Honduras Looks to Call Centers and Strong Bilingual Abilities to Grow Outsourcing

So far, 2009 looks like a good year for the emerging Honduras BPO community.

The first tenants at Altia business park are planning to move into the state-of-the-art facility in September.

The first tenants at Altia business park are planning to move into the state-of-the-art facility in September.

Worldwide outsourcing provider ACS recently announced plans to locate a call center near San Pedro Sula and operators of several industrial parks are helping make the case to invest in Honduras – a  country that is becoming well-known for strong English language skills. There are well over 400 English language schools operating in Honduras.  In fact, in a story that came out today in the Honduras publication “La Prensa” (click on this link for the Googlized English translation,) the author claims that Honduras has more bilingual speakers per capita than any other Central American nation.  (Although Belize is probably the Central American country to have the most bilingual speakers – I invite others to make their points in the topic.  Friends in Costa Rica or Guatemala, any comments?) To view the LaPresna story in the original Spanish version, click here.

The story notes that Altia Business Park is one of the leaders in trying to attract outsourcing operations, based on tax incentives and economically priced telecom services.

Another important player is Gruppo Karims, a worldwide organization which invests in industrial real estate, textiles and tourism. The company has operations in Pakistan, Mexico and Hoduras, and offices in Guatemala, China, Dominican Republic and the USA. Karims operates a large industrial facility called Green Valley Industrial Park, considered one of the largest and most technically advanced facilities in the entire Nearshore region.

Finally, there continue to be plans for Honduras to host a Central America chapter meeting of the IAOP sometime before the end of the year. We will provide updates at Caribbean CRM Central when more news is announced by Chair Chris Disher.

Canada’s Telus Sees “Mandatory” Need for Spanish: Exclusive Interview

Jeff Puritt, president of Telus International, sees further expansion in Nearshore operations sites in Guatemala, El Salvador and Panama

Jeff Puritt, president of Telus International, sees further expansion in Nearshore operations sites in Guatemala, El Salvador and Panama

Telus is probably the most bullish company I have yet to run into that has established a comprehensive Nearshore presence. As the second largest telecom carrier in Canada, Telus has made global expansion a key priority under the leadership of CEO Darren Entwistle, who has run the company since 2000. That global growth comes partly in the form of responding to the requirements of customers, who increasingly require call center agents to possess Spanish language skills.

Telus, through its partnership with Transactel, runs three outsourced customer delivery sites in Guatemala, El Salvador and Panama, employing a total of 3,400 agents and support personnel. Customers can be other telecom providers, pizza delivery companies, video game operators or just about any business seeking BPO and outsourced call center services.

Jeff Puritt, president of Telus International, told us why Transactel was selected among over 100 Nearshore service providers, the commitment Telus has to corporate responsibility and why increasing geopolitical stability is great news for the entire Nearshore services industry. To read the interview, click Continue reading

IAOP: As India Wanes, Does Central America Become a New BPO Hub?

I kept hearing it throughout the IAOP Central America chapter meeting this week in Guatemala City:

India is reaching a BPO and KPO saturation point. Companies want more options but they want the same kind of process discipline that originally put India on the map. Is Central America ready to fill those big shoes?

qqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqLori Blackman, president of DNL Global and a key behind the scenes organizer of the event, made a great point when she insisted the greater Latin America region has to take a close look at itself and decide what it can do better than anyone else. As a result, I kept asking my new provider friends: What makes you different? Beyond building call center operations, what’s the long term value play for your operation? Lori says it’s the natural ability to sell and smoothly engage with people which makes for promising opportunities.

I agree – but to be honest – industry leaders are definitely not there yet in terms of saying “our most precious resource are agents who have a natural proclivity to sell, or upsell.” Mario Lopez, a director with Transactel, pointed out that the region has to walk before it runs.

As far as filling the shoes of India, it’s safe to say that Central America has some room to grow. Standards of organizational process (a theme hit hard by former BP global CIO Don Althoff of British Petroleum which I will blog separately about), where companies and nations get on the Six Sigma and ITIL bandwagon, is not exactly a competency most regional providers are touting.

The “good news” as Stephan Manning, an Offshoring Research Associate from Duke University, pointed out during his presentation: Latin America is rising to become a top destination for call center business, in part because of Spanish language strengths. Demand for administrative support and BPO work, as well as product development (a theme we heard about repeatedly) are all up.

The flipside: There is a nasty race to the bottom in the price-is-everything world of call center sourcing. Commoditization is a very real concern and Manning – as well as others – stressed that providers need to take serious steps toward building a roadmap to higher value, and higher margin services, like KPO. My belief is KPO capabilities will begin to show up more and more and it will be introduced by the major, global players already beginning to build a beachhead in the region. The upside is huge – as long as providers commit to playing for the long haul.

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