Jun 10, 2004

HR people crack the glass ceiling at BPO cos.

Well I am not talking about the usually understood contexts of glass ceilings as applied to minorities in the corporate workplace.

Instead, I am referring to the functional glass ceiling. For years, accounting, sales, marketing and finance people were usually the first choices to lead businesses as CEOs. Most people who had spent their careers in a support function like HR had to be content with a job like Director HR in the corporate ladder. The only route that was open to them to actually head businesses were in niche industries like HR consulting outfits.

No longer.

In India at least I see a rash of HR honchos who've made it to the corner office, and interestingly its in the people intensive BPO industry. There are several reasons for this but lets take a look at the people:

- Sujit Bakshi of vCustomer
- Aadesh Goyal of Hughes' BPO unit
- Bhaskar Das of Sutherland Technologies
- Prashant Sankaran of Digital Contact Centre (a part of HP)
- Vinoo Thimayya of Honeywell's BPO

I am sure there are others in the non-BPO industry too ( I know of Dr. Ajoy Kumar who briefly headed Cummins Deisel Sales & Service after a stint as GM HR of the Tata Group, but then he wasn't a career HR person). And a lot of CEOs have done some stints in HR.

Coming specifically to the case of HR people heading BPO operations, I have the following theories:

- BPO work is quite content-free and the essential skill required for a leader is people management skills, where HR people are the assets
- When BPO organizations mushroomed in India there were not too many top leaders available and with the reason given above HR directors were given the chance

What do you think?