuses near the company’s Centre of Excellence at Blacktown in November 2015.
Places in space
Krishnaa has been at Cyient (which changed its name from Infotech Enterprises in 2014) since late-2000. In the past 10 years or so, in his estimation, he’s seen an interesting development in the increased importance of geospatial engineering. Previously thought of as useful simply for asset tracking, such as in field management, nowadays it’s changing seemingly everything.
The impact and usefulness of geographic information systems (GIS) is undeniable. Think of game-changing, newer enterprises such as Uber or Airbnb: both are underpinned by geospatial data. Or even consider a more mundane area – tracking a pizza delivery on its way from the oven to your doorstep.
“I think if you look maybe 10 years back, GIS was not the core system for any business or any industry,” Krishnaa said.
“But today it has become an integral part of a whole business system.”
All sorts of industries are using GIS as a core system to extract information, from marketing areas to technical ones and beyond.
Krishnaa added that some of Cyient’s customer base have GIS as the single focal point of their system. From an afterthought a decade or so ago, it’s now an essential category of data.
“Earlier we observed GIS was not given due importance, because they thought it was purely an asset management tool, which is not the case – it provides you much more than asset management,” Krishnaa said.
“It provides you with varied intelligent information, whether you’re talking about geographic information or you’re talking about intelligence about business or the market and so forth. It becomes an integral tool or system, which is required by any industry, I would say.”