Monday, August 3, 2009

IT majors chase Rs 2,500-cr railways' outsourcing deal

Tech firms TCS and Wipro, apart from several others, are in pursuit of up to Rs 2,500-crore outsourcing contract at Indian Railways, as the world’s biggest civilian employer plans to procure a human resource management system (HRMS) and other modules for integrating and automating functions of payroll, accounting and pension.

With around 1.6 million employees, Indian Railways aims to have a centralised system for managing its staff better. The organisation plans to spend around $1.5 billion over the next two to three years on technology.

“We will be coming out with a request for proposal very soon. The idea is to have built-operate-transfer (BOT) model with the vendors,” said a senior railways official. He requested anonymity because he is not authorised to talk about the project.

In order to avoid high capital investments in acquiring these solutions, railways is exploring cost-effective models such as software-as-a-service, wherein entire infrastructure and application software will be owned by vendors. “We also plan to bring performance and efficiency-linked parameters for paying these vendors,” the official added. At least two senior officials at Indian tech firms chasing this contract confirmed their interest on conditions of anonymity because they are not authorised to speak to media about their companies’ business pursuits.

“It will be a PPP and the pricing will be based on the number of transactions, while the IT company will fund and manage the entire IT set-up,” one of the executives said.

Indian Railways, which is the second largest rail network in the world, also plans to outsource another contract called ‘implementation of software-aided train scheduling’, valued at around Rs 450 crore. TCS, Infosys, Wipro and Mahindra Satyam are already bidding for this contract. The project will help railways do real-time train scheduling and management with the help of a software solution.

“Wipro is already doing two pilots for Indian Railways. One is a pilot for RFID and will be rolled out in next 12-18 months. The company is doing another control charting pilot for Railways where it charts the movement of trains,” another person familiar with outsourcing contract being awarded by Railways said. Both TCS and Wipro declined to offer specific comments about these contracts.

Railways is planning to outsource three more contracts over the next few months, with each estimated to be in the range of Rs 450 crore to Rs 500 crore. Apart from the asset management contract, the railways plans to invite bids for a contract to develop and deploy a solution for automating and integrating the functions of finance and payroll and the other one for material management solution.

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