CFO Anusha Ramraj went from answering calls to calling the shots

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Starting as a call-centre agent, Anusha Ramraj has climbed the ranks at CCI South Africa to CFO, and learned the importance of empowering people on the way.

“Bullshit baffles minds, but numbers tell a story. If you apply logic to anything you do with words, you build an argument. If you apply logic to numbers, you can never go wrong.” This quote from Anusha Ramraj, CFO of CCI South Africa, shows she is not just a conventional CFO.

Anusha exemplifies a different kind of leadership, not just focused on balance sheets, but fuelled by a genuine passion for people. And her success proves it: she was instrumental in supporting the transformation of CCI South Africa from a small call centre (BPO) to a global business services powerhouse.

As a leader, Anusha places a strong emphasis on connecting with people at all levels of the organisation. “I walk into the building, I park my car, and I make it my duty to greet the receptionist and the security guards on duty. ‘Good morning. How are you? Have a wonderful day.’ They all know me.

“People matter to me,” she explains. “I constantly interact with them, guiding and steering them on how to prioritise their work. I create a supportive environment where I listen and provide them with the guidance that they need to deliver. The role of the CFO cannot just be focused on debits and credits or producing a report that tells you how much money the company made or sunk. It’s about having a clear understanding of how the business operates and exists on a much broader scale.”

The evolving landscape of BPO

The core premise of BPO, according to Anusha, lies in the outsourcing of specific functions to a third-party provider. “This allows organisations to focus on their core competencies while tapping into the expertise and resources of specialised service providers. The services that can be outsourced through BPO are remarkably diverse, ranging from customer service and sales to back-office functions like finance, HR and IT.

The BPO sector has evolved beyond the traditional call centre model. “BPO is now a contact centre, and no longer a call centre,” Anusha says, highlighting the industry’s transition to a more holistic, multichannel approach to customer life cycle management. This shift reflects the rapidly changing landscape of customer service, driven by advancements in technology and the demands of a more globally connected world.

Anusha’s own journey at CCI reflects the transformative potential of the BPO industry. She started as a call centre agent and worked her way up to become the CFO, tearing down the notion that a job in a call centre is a dead end. “The days of people thinking BPO is a call centre with no career development or growth opportunities is an old-fashioned way of thinking,” she says.

In her role as CFO in the BPO sector, Anusha navigates a complex array of financial and operational challenges. She is deeply involved in strategic planning, together with her CEO, ensuring that the financial goals for the South African group of companies align with broader business objectives – an essential practice in BPO, where client needs and global market dynamics frequently shift.

“It’s very important that what we are trying to achieve financially ties in with what we need to achieve strategically. Bridging any gaps, navigating through the challenges and finding solutions to still meet the financial targets and deliver strategically is all in a day’s work… If you can’t bring those two together, you’re doomed,” she says.

The CFO’s financial acumen needs to extend to vendor selection, supplier and customer contract negotiations, and pricing structures, critical elements in maintaining a competitive edge within the BPO sector. In addition, cash flow management is an important area of her focus in South Africa. “You can have the best business, but if you don’t have enough money in your bank account, you can’t sustain yourself… cash is king.” This is particularly significant in BPO, where cash flow management must be meticulously planned to support large-scale operations, especially if operating across various geographies.

Risk management takes on additional complexity, especially relevant in BPO, where cross-border data and personnel management introduce nuanced regulatory challenges. “We deal with data, we deal with people, and the landscape is changing in terms of governance requirements,” Anusha notes, highlighting the importance of a very proactive approach to compliance and risk management in diverse regulatory environments.

Anusha also addresses operational challenges such as supply chain management and the need for flexibility in scaling operations, essential for BPO companies that must rapidly adjust to client demands and market conditions.

Driving social impact through impact sourcing

At the heart of CCI’s success is its ‘Humanitude’ approach – a deliberate focus on empathy, respect and genuine human connection. This people-centric model is integral to the company’s impact-sourcing approach, which creates positive social impact by identifying and upskilling underprivileged youth, and providing them with the training and opportunities to thrive in digital jobs within the company’s contact centres.

“Impact sourcing is where you create positive social impacts for previously disadvantaged individuals. It’s a deliberate model that we adopt,” Anusha says. Through a partnership with the non-profit organisation Career Box, CCI identifies and upskills underprivileged youth, providing them with the training and opportunities to thrive in digital jobs within the company’s contact centres.

Anusha explains she has seen first-hand how BPO can catalyse profound and lasting change. CCI SA, which started its operations in South Africa in 2006 with just 50 seats, has since grown exponentially, now boasting close to 10,000 seats across the country. CCI Global has a footprint across other African nations with global clients spanning across the US, Australia, UK, Africa and Canada. “By investing in people, embracing impact sourcing, and driving broader societal change, companies like CCI are not only creating jobs, but also transforming lives and communities,” she explains.

Beyond just job creation, Anusha believes BPO can also drive broader economic growth and investment, attracting funding and investment into the country, leading to the creation of new taxpayers while reducing crime.

The company recently opened a ground-breaking contact centre in Umlazi, a township near Durban. “We’ve managed to make the possibility of job creation available in Umlazi,” Anusha explains. “Now people from Umlazi can walk through the door, drop off their CVs, get interviewed, and get a job in the contact centre, working right from Umlazi without having to travel to the city.”

This innovative approach to bringing employment opportunities directly to underprivileged communities is a testament to CCI’s broader mission.

As Anusha reflects:

“Whenever I have a really tough day, I remember what makes me do what I do, which comes down to the impact that we actually have on the lives that we touch.”

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