‘How Nigeria’s $300m BPO market can aid growth’

An MTN call centre

An MTN call centre

MTN denies sack at call centres

With statistics from the International Trade Centre indicating that by 2050, 80 per cent of the work force worldwide will be operating in services, the growing competitive business environment has positioned Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) as a key source of competitive advantage.

Worth yearly in Nigeria over $300 million, the country has been urged to tap immensely into the opportunities BPO can offer the economy, especially in job creations and its contributions to lifting the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

This appeal came from iSON BPO, when it led journalists on a facility tour of its Abeokuta, Ogun State call centre facilities at the weekend.

Though, India and China have dominated the BPO industry, but as the cost of outsourcing gets higher, companies are looking for other possible destinations, as such with the youth populations in Nigeria, coupled with the bilingual factor in the country, the next market, according to iSON, should be Nigeria.

While conducting journalists around the facility, Head, iSON Call Centre, Abeokuta, Shobhit Saxena, said the firm currently has presence in 29 countries and has employees’ strength of over 10,000 in Africa, Middle East and ASEAN countries.

According to him, iSON BPO is the largest independent outsourcing service provider in Africa and ASEAN regions, stressing that it serves 200 million customers providing analytics, customer experience management, voice process solutions and CRM process solutions.

With iSON customers including MTN, Airtel, Vodafone, Etisalat, Tigo, Standard Chartered, GTBank, Safaricom, Multichoice, Globacom, Fastjet, Union Bank, among others, Saxena said BPO is a new economic opportunity for the emerging African economy.

However, he said government in Africa needed to partner private sectors under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement, for a virile BPO sub-sector to evolve in African countries.

According to him, apart from helping African economy to grow and be in tune with the international business ethics, establishment of BPO will help reduce high unemployment rate in Africa countries.

Giving more insight into how outsourcing business can be more effective in Nigeria and other parts of the continent, iSON’s Chief Marketing Officer, Opemipo Alebiosu, said authorities in African countries will need to remove entry barriers for investors in BPO, develop fast and integrated infrastructure in transport logistics and telecommunication.

Alebiosu, who hinted that five per cent of iSON staff quota is reserved for the people living with disabilities, said Nigeria and indeed Africa has all it takes to evolve a virile competitive BPO outlet, as a result of availability of cheap labour, skill manpower, and huge market for Western products as well as cultural affiliation with the Western World. “But government in these countries needs to create the enabling environment for prospective BPO investors to operate in Africa.”

According to her, BPO is worth $300 million yearly in Nigeria and iSON has been able to open four call centres, two in Oyo state, one each in Ogun and Kwara states, with more coming, especially in north and the eastern part of the country.

She said Nigeria is a viable destination for other countries to do their BPO services, stressing that the country is still losing market to countries including Philippines, India, United States of America, among others.

In a related development, the firm, in collaboration with MTN, has denied online media reports claiming that the company sacked thousands of workers at its call centres.

A statement by MTN on Monday, quoted its Executive, Amina Oyagbola, saying; “the reports are incorrect. The second phase of a change-in-vendor process took place last week, offering interested workers the opportunity to join the new call centres owned and operated by the vendor; ISON BPO.

“MTN signed an outsourcing contract with ISON BPO Limited in 2015 following a competitive bid process. Indeed MTN’s call centre operations were outsourced to independent third party agencies since 2008, as part of continued efforts to improve the efficiency and quality of customer service delivery in MTN. This is in line with global best practice for organisations in our industry”.

ISON Group Chief Executive Officer, Pravin Kumar said: “We have been managing MTN’s call centres since last year when the first phase of the transition was carried out, with the second phase taking place at this time. We were pleased to have emerged as the new partner to deliver cost-effective solutions, adopting state-of-the-art technology that supports world-class customer service.

“The drive for efficient customer service delivery without compromising on quality within prevailing economic realities comes with structural adjustments and we work to balance this with the need to ensure the sustainability of our operations.

We have continued to engage with those who are interested in taking up the opportunity to work with ISON under agreed terms. At ISON, we remain committed to delivering outsourcing solutions to our clients that also provide thousands of job opportunities to members of the communities in which we operate.”

Saxena believed strongly that there are significant external opportunities, which could be exploited with appropriate strategy formulation and implementation while at the same time indicating areas of concern with regard to threats from other emerging BPO locations around the world that are positioning themselves for a share of the global BPO market and therefore direct competition to Africa.

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