Thursday, February 21, 2019

Cebu’s BPO grew to 100 firms

FROM having just four companies at the start of the decade, Cebu City has become one of the top places to go for outsourcing, with over 100 companies and 95,000 workers at the end of 2012.

Cebu Educational Development Foundation for Information Technology (Cedf-IT) executive director Wilfredo Sa-a Jr. said the work they have done has contributed much to the development of the business process outsourcing (BPO), and information and communication technology (ICT) industry in Cebu.

Cedf-IT’s projects include creating a human resource survey and monitoring unit, an IT teachers' academy to train instructors regarding, the Philippine IT general certification exam and bridge courses programs.

Sa-a was one of the speakers during the breakout session of the Asian ICT Council of the Confederation of Asia-Pacific Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CACCI) conference held yesterday at the Radisson Blu Hotel.

Sa-a said they also conducted study tours in India, South Korea, Silicon Valley and Taiwan to see how they were going about the outsourcing industry, which has led to Cebu's being in the top 10 cities for outsourcing for three years now.


Fellow speaker Jerry Rapes, president of software service company Exist Quest, said the software services industry in the country brought in $1.5 billion in revenue in 2012, growing 50 percent from the previous year.

It also registered a 10-percent growth in employment, with 55,000 IT professionals now working in the industry.

IT-BPO revenues are at an all-time high of $13 billion with 780,000 workers. The goal is to grow these numbers to $15 billion and 900,000 by 2016.

Rapes identified several qualities that make the Philippines a viable location for this industry. He noted that out of 76 countries that took a test on business English, the Philippines scored above 7.0, higher than some English-speaking countries, which surprised him.

The score means Filipinos can attend meetings, contribute and converse in English.

He cited the case of his company, wherein a client can speak with everyone in the team and not just to the project manager.

The country also has about 500,000 graduates a year, which makes scalability doable for many companies. With only four percent of the population above 65 years old, Rapes said the rest of the country can excel in chosen fields.

In demand

Majority of these graduates have finished courses in medical and health services, engineering, technology and IT and business courses, which he said are fields that are in demand worldwide.

The country's business fundamentals are also something to consider, pointing that the Philippine Stock Exchange sees a 32.95 percent full year return and is the third among the top bourses in 2012, according to the World Federation of Exchanges.

Finally, he said Cebu is a complete destination and that aside from its progress in business, it is also a hot tourist spot, getting recognition from publications like Conde Nast, the New York Times and Travel and Leisure.

However, it is not without its challenges.

Rapes noted the skills gap between graduates and professionals can be difficult for companies that are in a hurry to hire. Attrition rates are also high, averaging in double-digit figures which leads to rising costs of hiring and retention.

The strengthened peso is also a problem, bringing in 13 percent value in losses, while the country's infrastructure has always been identified as a problem for Philippine business.

The Philippines also lacks middle-level managers to sustain a company's growth momentum, as most of them tend to take jobs overseas.
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