19 November 2015 | Martin Read
The executive chairman of the Indian Tenon Group of Companies told an interesting story or two when he dropped in a few weeks back.
Manjit Rajain's Indian FM service proposition focuses on manned guarding, M&E, catering, cleaning, portering - indeed all the services you'd expect. But his Tenon companies are also employed to run paint shops and manufacturing assembly lines. And as well as showcasing the scope and potential for entirely new service lines, Rajain had some interesting stories to tell about being a fast-growing local operator taking its tentative first steps into the international arena. And India itself is clearly an incredibly dynamic place to be right now, a huge economy which is shifting on previously established positions to open up new opportunities for facilities service providers.
Perhaps there aren't the same opportunities to supply to India's defence departments as there are with our own MoD, but Rajain does point to India's airports, which just five years ago were all government-owned. Today, seven of the biggest airports in India have been privatised. Also, there are India's ports: India did not have a single private port 10 years ago, yet today, a huge number of ports both big and small have had their operations privatised. Rajain calculates that something like 27 per cent of potential FM work is outsourced, and that's not including government work. Rajain's security business is growing at a heady 30 per cent a year. There is clearly plenty of headroom for outsourced service provision here.
Of course, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the UK it was the ideal time for Tenon to announce its acquisition of mid-range UK service provider Office & General. As well as giving O&G a platform to compete with the big boys, Tenon as a group will able to do more for multinational clients operating in both the UK and India, and naturally that goes both ways should O&G now attract international clients. Considering the difficulties that other UK-based international FM providers have had in sustaining their operations in India, the prospect of an India-based operator doing something similar in reverse will be well worth keeping an eye on.
Looking at Tenon's paintshop and assembly line work, it's interesting to note how Tenon and its Indian-based clients have defined outsourced FM in their own different ways, with Tenon, for example, with its paintshops and assembly lines as well as all the portering, cleaning, catering etc. that makes up the standard FM service suite. It makes me wonder whether each country's own unique take on FM provision, each a unique service fingerprint, is one way of clarifying the overall FM function globally. How can it be a commodity if it means so many different things in so many different countries? Accounting stays the same whatever the territory. IT is universal in its application. But FM? It's all manner of things to all manner of people.
Globalisation will doubtless seek ruthlessly to level out and standardise each service line, and perhaps more's the pity. Highlighting international variations in what comes under the banner of FM might just be a very useful PR exercise.
Martin Read is managing editor of FM World