Indian software services exporters have begun sharpening their focus on countries like Japan, China, Malaysia, Australia and those in the Middle East, given the growth potential of these markets.
In the June quarter, the top five Indian software services exporters posted an average growth rate of 11-15% in Asia-Pacific and other emerging markets.
Growth from the Asia-Pacific region for India’s largest information technology (IT) services company, Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS), was up 34.9% from a year ago and that from the Middle East rose 20% in the same period. Wipro Ltd, which has been in the Middle East for over a decade, saw its Middle East and India business grow 13.8% in the June quarter from a year earlier.
For Tech Mahindra Ltd, India’s fifth-largest software services exporter, the Middle East is a priority due to government-led information technology initiatives, like the recent eight-year engagement it signed with the Dubai Economic Council to provide solutions to make Dubai a “smart city”. Tech Mahindra also has the contract to provide data solutions to power the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Qatar.
The move to emerging markets is logical, given the high growth potential in these regions, even though it is on a lower base, say experts.
South East Asia’s competitive and rate-sensitive market allows for smaller deals, especially from countries like Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, which are of particular interest to mid-tier firms, said Ravi Menon, IT analyst with Centrum Broking Pvt. Ltd.
Sangeeta Gupta, vice-president of software lobby body Nasscom, said that exploring business in countries like Japan, Korea, Indonesia, China and continental Europe makes sense “as 80% of incremental revenue is projected to come from these markets by 2020”.
Sid Pai, partner at research and consulting firm, Information Services Group (ISG), pointed out that while developed markets like the US and Europe are growing a mere 2-3% annually, markets in continental Europe like France, Germany and the Nordics are largely underpenetrated but have an addressable market opportunity of 30-40% per annum.
“Other emerging markets in Asia-Pacific like Japan, China and India, which currently contribute barely 5% to revenues of IT services players, have a potential to grow by 30-40% per annum as well,” he said.
Sanchit Vir Gogia, chief analyst and chief executive of Greyhound Research, agreed that the Asia-Pacific region “will remain the fastest-growing emerging market, especially Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and China, which offers a lot of sophistication in terms of varied deals”. However, growth in the Middle East, he said, was restricted to regions like the UAE, Qatar, Oman and Egypt.
According to Cathy Tornbohm, vice-president of research at research firm Gartner Inc, “clients need a range of delivery locations for people-based processes. This is for proximity for ease of visiting sites, cultural fit, languages and time zones”.
For instance, global business process management firm Aegis Ltd, a part of the Essar group, which recently sold its American unit Aegis USA to Paris-based business process outsourcing firm Teleperformance for $610 million, said it would use some of the earnings for acquisitions in Korea and Japan.
The move, according to Sandip Sen, global chief executive of the company, “is to complement its Malaysia business, which will be the hub of its operation in South Asia, after the acquisition of Malaysia-based Symphony BPO in March”.
The Middle East market “offers opportunities of an emerging market as well as an advanced market, which is rapidly deploying world-class technology, comparable to the developed world”, said Kamal K. Singh, founder and chief managing director of Rolta India Ltd, a software engineering firm.
About 12-15% of Rolta’s revenue comes from emerging markets, and “most of the contracts we win here are with government and public-private partnership projects”.
Meanwhile, even the Indian government, said R.S. Sharma, secretary of the Department of Electronics and Information Technology “is seeking to identify new non-English speaking markets, like Africa, Latin America, China and South East Asia as it looks to promote small and medium size enterprises in the segment”.
He added that the government has formed an expert council, which has members from different industry lobbies, to figure out what could be done to extend India’s presence in these markets.