HRTech Interview with Partha DeSarkar, Executive Director and Group Chief Executive Officer at HGS

Know HGS's approach to customer experience, digital transformation, CSR initiatives, and outlines the company's exciting growth trajectory.


1. Partha, with over three decades of experience in customer service and operations across diverse industries, what initially sparked your interest in this field, and how has your journey led you to become the Executive Director & Group CEO of HGS?
Partha: My career journey has taken a few interesting turns. I studied engineering up to postgraduate level, but I didn’t pursue it much as a career. After a three-year stint as an aeronautical engineer, I took a sabbatical to study business management and then switched careers. I spent the next nine years in banking with Bank of America in India and then moved onto international offshoring with stints at GE Capital International Services (GECIS) and Deloitte Consulting. These roles gave me the opportunity to gain knowledge of different aspects of finance, management, and operations on a global scale, and about the concept of outsourcing/ offshoring.

In my first post-MBA job in Bank of America, I used to manage the front office Customer Service department. When I moved to GECIS, I found the opportunity to apply what I had learnt there in a much larger, international scale – for the world’s largest brands. That really created an abiding interest in me to focus all my energy and expertise in designing and implementing world class customer journeys.

In 2003, after having worked with these international brands, I made a risky decision to join a start-up called HTMT as their COO. I was promoted to CEO three years later when HTMT demerged its IT/ BPM business into a separate company known as HGS. The company back then worked mainly on back-office services for U.S.-based healthcare clients and had limited global presence. But the business process management (BPM) industry was set to boom in India and I saw a lot of promise with this small $3 million start-up.

Today, HGS has a global presence with over 21,000 customer experience professionals across the U.S., Canada, Jamaica, the UK, India, the Philippines, UAE, Colombia, and Australia. It feels like a long time, but I feel privileged that I have been at the helm of this growing company with wonderful colleagues. I love meeting people, getting to know new cultures, and trying new things; this industry gives me an abundance of that. There is never a dull moment, always something new happening somewhere in our wide footprint.

2. Customer experience (CX) and digital transformation are integral components of modern business success. How does HGS approach these aspects, and what initiatives have you led to enhance the customer experience and drive digital transformation within the organization?
Partha: To drive business success and help build for the future, HGS approaches CX and digital transformation by combining deep technology expertise with near constant innovation to improve processes and empower people. Our customer-first digital solutions enable customers to acquire, retain, and grow customers while augmenting and optimizing internal teams, reducing costs, and increasing revenue. HGS also supports digital transformation through technology implementations and systems integrations. At the core of our digital integration are advanced technologies such as natural language processing, contextual insights, and artificial intelligence. These elements power a truly digital customer experience, enabling seamless interactions and personalized engagement.

HGS’s intelligent process automation (IPA) is driven by three essential components: people, processes, and technology. In the people aspect, we take pride in recruiting top-notch solution architects who possess robust digital backgrounds and domain-specific expertise. Our team comprises technology field experts, including technical architects and data scientists, who contribute their proficiency to extract maximum benefits from automation. When it comes to process, we design and deploy bots based on our client’s individual requirements. This is backed by process reengineering, industry-renowned practices, domain know-how, and deep expertise in business process management. We bring together skilled process experts and cutting-edge tools to streamline processes and achieve substantial business efficiencies.

On the technology front, HGS focuses on solutions rather than just the tools. We also build or bring in complementary technologies for the hyper-customization of solutions. We have built over 10+ solutions and can quickly deploy them as part of any organization’s digital transformation strategy.

Since November 2022, with the advent of Generative AI Technologies, which are rapidly maturing, the future is very exciting. The adoption has been incredibly fast, and the opportunity ahead lies in harnessing GenAI’s capabilities to completely reimagine customer experiences. I am very excited by the enormous potential of this new technology to create new possibilities that we haven’t even thought of today. Its business applications will fundamentally change business models, like the internet did in the 1990s.

3. HGS is recognized as a global leader in the digital-led customer experience lifecycle and business process management. What sets HGS apart from its competitors, and what unique value does the company bring to its clients and partners?
Partha: To exceed rising customer expectations, businesses must continuously innovate, optimize, and grow. HGS provides its clients with the perfect balance of technology and people to create transformative customer experiences. By the merit of being in the customer experience industry for more than four decades now, HGS has been in the thick of all innovations that have swept CRM operations worldwide. Over the past two decades, we have built expertise in four verticals, serving both international and local clients across nine geographies. Our expertise lies in combining technology-powered services in automation, analytics, and digital with domain expertise focusing on back-office processing, contact centers and HRO solutions to deliver transformational impact to our clients. Our unique selling point is our ability to bring our technology capabilities to the forefront to enable our frontline to deliver best in class customer experiences. Most of our peers are still grappling with change, how to deploy new technologies on outdated manual processes. That’s where we have an edge.

