Before McKinsey & Company executive Krishna Suraj Moraje joined Quess Corp Ltd as group CEO in November 2019, he was helping traditional companies in banking, retail, and telecom decide the right dose of tech for their next phase of growth.

Then Moraje, a 20-year veteran with the management consultancy firm with services spread across four countries, felt the time had come for him to lend his expertise to under-penetrated areas in healthcare and education, and help better the lives of blue-collar workers. “I told myself that whatever I did next had to be for more than just profit... there has to be something good done for society,” says Moraje.

While he was sieving options on “what next”, a common friend connected him with Ajit Isaac, chairman and managing director, Quess Corp. In a nutshell, Quess Corp provides outsourced services to more than 2,000 clients including Samsung, Amazon, Reliance, Vodafone India, and Bajaj Finance. General staffing accounts for much of its employee work profile. From Amazon delivery executives to after-sales service people at Samsung stores, it has got 260,000 employees engaged in outsourced work.

Moraje was sold. “The scale of impact that one can have at Quess Corp is just phenomenal,” says he. Headquartered in Bengaluru, Quess Corp is India’s No. 1 general staffing company. With an overall roll that is 385,000 strong, it is among the top three facilities management and BPO services providers, and a leading vocational training company. If Tata Consultancy Services (which has 20% of its 446,000 workers based overseas) is taken out of the picture, Quess Corp is the largest private sector employer in India. It added 66,000 employees in the first nine months of the fiscal year ended March 2020. It’s no mean feat to build a company of such heft in 12 years.

More so, when the company, founded as a human resource services provider (then known as Ikya Global) in 2007, has been built through 24 acquisitions, each having its own work culture. In many cases, Quess Corp has acquired companies at much lower valuations and turned them around. Its blockbuster IPO in 2016, which was oversubscribed 144 times, is a testament to its success. Now Quess Corp has decided it’s time it shifted gears. “What got us here will not take us to where we want to go. And that’s what we are working on,” says Guruprasad Srinivasan, chief operating officer, India region.

Quess Corp is undergoing a technology enabled transformation. And the means to the end, says Moraje, is by using technology to make employees more productive, streamlining back office processes, and creating effective business pricing models. Technology, says Isaac, would also be critical in the way the company services the needs of its customers, makes operations cost-effective, and gains higher wallet share of the outsourcing expenditure of companies.

“We’re building an institution—a company that’s going to last for a long time; shares that we would like to own for a long time,” says Isaac, who holds a 22% stake in the company. Investors have given the thumbs up to Issac’s vision. Fairfax, a Canadian insurance conglomerate which holds a 32.35% stake in the company, thinks the world of Isaac and Quess Corp. “We consider Ajit Isaac to be an outstanding entrepreneur who is in the process of building a great company,” Prem Watsa, chairman and chief executive officer of Fairfax, had said last year when his firm bought 256,200 equity shares of Quess Corp.

“We expect to further increase our shareholding in the future as we believe that Quess Corp will be a great long-term investment,” he had added. Last year, e-commerce giant Amazon, too, made an equity investment of ₹51 crore in Qdigi, a Quess Corp subsidiary. Qdigi is into after-sales support for electronic products such as mobile phones, consumer electronics, and consumer durables. Amazon’s investment was born from a long-term relationship with Quess Corp. Over cyclical periods, anywhere between 10,000 and 20,000 Quess Corp employees are outsourced to Amazon’s domestic operations.

AT A GLANCE
64%
Quess has grown at aCAGR of 64% since it was founded and has been a key enabler in employment generation in the country: from 1,364 employees in 2008 to 385,000 as of now.
1.5 million
It is India’s top IT professional staffing firm and is counted among the top three BPO services providers. It also provides after-sales services for smartphones, consumer electronics, and consumer durables. Its DigiCare network repairs over 1.5 million units every year.
150,000
It is one of the largest integrated facility management players in the country,managing over 14,000 hospital beds, 40,000 student beds and over 220 million square feet of space. It also serves 150,000 meals per day.
17
It provides training and skill development services — retail, ITeS sector for technical support, logistics sector for warehouse assistance, travel and tourism sector for domestic tour operators— through 96 centres spread across 17 states in partnership with the government.

“A company of its scale, size, and ambition has many pain points and a number of our services address these pain points. We hope that this investment that they made will deepen our association with them,” says Isaac. As the formalisation of the Indian workforce grows by leaps and bounds—more than 7 million jobs were formalised between 2015 and 2018— Quess Corp will be a big benefactor given its diverse range of operations. Industry data projects the total number of formal jobs in the country to grow from 74.9 million in 2019 to 102 million by 2021.

“As long as the formalisation (of the workforce) continues, we will ride the tailwinds,” says Moraje. However, the McKinsey & Company veteran said this before the Coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic, and now everything remains uncertain in a post-Covid world.

This story was originally published in the May 2020 edition of the magazine.

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