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Metro Manila Beats Mumbai - Philippine BPO's growth for Q1 and the rest of the year

Author: Fern Carlos

Posted: May 12, 2014

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Metro Manila beat Mumbai, India in this year's list of Top 100 Outsourcing Destinations! That impressive ranking from Tholons, a global business process outsourcing (BPO) research and investment advisory firm, shows the astounding growth of the Philippine BPO industry.  The Philippine metropolitan region is now second only to Bangalore, India, which remains at the top of the list.

Tholons Ranking: Top 100 Outsourcing Destinations

Metro Manila begins the year at notch higher than its 2013 Tholons ranking and that's further proof of consistent growth.  In 2012, Metro Manila was in fourth place, behind Indian cities Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi.  The following year, the Philippine outsourcing destination was able to overtake Delhi to win third place.  This year, Metro Manila bests Mumbai thanks to the Philippine region's growth rate which has "remained consistent with previous years," according to Tholons. 

The research firm further noted that even as contact support services continue to "characterize" the identity of the Philippines as an outsourcing location, there is a "notable increase" in non-voice services.  Expansion into non-voice services, industry analysts say, points to the growth and maturation of an outsourcing destination. 

The list, a Tholons flagship project and recognized ranking for BPO destinations in the world, also includes six other outsourcing locations in the Philippines: Cebu, Davao, Sta.  Rosa (Laguna), Bacolod, Iloilo, and Baguio.

Q1 2014 and Beyond for Philippine BPO

For 2014, the Oxford Business Group (OBG) reported a projected growth of 15% in revenues for the Philippines' BPO sector.  OBG cited the Philippine cities that made it to the 2014 Tholons list as significant contributors to the Philippine economy, "one of the country's main sources of hard cash."

OBG also pointed to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) data that show Philippine IT-BPO (Information Technology- Business Process Outsourcing) firms generating significantly larger revenues.  In 2013, outsourcing firms in the country posted $13.3 billion export earnings, a 15% increase from the previous year's total.  This figure tops the $4.8 billion receipts from the tourism industry.  Remittances from foreign workers, a total of $22.5 billion for 2013, remain the biggest source of foreign exchange in the Philippines

In a separate report published in Interaksyon.com, the country's central bank estimated $15.3 billion in total revenues for Philippine IT-BPO this year.  Last year's total revenues also saw a 15 % growth, jumping from $11.6 billion in 2012 to $13.34 billion. 

It's exactly this growth and strength of the Philippine IT-BPO industry that was cited by international ratings agency Standard & Poor's (S&P) among the factors that helped the country maintain its "stable outlook forecast and its BB foreign currency long-term bond rating." In the same report from OBG, S&P credit analyst Agost Benard explained that IT-BPO revenues and earnings from foreign remittances are driving "current account surpluses" and offsetting the effects of weak fiscal profile and prevailing debts.

Philippine Outsourcing: Moving Up the Value Chain

These figures underscore the strength of outsourcing as a business strategy and of the Philippines as an outsourcing location. 

The main impetus is, still, to reduce overhead costs.  As companies expand, ramp up or explore other areas of growth, they need to:

  1. Get the talent they need to remain competitive.
  2. Find ways to keep overall costs low.

At the same time, the goal, particularly in this more competitive business environment, is to gain more value.  BPO voice service companies that expand to the Philippines, for example, want to gain not only talented staff "in most cases, expanding to hire thousands of employees" for their workforce; but also more cost-effective operations and add language capabilities to be delivered to specific countries or regions.  Growth in voice services often also expands to non-voice, with companies looking to add more value and other sources of revenues by also providing email or chat support and other non-voice services. 

Non-voice is expected to expand further as the outsourcing industry in the Philippines matures into providing a wider range of services.  Tholons noted a considerable increase in Finance and Accounting Outsourced (FAO) services and other high value processes in Information Technology Outsourcing (ITO) and Knowledge Processes Outsourcing (KPO), along with the country's continued success in the voice services subsector.

This expansion to services such as back office transactions of financial and non-financial sectors, animation and transcription is seen to continue helping increase revenues and propelling the growth of the industry.

Worldwide, the demand for non-voice talent continues to increase.  In his paper "Transforming the Philippine Talent Value Proposition into an Enduring Competitive Advantage" Alejandro Melchor III, Deputy Executive Director at the ICT Office at Department of Science and Technology pointed to an Information Scientists New McKinsey Global Institute Report that shows that the "United States alone faces a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with analytical and managerial expertise and 1.5 million managers and analysts with the skills to understand and make decisions based on the study of big data." And highly-skilled and qualified IT-BPO employees in the Philippines can fill these, as well as other employment opportunities. 

Human Capital & Government Support for PH IT-BPO

Aside from expanding further into non-voice services, the other keys to sustained growth in the Philippine IT-BPO industry are human capital and government support.  Hiring outsourced employees in the Philippines allows for flexible staffing options and and the ability to hire quality employees at a fraction of the cost of hiring locally.  Human capital has always been one of the biggest resources of Philippine IT-BPO.  The talent base is composed of English-speaking and English-educated people, mostly city-based and technically-proficient.  The literacy rate in the country is one of the highest among the IT-BPO hubs in the world.  Filipino BPO employees are also known for their domain expertise, cultural adaptability, exceptional work ethic and service orientation. 

Government support and a business-friendly environment, which have helped push the Philippine IT-BPO industry to the top of the global outsourcing rankings, are also likely to drive sustained growth.  World-class and cost-effective infrastructure includes telecom, connectivity, network, office space and transportation. 

The Philippine government has also supported state technical training for IT-BPO jobs and provided a business-friendly environment.  The article "The Philippines: Better Business Process Outsourcing" on the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) website reports that the current administration announced further strengthening of the favorable environment by reducing bureaucratic procedures and granting tax holidays to BPO-related investments.

In the IBPAP article "Manila overtakes Mumbai as world's No.  2 outsourcing destination," Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Undersecretary Louis Casambre attributed the improved Tholons rankings to the Next Wave CitiesTM program of the DOST-ICTO and IBPAP, a project established in 2007 to develop globally preferred IT-BPO destinations and the "development of required ecosystem to prop up Information Technology and Business Process Management."

As more and more companies across the globe recognize the continued strategic value of outsourcing to cut costs, develop process equity, increase productivity and business efficiency, and make product and service innovation possible; global outsourcing will remain a formidable industry.  In the Philippine BPO industry, the target for 2016 according to IBPAP is $26 billion in revenues and 1.3 million jobs.  And, of course, higher rankings and more Philippine cities in the Tholons top 100 list.


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