India and various countries in Africa have been strengthening their business ties. In fact, India´s Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma recently called the India-Africa partnership as the defining partnership of the 21st century.
The latest development is India’s largest telecom company, Bharti Airtel, which has announced plans to open call centers in Africa. This follows the company´s earlier purchase of a large mobile phone network on the continent.
“It is an exceptionally good deal both for Africa and India,” says global business expert S. Prakash Sethi, University Distinguished Professor at Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College. “Unlike Western companies, India’s telecom industry is both highly competitive and used in operating in an extremely low-margin, high-volume environment. This is also why Vodaphone has had a difficult time succeeding in India.”
Bharti Airtel, the world’s fifth largest telecommunications company, said it will create call centers with partners that include IBM Corp., Tech Mahindra and American crane company SPANCO.
The deal will be beneficial to both India and Africa, says Sethi. “Locating call centers in Africa also serves both an economic and a social purpose. These jobs build a better social infrastructure by encouraging higher levels of education and white-collar service jobs. Local call centers are better attuned to the needs of the local population,” says Sethi. “Just because everyone speaks English or is familiar with local language does not necessarily mean that he/she can be a good communicator. This is why many call centers established in India by Western companies sometimes create problems. The consumers in the U.S. and other Western countries have difficulty understanding the “unique” accents with which English is spoken in different parts of India and is not easily eliminated even with significant training.”
Earlier this year Bharti spent $600 million in Nigeria’s mobile phone market. Bharti’s holdings in Africa include networks in Burkina Faso, Chad, the Republic of Congo, Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Madagascar, Niger, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.