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South Africa could use IT outsourcing to create jobs

There is a significant opportunity for South Africa to develop information technology (IT) outsourcing services to generate jobs for its youth in the cities, says IT consultancy Zensar global CEO Dr Ganesh Natarajan. OPulentus SA“Zensar is an Indian IT firm with a global footprint and we employ more than 7 200 people – 5 000 in India, about 1 800 outside the country and 400 in South Africa. The industry in India directly employs 3.2-million people, with an average age of 26,” he says. The company opened an office in Johannes- burg in 2001, which has grown well. It focuses on four vertical industries – business domains, including banking and insurance; the manufacturing, retail and distribution industries; healthcare services and government services; and citizen interface portals for large utilities. South Africa is an excellent market and can function as a hub for IT outsourcing into Africa, but critical to its success of IT outsourcing is how Zensar trains its staff, he notes. India evolved its IT industry by sending its people to the US to work and gain skills, who then moved back to India to offer services from there, says Natarajan. “We replicated this in a similar model locally, where the role of the private sector in skills development is important and does not rely on government. That is an important focus for us,” says Zensar Technologies VP and Africa business head Harish Lala. “We identify the IT needs of our customers and the skills development required for our staff. We identify students and align our training with what businesses need and train them in a specific field, with very close oversight of their training.” Zensar sends the young students to India for six months to understand the processes, technologies and nuances of global outsourcing. The students are then sent to train at partner clients. “After one year, the students understand the client’s technologies, the environment and the global delivery model. We then absorb them into our projects to support those same clients,” he notes. Often, clients seek to employ these employees directly and the experience and training of these employees ensure they are very marketable, adds Lala. “The model is self-sustaining because it ensures a constant supply of new skills into South Africa’s IT market, reducing the demand-supply gap and, thus, reducing the risks from attrition, which is prevalent in the IT industry. Today, it has become part of our business model and we can ensure sufficient skills for our projects, owing to our focus on training,” he says. Zensar actively develops skills for the industry and for its clients to overcome the short-term gap and keep its business globally competitive. “The first step for Zensar is [to ensure] that South Africa can act as a near-shore centre, where South African skills are used to support local businesses and customers. There is signifi- cant potential in South Africa’s cities to build an IT outsourcing industry. “The next targets will be Africa and Europe, when the industry is mature enough to provide these services as part of a global delivery model,” he says. However, South Africa has not considered the way in which a comprehensive effort by the private sector can be used to develop skills. “Brain-drain happens, but we must ensure the supply of these skills. Each party in South Africa, whether government, business or clients, can contribute to the development of these skills,” concludes Lala. Source: http://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/south-africa-can-use-it-training-to-create-jobs-2013-01-18

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