The government on Thursday announced simplified guidelines for BPOs and ITES companies to reduce the compliance burden on them and to facilitate 'Work From Home' and 'Work From Anywhere' framework. The new rules for Other Service Providers (OSPs) seek to create a friendly regime for 'Work from Home' and 'Work from Anywhere', while removing frequent reporting obligations for such companies, according to an official release.
The move assumes significance as the industry had been asking for relaxations for 'Work From Home' to continue on a permanent basis as the sector moves towards a blended working model in the post-COVID-19 era. Put simply, OSPs are entities providing applications services, IT enabled services or any kind of outsourcing services using telecom resources. The term refers to Business Process Outsourcing (BPOs), Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPOs), IT Enabled Services (ITES) players, call centres, amongst others.
The detailed guidelines issued by the Telecom Department on Thursday said that the concept of 'Work From Home' will be encouraged and that "work from home has been extended to provide Work-From-Anywhere in India".
This facility of extended agent/Remote Agent Position (that is 'Work From Home/Anywhere') is permitted with certain conditions, it said, adding that agents at home shall be treated as 'Remote Agents' of the OSP Centre and interconnection is permitted.
"The Remote Agent is also allowed to work from any place within India...OSP shall be responsible for any violation related to toll-bypass," it added.
Over the past few months, the government has taken various measures to facilitate work from home. It had earlier extended connectivity norms for remote working in IT and BPO companies till December 31.
The official release on Thursday said that several requirements which prevented companies from adopting 'Work from Home' and 'Work from Anywhere' policies have now been removed, while additional dispensations to enhance flexibility for the industry have been allowed.
Lauding the move, industry body Nasscom said, "Access to remote working will give our industry an epic boost and significantly expand access to talent, increase job creation, catapult Indian IT and BPM to the next level of growth and innovation, thereby making India a global tech hub".
Nasscom termed the overall regulatory changes as "bold reforms" for ITES/BPO players.
The government statement said that the new framework will provide a strong impetus to India's industry and will make India one of the most competitive IT jurisdictions in the world.
Notably, the new rules do away with the registration requirement for OSPs, while the BPO industry engaged in data related work has been taken out of the ambit of the said regulations.
Under the revamped guidelines, requirements such as deposit of bank guarantees, requirement for static IPs, frequent reporting obligations, publication of network diagram, and penal provisions have also been removed. The release further said that the new guidelines are aimed at removing "unnecessary bureaucratic restrictions" in order to allow the industry to focus on innovative new products and solutions.
"India's IT sector is our pride. The prowess of this sector is recognised globally. We are committed to doing everything possible to ensure a conducive environment for growth and innovation in India. Today's decisions will especially encourage young talent in the sector!," Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.
Nasscom, in its statement, said the new guidelines will tremendously reduce the compliance burden of the business process management (BPM) industry. "It is extremely heartening to see the government's commitment towards Ease of Doing Business, and its focus towards IT-BPM industry's sustainable future," Nasscom said.
The government said the latest reform reflects its strong support to the IT industry, with a view to encourage increased investment in the sector.
"The reform will certainly unleash the potential of our talented youth by making India as a preferred destination for Information and Knowledge Outsourcing Industry and would further the vision of 'AtmaNirbhar Bharat'," the release added.
Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad tweeted, "Today @narendramodi Govt has taken a major reform initiative to liberalize the regulatory regime for Other Service Provider. This will boost the IT/ ITeS/ BPO industry and create a friendly regime for Work from Home in India."
Nasscom Senior Director and Public Policy Head Ashish Aggarwal said India is a global outsourcing hub and the new guidelines will promote outsourcing at scale, bringing in more work to India.
"With the relaxations in WFH (Work From Home) regulations, companies will be able to tap into talent from small towns and remote parts of the country," Aggarwal said, adding that the new guidelines offer further clarity and will bring in ease of doing business.
WNS Group CEO Keshav Murugesh tweeted that this "brilliant step" will catapult Indian IT and BPM to the next level of growth, global impact, job creation and development of small towns and cities in tier III and IV locations.