As the economy entered its downward spiral in late 2008, the watchwords among most clients of Genpact were “cash” and “uncertainty,” says CFO Mohit Bhatia. Uncertainty about the future of their markets compelled most financial execs to keep a tight rein on cash, while also accelerating their decision-making processes. “They were dynamically changing their outlook as they would see things unfold.” Genpact is a $1 billion provider of business services, including finance, accounting, and procurement. Formerly a unit of GE Capital, Genpact became an independent company in 2005.
Of course, all expenses â€“ including working with companies like Genpact â€“ were under the gun. As companies pulled back, Genpact went on the offense. Bhatia and his colleagues developed solutions geared to their clients' need to quickly boost working capital without investing great amounts of time and money. “When you're deep in a downturn, you have less patience for process changes; you're more focused on cash and inventory turns.” So, Genpact introduced solutions that would allow companies to, relatively speedily, fine-tune their accounts payable and accounts receivable processes in order to free up funds.
At the same time, Genpact's executive team accelerated its own reporting processes. Rather than wait for quarterly reviews of each account and the orders in the pipeline, they began doing them monthly. They also asked both operating leaders, most of whom are based at Genpact's operations centers, and account managers, who tend to be located near clients, to increase the frequency with which they were in contact with clients. The frequency of these conversations at least doubled, Bhatia says.
Executives within Genpact also began meeting frequently and informally in what they called QMI, for quick market intelligence, sessions. “We started meeting casually in small groups to exchange notes on the changing market environment and to share ideas,” Bhatia says. “The objective was to be aware on a more real-time basis of happenings and events.”
At the same time, Genpact continued to prepare for an eventual rebound. With its GE heritage, “we were taught that when things are down, it's time to play offense,” Bhatia says. So, the company invested in sales and business development and other systems that would allow it to hit the ground running as the economy turned around. “We think long-term to the extent possible, while still being realistic,” about the need to modify their approach as clients' needs change, he adds.
From Genpact's perspective, it now looks like the U.S. economy may be stabilizing, although the recovery remains a bit rocky. The downturn appears newer in Europe, making it harder to predict how things there might play out.
Even as business firms up, Genpact will maintain its practice of more frequent reviews, Bhatia says. “We like the fact that we learned so much, and got to know our clients and own company better.” Indeed, Genpact's revenues grew 8 percent between 2008 and 2009. While that's down from the 28 percent average of the preceding 3 years, it's an impressive showing, given the upheaval in the global economy. ###