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Wipro's utilities practice gears for consulting

By Harichandan A. A.

BANGALORE, APRIL 6. Offshoring — shipping jobs to cheaper locations such as Bangalore — is now sold as capable of delivering analyses of complex problems and building solutions for them — work which IT firms here call consulting.

One of the verticals IT services company Wipro is trying to do this in its Energy and Utilities Practice (E & U), which in 2003 accounted for some 15 per cent of the company's software services revenues. Timothy Matlack, chief executive for the E & U practice, and Rohit Kumar, its chief operating officer, say Wipro would continue to bank on the offshore model in the next few years.

It would also be made more robust. In January 2003, Wipro completed its acquisition of the `global utilities practice' of a U.S. IT company, AMS, which had people experienced in implementing large software applications for power and gas utilities. The global utilities practice, which cost Wipro $26 million, had 90 `domain experts' headed by Mr. Matlack, who at the time was a Senior Vice President at AMS.

Since then Wipro has hired about 45 more, mostly in the EU and the U.S., from consulting firms such as Accenture. Wipro hopes that these 135 people will help it get more business in Europe, to begin with.

The energy and utilities vertical for Indian IT firms involves building software applications for power producers, re-sellers and retail distributors to manage electricity trading and / or retailing. For instance, a retail electricity or gas distributor would want to keep tabs on his customers. This includes ensuring that customers pay on time and curbing wastage and theft.

The large multinational companies in the industry, in addition to the billing software, rely on information culled from the data they have on their customers. They also try to optimise the use of their infrastructure to keep costs down.

So, there are opportunities for Indian IT firms to analyse how a utility works and come up with ways to do some things more efficiently. Wipro believes this can be done here while a few experts will stay `onsite' to sell the idea and reassure customers it will work.

The 135 consultants are less than a tenth of the total strength of Wipro's E & U business. Most of the remaining 1300 plus employees work at centres in Bangalore and at other Wipro sites in India. Much of their work involves software maintenance for clients such as Transco, the U.K.'s largest gas storage and transport utility. In mid 2002, Wipro struck an application maintenance deal around an SAP implementation with Transco.

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