BPO sector showing signs of promise

Earnings rose 24pc in 2017

Earnings of the business process outsourcing sector rose 24 percent year-on-year to about $210 million last year, riding on the massive expansion in the area in the last few years. 

Companies in the sector now hope to hit the $1-billion mark soon, said Towhid Hossain, secretary general of the Bangladesh Association of Call Centre and Outsourcing (BACCO).

“Our local market is huge. The sector needs to grow further and we need to explore it,” said Hossain, one of the leading entrepreneurs in the sector.

Currently, more than 40,000 young people work in about 100 companies in the sector in Bangladesh and the figure will reach 100,000 by 2021, Hossain said.

When the business idea was first introduced in the country in 2008, the sector made only $4 million in revenues.

Many companies took licences from the telecom regulator then, but most of them closed operations later. This led the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission to bring changes to some of its rules for the sake of the sector's survival, Hossain said.

As a result, the sector's earnings have increased more than 17 times since 2012, when it was only $12 million.

“Bangladeshi firms are now able to handle orders from reputed international brands,” said Md Tanzirul Basher, CEO at My Outsourcing Ltd, one of the leading outsourcing companies in the country.

“Some of our companies are now serving a number of top companies in the world. It is time for us to capitalise on it to get more work orders.”

My Outsourcing Ltd is Bangladesh's first BPO company to hire physically challenged and visually impaired people. Nearly 300 such people work in the sector.

Another local company—Genex Infosys—has already started serving Telenor's sister concerns in different countries, including Grameenphone in Bangladesh.

The firm is now providing Telenor Myanmar with customer contact solutions under a three-year contract. Telenor's Malaysian venture Digi Telecommunications is another client of Genex.

Genex is also serving some multinational companies operating in Bangladesh. Mobile phone operator Robi is one of them.

Currently, Genex employs about 4,000 young people, according to Prince Mojumder, CEO and co-founder of the company.

A Bangladeshi firm also maintains DHL's back office from Dhaka, said Basher. “They are our pride and we have to sell these successes to other counties.”

Renowned global brands like Coca-Cola and Samsung take services from Bangladeshi BPOs and this success can be used to brand Bangladesh as a BPO hub, said BACCO leader Hossain. The local BPOs are serving all the mobile operators' call centre operations, a good number of hospitals and the fast-moving consumer goods industry in the country. They are now looking for opportunities to serve banks as well, said Basher.

The central bank has allowed commercial banks to outsource their customer care services and already two banks are taking service from third parties, he added. “This is a huge opportunity for us and it will take the market to the next level.”

The sector also faces some challenges, especially when it comes to skilled human resources.

The directors of the BACCO recently visited the Philippines and the association has decided to propose the government to introduce a course related to BPO at the higher secondary level like that in the Philippines.

The government is serious about the sector and organised major events on the industry in the last two years.

The government has also decided to establish 554 BPO centres within a short time.


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