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TCS, Infy, Wipro Losing Contracts to Emerging Rivals

The Economic Times – by Pankaj Mishra, ET Bureau

BANGALORE: Emerging nearshore rivals, including Ness Technologies of Israel, CPM Braxis of Brazil and Mexico-headquartered Softtek are increasingly becoming attractive for top outsourcing customers such as GE, Citibank and several others seeking to work with local, specialised vendors instead of sending all projects to offshore locations like India.

At a time when India's top tech firms Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys and Wipro are redefining their positioning as global services providers by growing their presence in the emerging markets of Latin America, Eastern Europe and Asia, they face stiff competition from these newer rivals.

"For many customers who already have significant presence in offshore locations like India, it's a risk diversification," said Jimit Arora, research director of outsourcing advisory firm Everest Group. "Some customers having 70-80 per cent of their offshore resources in India are realising that they need to look at the third category of suppliers that are local and niche," he added.

Over the past two years, companies such as CPM Braxis, EPAM Systems, Ness Technologies, Softtek, Merchants and Spi Global have emerged as stronger rivals for Indian tech firms, especially while bidding for an outsourcing contract being fleshed out by a 'first-time outsourcer. "When it comes to new business from the first-time outsourcers, these local suppliers may be gaining at the expense of multinational and offshore rivals," added Amneet Singh, vice-president, global sourcing at the Everest Group. Mr Singh, along with Mr Arora, researched the six emerging suppliers and found that they have been growing at an average compounded growth of around 25% annually during the past few years.

Brazilian firm CPM Braxis, for instance, which counts GE, ABN Amro and Whirlpool as clients, reported revenues of around $567 million in 2008. One of the top four Brazilian banks, Bradesco, is also among the biggest customers for the company.

"Some customers, including Bradesco, would rather work with a local supplier, there's nothing wrong. For large MNC customers, offshoring continues to be a priority," said a senior executive at one of the top Indian tech firms. He requested anonymity because his company is currently in a financial silent period.

While these emerging outsourcing rivals are not yet in the big league of mega, multi-year contracts, they are still able to gain business because of their niche and local market expertise. On an average, these companies are able to win contracts worth $2-5 million in annual contract value.

Meanwhile, for Indian tech firms seeking to grow their base outside their home country, these emerging companies also offer potential M&A opportunities.

"Many emerging companies we spoke with believe they can become $1-billion company on their own. However, some admitted that they would be open to inorganic opportunities too," said Mr Arora. Indeed, emerging service providers in countries of Brazil, Argentina and Mexico such as Globant, which counts Adidas, Linked IN and Citi among its top customer and has around $100 million in revenues, are increasingly being approached by some Indian tech firms, officials told ET on condition of anonymity.

“We have had discussions with both Softtek and Globant, but I cannot comment any further," said a senior executive at one of the tech firms exploring inorganic growth route for expansion in the emerging markets. Experts believe such fast-growing firms always make a good acquisition target.

"Given where these companies are in terms of their size and capabilities, they do make good acquisition targets for Indian companies," agreed Mr Singh.

What makes these firms really attractive is their strong presence in some of the fastest-growing markets for software services. For instance, Ness generates about a third, or $170 million, of its revenues from Eastern European markets of Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.

"One of the more interesting prospects in this region relates to government initiatives, particularly as it relates to a 'digitisation' grant for the EU worth more than 10 billion euro, with 'must use' clauses by 2013," observed James Friedman, analyst at the financial broking firm Susquehanna International Group (SIG).

"Ness is competing actively for this work in a number of regions, and expects Eastern Europe may improve by H2 of 2010, still targeting $300 million from this region by 2012," he added.