People management issues in Indian KPOs

S. Raghu Raman, Pawan Budhwar, G. Balasubramanian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The business process outsourcing (BPO) industry in India is evolving rapidly, and one of the key characteristics of this industry is the emergence of high-end services offered by knowledge processing outsourcing (KPO) organizations. These organizations are set to grow at a tremendous pace. Given the people-intensive nature of this industry, efficient employee management is bound to play a critical role. The literature lacks studies offering insights into the HR challenges involved and the ways in which they are addressed by KPOs. The purpose of this paper is to attempt to fill this gap by presenting findings from an in-depth case study of a KPO organization. Design/methodology/ approach: To achieve the research objective we adopted an in-depth case study approach. The research setting was that of a KPO organization in India, which specialises in offering complex analytics, accounting and support services to the real estate and financial services industries. Findings: The results of this study highlight the differences in the nature of work characteristics in such organizations as compared to call centres. The study also highlights some of the key people management challenges that these organizations face like attracting and retaining talent. The case company adopts formal, structured, transparent and innovative human resource practices. The study also highlights that such enlightened human resource practices stand on the foundations laid by an open work environment and facilitative leadership. Research limitations/implications: One of the key limitations is that the analysis is based on primary data from a single case study and only 18 interviews. The analysis contributes to the fields of KPO, HRM and India and has key messages for policy makers. Originality/value: The literature on outsourcing has in general focused on call centres established in the developed world. However, the booming BPO industry in India is also beginning to offer high-end services, which are far above the typical call centres. These KPOs and their people management challenges are relatively unexplored territories in the literature. By conducting this study in an emerging market (India) and focusing on people-related challenges in KPOs, this study attempts to provide a fresh perspective to the extant BPO literature. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)696-710
Number of pages15
JournalEmployee Relations
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2007


  • human resource management
  • India
  • outsourcing


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