4. Given your expertise in Retail, Banking, Financial Services, and Media & Telecom industries, how does HGS tailor its solutions to address the specific needs and challenges faced by clients in these sectors?
Partha: HGS has deep expertise in a variety of industries with solutions that are uniquely tailored to clients’ business needs.

When it comes to Banking and Financial Services, the industry faces myriad obstacles and threats – from tech disruption, trust and retention, regulatory compliance, cybercrime and fraud, data breaches, mobility and globalization, and aging systems. HGS works with clients in this sector to increase their resilience and keep customers for life. We do this by unifying the customer experience within and across lines of business. This includes assisting with any and all of the layers that affect the CX and customer satisfaction score (CSAT) — from cloud strategy and contact center telephony, to chatbots and CRM, to the dashboards and analytics that enable organizations to manage it all.

Within the retail industry, HGS works with retailers to engage with more customers, faster on social and online, to accelerate their speed to innovation and to provide burst capacity on demand to handle seasonal and cyclical spikes as they strive to deliver an improved CX. For retailers, brand consistency across storefronts and channels requires increasingly clever integrations, trained associates, customer and market data insights, cloud technologies, and a unified response. HGS equips brands’ retail contact centers with industry-leading talent and technology, converting their storefronts and channels into full access and digitally enabled transaction, brand, and engagement hubs. We equip, coordinate, and galvanize contact center agents and in-store associates to deliver consistently. Ultimately, HGS crafts a brand-differentiated yet consistent shopping experience for retailers’ current and potential customers.

Increasing competition, Internet of things (IoT), 5G, privacy and security, regulation, and cybersecurity are just some of the concerns keeping telecom managers awake at night. Within media & telecom, companies often face issues of customers frequently moving between service providers depending on the offers and benefits offered at the time. HGS works with media & telecom providers in the U.S., Canada, India, and Europe, tapping into that industry knowledge to build a cognitive contact center to help them increase loyalty among subscribers and drive a competitive edge. Our solutions can help address these challenges by mapping the ever-changing needs of customers and products, offering churn management of valuable and high net worth customers, and supporting payment- and billing-related issues to prevent revenue losses.

5. The pandemic has dramatically influenced the business landscape, with remote work becoming more prevalent. How has HGS adapted to these changes, and what steps have been taken to ensure business continuity and maintain service excellence during challenging times?
Partha: HGS implemented its first work-at-home program with great success in 2016, much before the pandemic. Our employees enjoyed a remote environment, while our clients were pleased with the team’s high-performing metrics, and our clients’ customers received the same high-quality care as traditional in-center staff provides. Best of all, with agents located in different areas, unexpected events caused little to no service interruption.

Since the pandemic changed the business landscape, remote work is now considered standard operating procedure for thousands of global enterprises. Over the past seven years, the HGS Work@HomeTM team has continuously expanded and enhanced HGS’s remote operations capabilities, enabling us to provide world-leading brands with 24/7/365 cloud-enabled virtual support. The HGS Work@HomeTM program is PCI compliant and certified, along with implementing other security measures like two-factor authentication and cutting network accessibility outside of operating hours to ensure compliance while maintaining business continuity and service excellence.

To support employee engagement and mental wellness in a virtual environment, HGS provides remote teams with digital technology that allows teammates across different geographies to participate in lunch-and-learn trainings, remote-but-together team events, and virtual happy hours. Further, HGS monitors each person’s emotional bank account via frequent surveys and whole-person scheduled touchpoints, along with offering a virtual mentoring program.

6. In a fast-paced and ever-changing industry, how does HGS stay ahead of the curve, continually innovating and evolving its services to meet the dynamic demands of customers and markets?
Partha: As a digital CX leader that strives to champion every moment, HGS stays ahead of the curve to meet the dynamic demands of customers and markets through innovative talent and technologies that help deliver consistent interactions at scale.

