3i announced yesterday that it had recruited Akshaya Bhargava to head its new focus on the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, a market estimated at $170 billion. Speculation has been rife about BhargavaÆs plans since he resigned his job in January this year.

3i has brought in a BPO expert to spearhead its foray. BhargavaÆs last job was as chief executive officer of Progeon, InfosysÆ BPO subsidiary. Under BhargavaÆs stewardship Progeon grew to an $86 million business with more than 7,000 employees.

3i announced its focus would be on buyouts with a value up to $1 billion or growth capital investments up to $150 million. Specifically, within the BPO sector 3i will look at companies with minimum revenues of Ç100 million in the financial services sector in the UK, Germany, the USA and India. Head of group markets, Chris Rowlands comments, ôThere are many exciting opportunities in the BPO market internationally. We are delighted that Akshaya has joined 3i to lead this new sector focus across our private equity business.ö

Bhargava has come full circle in returning to financial services as he took over at Progeon in 2003 after a 22 year long career with Citibank - where he was based in India, the Czech Republic and the UK. Bhargava has an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta.