Fri | Nov 24, 2017

Jamaica rolling back red tape to attract more BPO investment

Published:Friday | October 20, 2017 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke
Don Wehby (centre), chairman of Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), speaks with JAMPRO President Diane Edwards; Kirk Laughlin (second left), managing director of Nearshore America; Claude Duncan (second right), JAMPRO vice president - investment promotions; and Yoni Epstein, CEO of itelBPO Smart Solutions, during a briefing to encourage more investment in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector at JAMPRO business auditorium yesterday.

Local business process outsourcing (BPO) players are telling potential investors that Jamaica is ripe for their investment, citing, among other things, an educated workforce and a stable democratic government as reasons to choose Jamaica as their next offshore office space.

"Jamaica is open for business and, therefore, we need to roll back the red tape and roll out the red carpet in order to facilitate investment in Jamaica, and the BPO sector is one of the sectors that has been doing well," said JAMPRO Chairman Don Wehby.

Wehby was addressing a group of potential investors from the United States who travelled as part of a fact-finding mission looking into the merits of locating BPO centres in Jamaica, with JAMPRO playing host in partnership with outsourcing authority Nearshore Americas.

The mission served to introduce investors to the current business opportunities available in Jamaica for the BPO sector.

Local BPO companies shared their experiences in the industry to further encourage the development and investment discourse around the growing sector.

IBEX Global, itelbpo Smart Solutions, and VXI Jamaica have also partnered on the initiative.

Kirk Laughlin, managing director, Nearshore Americas, said that the mission was due to international investors' confidence in Jamaica.

"Jamaica is attractive to international BPO investors for a number of reasons,

but probably the two biggest assets are proximity to the US mainland and English-speaking capabilities," said Laughlin.

He added that investors examining other options in the Nearshore region see Jamaica as having significant advantages.

Nearshore denotes a geographic location in relatively proximity to the US mainland.

The BPO sector currently has 26,000 seats with conservative estimates having the number exploding to twice its current capacity in just over two years as government and industry stakeholders continue building out more space for investment.

... Good things happening  - Epstein

Yoni Epstein, CEO of itelBPO Smart Solutions, says Jamaica's ideal geographic location in relation to the US and a common language and an easily digestible culture are distinct advantages in choosing to invest.

"Jamaica is the poster child of the Caribbean, and not only are there good things happening in the BPO sector, but in the Jamaican economy in general," Epstein said.

"Tourism, construction, health care, smaller industries coming on stream, and the creative industries are some of the positives right now available in Jamaica," he added.

Bob Dechant, CEO of IMEX, one of the largest sector employers in Kingston, said yesterday that the massive Philippines market, with more than one million call centre jobs, is saturated, creating an opportunity for Jamaica to welcome more investors.

Companies are looking at derisking in the Philippines with an eye on new markets, where they can move massive volume as a complementary alternative, Dechant said.

"There aren't too many markets (where) you can do that. Jamaica (is) the third-largest English-speaking population (in the Western Hemisphere). And they mapped perfectly as a high-volume alternative.

"So with the Philippines derisking, Philippines fatigue, Jamaica could benefit based on some great factors. That's what's right in this market as an alternative."

Six investors from Ireland and the United States made the fact-finding trip to Jamaica, covering the digital transportation services, customer service, and materials/textiles services.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com