One of the key focus areas for us has been to actively engage with key decision makers in the customer experience landscape across a wide variety of industries through multiple channels, including one-on-one meetings and a comprehensive market survey to find out where their organizations or thought leaders place emphasis – time, people, and dollars – for CX initiatives. With the current environment being dynamic, this continuous conversation is so critical. We have a very active Client Advisory Board, comprising the top decision makers and stakeholders in our client organizations. We engage with them regularly, to get a sense from them on how their industries are changing and how we can continue to add value to them while things change. We then leverage the inputs from these strategic conversations and market needs to proactively innovate, invest, and tailor our breadth and depth of solutions to meet evolving customer demands for the greatest possible CX benefit, ensuring we remain at the forefront of the industry’s ever-changing landscape.

7. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is increasingly crucial in today’s business environment. Could you share some of the CSR initiatives undertaken by HGS and how the company strives to make a positive impact on society and the communities it serves?
Partha: HGS’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) philosophy is “Work to Give for a Better Tomorrow.” By working to ultimately give, our belief is that we create a better tomorrow. HGS supports 30+ non-profit and charitable organizations globally. Involvement with local communities in all our locations is a deeply ingrained practice in the HGS way of life. It aligns with our approach to creating long-term sustainable value for our customers, clients, employees, shareholders, and society. Not only are our outreach programs opportunities to connect with people of underserved communities, but they are also fantastic team building activities. In essence, doing good and bringing a change in the community is not just our way of business; it dictates our interactions in all spheres of life.

Through HGS’s CSR programs and employee volunteering, we support people and our planet by focusing on the following areas primarily:

  • Access to quality healthcare
  • Promoting holistic education among underserved children
  • Supporting and fundraising for the underserved or those affected by calamities
  • Providing access to clean water and promoting water conservation
  • Training to enable financial independence and job equality for the marginalized and persons with disabilities

8. As a leader with vast experience, what advice do you have for aspiring professionals looking to make their mark in the customer service and business process management domains? What key qualities do you believe are essential for success in this industry?
Partha: For those professionals looking to excel in the customer experience and BPM space, a few key qualities that are important include:

  • Customer centricity to develop trust and a sense of reliability.
  • Being adept at persuasion and situation smartness — especially when one is handling a challenging customer or scenario.
  • Openness to continuous learning — with the rapid pace of change in the business world and this industry, professionals need to keep up. Generative AI is a game changer, start playing with it, so that you can assess how to use it at work.
  • Being tech savvy goes a long way.
  • Ability to balance vision and solid execution.
  • Be proactive and take responsibility… successful growth comes when you showcase the right aptitude.

9. Looking ahead, what are some of the exciting developments or projects that HGS has in the pipeline? How do you envision the company’s growth trajectory in the coming years?
Partha: HGS is successfully evolving to what’s happening across the world — be it how businesses function or how consumers engage with brands or even how society’s expectations have changed. We are evolving today to what we call HGS 2.0 — a technology-led CX company, building on our foundations of being the champions of customer experience for over two decades and overlaying the technology layer on top.

Since the advent of Generative AI and Large Language Models (LLM) late in 2022, the outlook is much more exciting than it has ever been in the past, particularly for the CX industry. HGS is investing significantly in harnessing the power of these new technologies by building our own capabilities in the arena of Artificial Intelligence and analytics, and investing in innovation labs that enhance our core CX strength.

HGS’s future lies in digital operations — a hybrid play of traditional contact center services & BPM, where technology is seen as a job tool, and core digital services such as cloud, systems implementation, and data engineering, etc. The focus is to be an end-to-end customer experience management player, which comprises managing and sustaining interactions between clients and their customers during the entirety of their relationship.

As clients across industries apply technology such as AI and LLM to re-platform their customer interactions, HGS will increase its technology deployment to build “AI-driven CX process management,” creating both supported and unattended customer service, leveraging chat bots, HGS Agent X capability and analytics. HGS is also applying the 3As (AI, automation, and analytics) in a cloud-first model to internal processes and bringing in new talent to augment the existing team to create capability for the future.

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Partha DeSarkar
Partha DeSarkar Executive Director and Group Chief Executive Officer at HGS

Partha DeSarkar is Executive Director & Group CEO of HGS, a global leader in the customer experience (CX) lifecycle, digital transformation, and business process management (BPM). He leads the organization across all its geographies and serves as an Executive Director of the HGS Board of Directors. Partha has more than three decades of experience in customer service and operations across industries like Banking, Financial Services and Health Insurance.