KPO Demystified

September 15, 2012

1. What is Knowledge Process Outsourcing?

Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) is the outsourcing of high-end business functions in an organization. These functions include both core and non-core activities. 

How it is different from Business Process Outsourcing 

2. KPO Value Chain examples 




Business Analytics

Back office support, Data Collection, Data Entry, Secondary Research

Analysis and Statistical Modelling



Data Entry, Transcription

Patent Search, Contract Drafting

Litigation Support, Legal Research


3. What functions does it cover? 

KPO being a nascent segment, there is no universal consensus on the processes that can be classified within the ambit of KPO. Currently, the following knowledge functions are outsourced to varying extents. 



Segment breakdown

Key skills requirement

Legal Services

Patent search, contract drafting, legal research, litigation support, secretarial work, legal coding, transcription

Proficiency with English, knowledge of the client country laws.

Engineering Services

2D and 3D modelling, conversion, finite analysis, value engineering, dynamic analysis, etc.

CAD/CAM, drafting, modelling, product design.

Content Development & Publishing

Data warehousing, content planning, proofing, pre-press production, writing, editing, designing, etc

English writing skills, journalism/editing experience, knowledge of design tools and more.

Market Research & Data Analysis

Primary research, surveys, secondary research, statistical modelling, report writing, synthesis.

Analytical skills, knowledge of statistical tools, presentations, MBA, Econometrics.

Financial Research & Analytics

Industry research, company valuation, equity research & analysis, due diligence, financial reporting, risk assessment

Knowledge of financial markets, statistical tools and a masters in finance – CFA, MBA finance, etc.


Clinical research, gene mapping, drug discovery, etc.

Masters in science, medicine etc.

Education & Training

Instructional design, courseware development

Subject matter expertise, teaching experience.

4. How big is the sector globally? How big will it get?

There are varying estimates on the growth of the global KPO sector. These estimates range from $10 billion (ASSOCHAM) to $17 billion (Evalueserve), by 2010. Given below is an estimate of the growth of various segments within KPO in India.


 Revenue (2006-07)*

Expected Revenue (2010-11)*

Banking, Securities & Insurance Research



Data Management, Search & Analytics



Business & Consulting Research



Human Resources - Research &



Market Research & Comp.



Eng. Design & Architecture, CAD



Game-design & Animation



Legal, Paralegal & Intellectual



Scientific & Medical Content



Remote Education. Publishing,
Tech. Writing



Contract Res. Orgs, Biotech



Translation and Localization



Marketing & Sales Support,
Answering RFPs



Remote Logistic services &



Network Optimization & Analytics






*In millions
Source: Evalueserve

5. India – the most preferred KPO destination

India is expected to corner a lion’s share of the overall KPO market. By 2010, India is expected to account for almost 70 percent of global market. India’s dominance – though imminent in the near future – could be severely tested by some of the emerging destinations such as the Philippines, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, China, South Africa, Singapore, Ireland, Australia, Canada and Wales.

6. Key Issues in the KPO sector

Skills Acquisition and Retention
One of the decisive factors for the growth of any destination will be the ability to acquire the right kind of talent and retain it. For India, it will be a major challenge with high annual churn rates and wage inflation playing dampener. In fact, UK based research firm RocSearch has tempered the optimism with its findings that the Indian KPO market may only grow up to $10 billion by 2010 as opposed to the industry estimates of $12 billion. The corresponding number of professionals employed in this sector will be only 100,000 as opposed to the predicted 250,000.

On the other hand, destinations such as Australia and Canada have a substantial pipeline of skilled talent waiting for the opportunity. While it is true that outsourcing of knowledge processes relies more on intellectual arbitrage more than cost arbitrage, a high wage inflation rate and turnover may ward off clients. 

IP Management & Data Security 
Outsourcing high-end functions to an offshore location involves the exchange of confidential information, especially in segments such as financial services and biotech. In such a situation, vendors need to have stringent internal measures to prevent any misuse or trading of sensitive information. The government on its part should come down heavily on any IP or data theft or infringement. 

Training and Development
Knowledge processes require a high degree of specialization. In addition to the required educational degree, professionals also need to be abreast of the laws or methodologies governing the process in the client destination. Be it legal processes, pharma outsourcing or financial services outsourcing, any knowledge process requires familiarity with the concerned domain as it exists in the client country.