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itelbpo exploring listing on the Jamaica Stock Exchange

Published:Friday | November 23, 2018 | 12:00 AMNeville Graham
Yoni Epstein, CEO of itelbpo smart solutions.

Homegrown Business process outsourcing outfit itelbpo is doubling its footprint, adding 1,500 jobs, and is exploring listing on the Jamaica Stock Exchange. The company, which began operations in 2012 with seven employees, now has 2,000 workers with operations in Kingston, Montego Bay, The Bahamas, Mexico, and a work-at-home staff spread across 12 places in the United States of America.

Executive Chairman Yoni Epstein says the company's growth strategy is predicated on organic growth as well as the acquisition of new companies while pursuing markets with big potential.

"It has been our strategy from day one, and we will continue that strategy as we go along. When we see the opportunities, we will take them. When we see people looking for new vendors in the nearshore or work at home in the USA, we intend to capitalise on those opportunities," Epstein told the Financial Gleaner after touting BPO at the latest Mayberry Investment forum.

All itelbpo offices, except those in the United States, take care of the nearshore side of the company's operations. Some 400 work-at-home agents operate in the United States.

The company is growing on all fronts. The Montego Bay Freeport location has 40,000 square feet of space and currently employs 650 persons. It will be expanded by 56,000 square feet, with an expected opening in February 2019. With the full expansion, about 1,600 persons will be employed. The operation at Pawsey Road, New Kingston, sits on 30,000 square feet of space and employs, bout 500 persons. That location shares a common wall with the former Western Union location at Trafford Place for another 30,000 square feet of space, and with the expansion, another 500 persons are to be brought on board, according to Epstein. He says a continuous process of hiring, which has already started, will continue to the full roll-out of the expansion in February next year.

Epstein says that since starting the business six years ago, itelbpo managed to operate under the radar, quietly picking up business in what he described as the cut-throat world of BPO. He says the growth in business was primarily led by the fact that other companies were losing touch with some of their clients.

"We see the big companies getting bigger, and that for us represents an opportunity because the companies that use their services find themselves more and more becoming just a number, and their business is not taken care of. These companies come to us because they find that they get a personal touch," Epstein said.

At the outset of 2018, itelbpo announced a major initiative in the form of its acquisition of Arizona-based Granada Corporation. With that, itelbpo provides customer service support and a fast-growing bilingual support service. That was followed by the acquisition of Car Rental 8 out of Tampa, Florida. With that operation, the company provides inbound and customer service support, he said.




Epstein says the level of growth has enabled itelbpo to 'swim with the sharks' in the competitive BPO world.

"We're in a position where our name is now known throughout the industry, both among our competitors and clients and prospective clients," he added.

Pressed about the sustainability of the company's expansion, Epstein, while giving a nod to financial backers such as NCB Capital Markets, Scotiabank, and Mayberry, among others, said the company's strength comes from a process of ploughing back profits to promote growth.

"We simply reinvest a lot of the profits and the capital back into growing the business," Epstein said, noting that the company also reinvests on the people side by constantly upgrading management from within the company.

"It all comes down to the team. I have persons around me that are much smarter than I am and know their divisions better than I do. The key is to give them the necessary autonomy to do their job, and they'll be successful for you," he said.

Pressed further about the mode of financing, Epstein said that approaching the stock market is being explored. He agreed that it may be an appealing option in light of the relatively high cost of debt. He was, however, coy about the timing and form of the approach.

"We've had discussions and it's really just to find the right mix. Given the path of rapid growth that we've had, it is just for us to continue along the same path, but you never know what opportunities will come our way," he said.

He would not be drawn on how much has been spent on expansion or the projected spending.

"We don't ever talk about the capex (capital expenditure) that we put into the business. We're more focused on the jobs that we're creating, which is where the economic generators are in this economy," Epstein said.

At the same time, he noted that itelbpo is currently looking at expanding facilities in Monterey, Mexico, in response to the demand for bilingual services. The work-from-home platform is also being tested in The Bahamas with an eye on Jamaica, Barbados, Grenada and St Lucia, he said.

The company plans to make a push for high-value jobs in early 2019. Epstein says the company is working with Jamaican information technology experts in doing the necessary upgrades.

"We're more focused in moving along the value chain in the software development world. We're talking about next-generation technologies that we are developing locally," Epstein said.