POST TIME: 15 March, 2018 02:14:22 AM
BPO sector grows by 19 times in 5 years

BPO sector grows by 19 times in 5 years

Visitors seek information regarding Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) at a stall at BASIS SoftExpo held at the Bangabandhu International Conference Center (BICC) in the capital recently. Independent Photo

Riding on a huge growth wave for a couple of years, the income of the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector in Bangladesh rose by more than 24 per cent year on year to about USD 230 million in 2017.

“In 2009, only around 300 people used to work in this industry. Now, after nine years, around 40,000 people are working in some 120 companies in the BPO sector,” Towhid Hossain, secretary general of the Bangladesh Association of Call Centre and Outsourcing, told The Independent.

He said that in 2012, the earnings were only USD 12 million and it rose to USD 230 million in 2017. It has grown by more than 19 times since 2012, he added.

On average, 20,000 to 25,000 people are employed in this sector every year. In 2017, the earnings were USD 230 million, up from USD 160 million in 2016, Hossain said.

Describing the reasons for this great performance, Hossain said there are four pillars of this sector: legal documents (including company registration), IT infrastructure, skilled human resource management, and international business development. Bangladeshi BPO companies have done well in two of these—legal documents and IT infrastructure. “But we are still working on developing skilled human resources and international business development strategy,” he added.

Explaining the challenges of this sector, Hossain pointed out that to communicate with the international client, proficiency in English language is a must. “So we need to include mandatory English lessons along with IT courses at the vocational institutes at every level,” he said.

“Unfortunately, proficiency in English language is still a hindrance in taking this sector forward,” he added.

Social awareness is another problem in Bangladesh. Many people do not know that BPO services can be a profession, he added.

The sector can be divided into two parts: voice and non-voice. Describing the non-voice part, he said it is a subsection in which employees sit behind a desk and fulfil duties that may not be visible to the customer.

Citing an example, he said, “Closed-circuit television monitoring can also be outsourced. A team of trained people monitor your premises and your project sites to provide top-quality surveillance you would expect from on-site personnel, but in a more cost-effective manner.”

On being asked about the future prospects in the BPO sector, he replied, “After analysing the current scenario, we can easily envisage that by 2021, the sector will create employment for around 1 lakh people and generate earnings of about USD half a billion.”

Muntaqim BPO Services Ltd provides accounting services to small and medium-sized businesses and individual taxpayers.

The MD of Muntaqim BPO Services, Mahmud Ullah, told The Independent, “We provide accounting services, such as bookkeeping, maintaining the general ledger, accounts payable/receivable, bank reconciliation, and payroll services.”

“Our local market is huge. The sector needs to grow further and we need to explore it,” said Hossain, who is also a leading entrepreneur in the sector.

Pointing out a few challenges in the sector, he said that a company’s accounting information is profoundly confidential. Therefore, both trustworthiness and confidentiality are important.

Digicon Technologies Ltd is another foremost outsourcing organization in Bangladesh, leading in BPO and IT solutions.

Owner of Digicon, Wahidur Rahman Sharif, told The Independent, “We started our business in 2010 with only

100 employees. Now, around 1,400 employees are working for Digicon.”

“Our expertise is in providing customer service through contact centres, telesales, HR outsourcing, payroll processing, and a variety of back office and technological support services,” he said.

On being asked about the challenges, Sharif said, “There is ample opportunity in our domestic market, such as banking and government, and we should explore them first.”

“The more we gather local market experience, the easier it would be for us to get more international work,” he added. The international BPO market is worth around USD 500 billion. So, there is a huge opportunity ahead, he said.

The government has also decided to establish more than 500 BPO centres within a short time, Towhid Hossain said.