Kingston, Jamaica, Aug, 2020 -- Consul for the Jamaica Promotions Corporation's (Jampro) North American Regional Office Vivion Scully projects that the country is poised for even further growth in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector in 2021.
"At the start of 2020, companies in the sector employed over 40,000 people, servicing international clients and customers across the globe. Now amid COVID-19 and the increased demand of contact centre outsource services, we are poised for more growth in 2021," Scully stated during a recent Jampro webinar.
According to him, this is credited to the island's telecoms infrastructure, energy investments, and government support.
"With Jamaica having the largest hybrid energy storage facility in the Caribbean, this is expected to improve our reliability over the island's power supply, during periods of intermittency. Our future investment in the sector will issue an additional 500 megawatts of new energy to strengthen the grid and reduce cost going into 2021," he indicated.
Jamaica intends to generate half of its energy from renewables by mid-2037 amidst an overall target to add 1.6 gigawatts of new capacity towards electricity grids.
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Scully further added that going forward, steps are being undertaken to enhance dialogue between telecoms and power infrastructure operators to ensure sufficient grid and data connectivity for workers in the sector.
This he said, will open doors for virtual business models for remote working and the drafting of a comprehensive risk-preparedness plan, specifically for the sector to ensure business continuity during difficult times.
"Jamaica's BPO landscape has tripled over the last 10 years, demonstrating success and strength in the business environment. With strong government support and solicitation, this has fuelled the sector, helping to create exponential growth of 20 per cent for the past five years. In addition [Jampro] provides marketing intelligence, support in site selection for office space, and in housing for overseas staff, facilitating the introduction of key stakeholders to real estate agents, HR consultants, and legal accounting firms," he said.
As for Yoni Epstein, head of BPO firm ItelBPO, choosing Jamaica to establish the firm was an easy decision.
"It's quite simple — the unity of the industry. We're similar in size to some of our competitors in Central America but there is a sense of unity, especially during the pandemic," Epstein stated.
"The other aspect is the power of advocacy with the Government. The fact that the Jamaican Government is pro-business in general, but also understands the essentialness of the BPO sector, made it easy for us to work very closely with them to put protocols in place with the Ministry of Health.
"Whereas in some of the other jurisdictions that we operate in that are larger, we are truly at the mercy of whatever the Government of that jurisdiction decides. Jamaica is our home and it is our biggest footprint and will continue to be that way for those reasons," he continued.
The region's largest home-grown business process outsourcer, ItelBPO operates in five countries with over eight facilities.
Epstein added that while initially it was challenging to activate a remote work plan for the firm due to COVID-19, he has now seen benefits such as lower attrition and absenteeism, and better productivity from agents.
"I'm not going to try and sugar-coat it to say it was an easy job. It was rough to put 80 per cent of 2,100 people into remote working, and settling them once they got home. It has been a shock to all of us, but I have to commend the team members that very quickly moved our agents in facilities and into remote working. We have a pretty extensive workforce that works from home in the US, and now Canada, so that gave us a leg up on some of the other players," Epstein said.
He further indicated that BPO operators are currently working alongside the Jamaica Special Economic Zone Authority, Jampro and the Government to pass legislation to allow for 30-40 per cent of BPO workforce to work remotely on a regular basis.
"At the height of the pandemic we got the initial approval, which was to essentially move as many workers to remote working to keep the business afloat. The goal is to make work-from-home a big part of the sector going forward," he informed.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
JAMPRO is Jamaica's investment promotion agency.
Published: Wednesday, August 26, 2020
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