Name: Diwakar Gupta
Company: IKAN Relocations
IKAN Relocations, Co-Founder (India): 1996 – Present
meradata.com, Co-Founder and CEO (India): 2012 – Present
Santa Fe India, Managing Director (India): 1996 – 2012
InterTrade, Managing Partner (India): 1994 – 1996
A: The 1990’s saw liberalisation in India and the doors were opened to multinationals. As these companies set up base in the country they had a requirement to transfer talent from their head office or other global locations to ensure success of their new operations. The term ‘global mobility’ was unheard of in India and the local HR/admin departments were struggling to handle the influx of expatriates. There were hardly any relocation policies, guidelines or support systems in place and India was certainly a tough location for expats to move into at that time. My childhood friend, Rohit Kumar, who is the co-founder of IKAN Relocations, heard of the existence of relocation companies in the US, which got us to ideate on the opportunity for India.
In 1996 we dived into the global mobility space without really knowing what we were getting into and built services and processes on the go, based on client requirements. It was a herculean effort during the initial years as we had to educate the HR/admin departments on what employee mobility meant and how we could add value by supporting them to ensure the success of an expat assignment. There was a lot of reluctance in outsourcing these services, as we had no case studies or success stories to support our business. Fortunately, most expats relocating at that time were senior management/decision makers, who had experienced mobility support in the past and gave us our big break. There was no looking back from thereon.
A: We started as a two-person team working out of a small room in my house and within 5 years became one of the leading relocation companies in India, eventually growing to a team of over 300 employees by 2005. IKAN was probably the only destination service provider in the world at that time, which gave birth to a moving company.
Also, one of our proudest moments was to become the only mobility company in India to ever be acquired, when Santa Fe, one of the Leading, global mobility companies in the world bought us out. Of course, being entrepreneurs, both Rohit Kumar and I wanted to own our business again, and restarted IKAN in 2014 after exiting Santa Fe.
IKAN 2.0 (as we refer to it internally) has once again become one of the fastest growing DSPs in India. Our vision is to take the company to newer heights by integrating strong processes, quality, technology and the best talent available in the industry in India.
A: In the late 1990’s till mid 2000’s, services were more personalised in India, catering to the relocating families’ requirements, but now they are completely governed by policy. After the markets crashed in 2008, all corporates went into a cost cutting mode, budgets were down, allowances reduced and localised packages gained prominence. Market dynamics are changing very fast in most developing countries. Outsourcing domestic mobility was practically non-existent till a few years back but now the volumes are larger than the expat moves.
Technology plays a huge role in our industry now and continuous evolving and innovation will further change the way mobility services are delivered today.
A: The prime factor hindering the growth of our industry is the high cost of managing and delivering mobility services when faced with cost conscious clients, as most are today. We are still a highly manpower dependent industry and the dearth of good talent with the added cost of retention leads to higher salaries. If you add the constant escalation of the cost of overheads and operations, at some point it may become infeasible to do business. More stringent client policies, tighter budgets and the move towards lump sum models are also leading to the reduction in outsourcing mobility support.
A: There certainly isn’t one solution that caters to all. Coming from India, the market requirements are so unique that we had to build a custom made technology solution to cater specifically to our market. Nonetheless, the industry cannot shy away from online management information and assignment tracking systems providing real-time reports to the client. Since we are dealing with millennials, it is important to provide them with more interactive online tools, welcome packs and more relevant information to support their moves. We also believe that it is necessary to constantly upgrade the technology to stay ahead of the market dynamics.
A: In today’s globally interconnected world, its imperative for mobility professionals to provide solutions to their clients that will help them experience inclusion in its truest essence. We sensitise our teams to highlight social and cultural issues with transparency that could potentially make someone feel excluded moving between countries and cities. I personally believe in a world without borders and hope it becomes a reality one day.
A: Technology will play a big role in how our industry evolves in the next few years and one may see the larger mobility service providers turn into tech companies. The industry will require more cost effective solutions and I envision more services being provided online to reduce human intervention and reduce the cost of service delivery.
A: Relocation compensation and benefit policies are mostly defined on a global basis by mobility teams at the company headquarters. Many of the decision makers come on recce trips and decide to implement a one size fits all approach, whereas they should be providing unbiased, objective directives which could suit employees of various job levels, family sizes with myriad interests and preferences while maintaining consistency in line with their company’s policy. Voice of the customer surveys are usually done to assess the quality of service provided to a relocating assignee but does not capture locational challenges faced by the assignee. It would be beneficial to involve the mobile talent in designing policies and package based on their experience of relocating, working and living in the host location.