“Untapped” is one of the first words you might use to describe the Honduras BPO/ call center industry. This is a country that has bounced back from an economically disruptive coup last year to reclaim attention as a value-driven destination worth paying attention to. And – according to our on the ground observers – the Honduras opportunity is definitely on the radar of major multinationals.
Atento, Sykes and Sitel were all in attendance last week during a “Nearshore Business and Investment Forum” at the historic Copantl Hotel and Meeting Center in San Pedro Sula. So what did these global firms learn?
David Scott Anderson, CEO of the Utopia Group and Forum chair, said the forum was established to provide a venue to deepen awareness of Honduras and provide a place for network among the various call center/BPO stakeholders.
Over 30 event sponsors were all on hand, equipment manufactures such as Avaya and Citrix software, to the new BPO Altia Business Park, and education and English training providers Universidad Tecnológica de Honduras/CEDS Guatemala, to answer questions and provide expertise.
According to John Glasgow of CEDS Guatemala, “the event was definitely a success. It provided a forum to educate attendees interested in entering the industry and to discuss the common issues we all face as the Contact Center/BPO sector grows regionally. Perhaps more importantly, it created a sense of momentum about the industry in Honduras, and all signs indicate that the participants are sincere about their future efforts to follow through.”
The event boasted fifteen presentations the first day of the Forum, and twelve the second. Trade and investment representatives from El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia and even the German aid agency GTZ were on hand to gauge interest and conduct competitive analysis. A second event, slated for the first half of 2011, in either El Salvador or Nicaragua, is currently being planned.
As a result of the success of the Nearshore Business and Investment Forum, an advisory committee has already been set up to inform government policy and consult on industry branding to maintain momentum derived from this event. Local universities, such as the Universidad de San Pedro Sula, are now initiating the development of call center management programs in anticipation of future demand.
“This event generated excitement, not only from Honduran investors, but from attendees as far ranging as Colombia, Nicaragua and Guatemala. All left convinced that Honduras has a future in the industry. Investment will be flowing soon, and local investors are already preparing to address any issues that could slow or hamper growth. An organization is in the early stages of development, that will work with the government to ensure that laws are reflective of the industries unique needs, and that funding be made available for training and other initiatives,” said Anderson.
Honduras must generate enough momentum in the outsourcing sector to overcome several investor concerns – among them – the ability to demonstrate that there is a sufficient labor pool to meet rising demand and that the labor force can adapt to the requirements of a customer-centric and service-oriented work environment. In addition, groups like FIDE (which acts at the lead investment promotion agency) must drive forward more initiatives that bring out the uniquely powerful characteristics of Honduras, so the country can differentiate itself from other rising neighbors such as El Salvador and Nicaragua.
The upside looks good for Honduras – especially since the country has had a longstanding manufacturing base that has been fueled by investment from the United States. Expanding that base into professional services in the next big step for this emerging nation.
By Kirk Laughlin and Jon Felperin, MA TEFL (firstname.lastname@example.org) has over 26 years experience as an educator, teacher trainer and educational consultant. Based in El Salvador, he divides his time equally between Central and South America. His main business focus is the BPO/contact center industry and he promotes e-learning language solutions for GlobalEnglish.com and Saywire.com.