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Philippine BPO industry's potential remains huge.

By Kristyn Nika Lazo/Manila Times The sun will not be setting anytime soon on this sunshine industry.

The Philippines has already become the world leader in business process outsourcing (BPO) and the industry still continues to grow, according to Jose Mari Mercado, president and chief executive officer of the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP).

Usage and learning of different languages at work, especially in the industry, will be beneficial to the country if it produces graduates who can speak in other languages, not just English, he said.

"In 2020, there would be more Spanish-speaking Americans than English-speaking Americans in North America. Think about the potential market that is out there," Mercado said.

Mercado said the country's potential in the customer care services market in the future, using Spanish language as the medium of communication, would be huge.

But because of the closer distance to North America and Spanish being their native language, Latin Americans are "our biggest competition" when it comes to attending to clients' needs with the use of the Spanish language.

But, he added, there is a disadvantage for them. "They (Latin Americans) are 20 to 35% more expensive than the Philippines," Mercado said.

He also said that Costa Rica, one of the most dominant countries of Latin America, has only a population of 12mn, which is the same population of Metro Manila.

"They can only do so far . . . That is why there is that potential (for Filipinos) as we get to 2020," Mercado said in a roundtable meeting of Manila Times on Friday. Before the 1987 Constitution was approved, the country's college students were required to take 12 units of Spanish. Today students can choose what language they want to take as an elective course. "If you'd ask me, I'd ask the government to bring back Spanish as a requirement in the curriculum rather than the language they choose, and then nothing comes out of it," Mercado said.

Mercado is the head of BPAP, the umbrella organisation of the BPO in the country--mostly in voice business sector such as call centres and customer care services--which also assists investors in putting up businesses in the Philippines.

Other foreign languages are seen as a potential market of the BPO voice sector, generically known as the call centre industry, by 2020.

According to BPAP, it would be a challenge to the Philippines to be one of leading spots in the BPO, not only in Spanish, but also for Japanese, and other Asian and European languages as well. "Good communication is still important . . . (and) is still going to be critical," the BPAP president said.

Mercado also said Filipinos need to brush up on their basic English to continue the expansion of the Philippine services industry to the world. "I think the challenge is in the grammar, the context, the use of the (English) language," he said.

Of the roughly 900 call centres nationwide, 350 are listed as members of BPAP and 600 are members of Contact Centre Association of the Philippines, which generated about $30.42bn in profits in the Philippines in 2012. By 2016, Mercado said BPAP is aiming for $25bn in revenue, which would account for 10% of gross domestic product, 10% global market share and 1.3mn direct employment.

Mercado said that his dream for the industry is "reverse migration," where Filipinos working overseas would come back and work in the country for good. Additional languages overseas workers learned or know would also be advantageous as BPO industry in the country is growing, viewing to cater to different countries in the world.

Mercado said the industry should no longer be referred to as BPO, but BPM or business process management.

Gulf Times Newspaper 2013

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Publication:Gulf Times (Doha, Qatar)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:May 19, 2013
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