Twenty years ago, the World Bank Group (WBG) decided to set up its Shared Services Centre in Chennai, its largest outside of the United States headquarters, with just 70 staff members. Now it hosts over 1,200 member workforce in more than 15 unique business functions, delivering services to all WBG offices.
“The Bank chose Chennai for its shared services operations over other locations owing to its strong talent pool, good quality life, supportive government, strong education, investor-friendly environment, and its cost effectiveness. The rapid growth of the centre and of shared services in Chennai more broadly confirms that it was an excellent decision,” a World Bank spokesperson said.
Located on a 3.5-acre site at Taramani, just off Chennai’s bustling Information Technology Corridor, the centre supports the mission of the development institution to alleviate poverty and boost shared prosperity and acts as a role model for many initiatives.
The Chennai operation was started when some of the WBG’s accounting functions were transitioned from its Washington DC headquarters in 2001. It provides accounting, finance, human resource, and information technology services to over 130 WBG offices across the globe.
The World Bank’s spokesperson pointed out that the talent in Chennai is deep and has facilitated the office’s continuous expansion into many functional areas. “Whether seeking accounting, finance, information technology, human resources or other business skills, the Chennai talent pool has exceeded the expectations of the WBG,” he added.
Most importantly, the flagship centre has served as the model for a second WBG shared services centre in Sofia, Bulgaria, according to him. Since 2018, Robotics Process Automation (RPA) has revolutionised many routine, repetitive and rules-based transaction processes in units.
Today, units have invested in staff for the required project management and bot development skills and more than 53 bots are in action, including a few chatbots, the spokesperson said. In recent years, the Chennai Centre has undertaken some transformative projects.
One of them is the consolidation of WBG’s worldwide payment processes. This was done following a significant multi-year effort at standardisation, digitisation, process optimisation, systems development and automation. This was paired with a parallel effort to invest in change management and staff learning and training, including creation of centres of excellence around reporting, analytics, and intelligence support, the spokesperson explained.
“In our experience, Chennai has a vast talent pool that, through ongoing programmes and recruitment strategies, will continue to have the skills needed today and into the future,” he said. “The very high level of engagement among our staff is also a significant aspect of a sustainable, if not growing, future for the centre,” he added.
The WBG’s Chennai Community Connection Trust (CCCT), a staff-led programme, supports marginalised and underprivileged sections through community projects such as childhood education and disaster recovery. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it supported the purchase of beds and oxygen concentrators for a hospital for children. The Center hosts delegations of industry leaders planning to set up shared services centres in India to share its experience and best practices in the journey in Chennai, the spokesperson added.