The wealth of English-speaking talent in Trinidad and Tobago is working to its favor, alongside its prime location outside of the hurricane belt and sustained government support. The country is enjoying increased interest as a Nearshore destination – and the global pandemic has offered an opportunity to demonstrate its strengths.
The recent webinar, “Business Continuity in Times of Disruption: A Nearshore Success Case,” hosted by Nearshore Americas, highlighted how companies like Digicel Business, The Gillette Group – DirecOne and Evolve Mortgage Services were able to leverage the strengths of the dual islands to ensure business continuity during the pandemic. Companies such as iQor, DHL, American Airlines, Caribbean Airlines, the Royal Bank of Canada, Scotiabank of Canada and a number of credit unions are growing their footprints in Trinidad and Tobago and the twin island nation has set its sights on growth.
A Vision of Growth
“Our vision is that we can grow this industry in the short term,” said Paula Gopee-Scoon, Trinidad and Tobago’s minister of trade and industry. “We think we are ready – the technical capacity is there, the talented labor pool is there, the teachers are there – and we think that we are ready to expand. We have a longer-term view which is that we will become the BPO harbor for the Caribbean. We really want to be known.”
Being located outside the hurricane belt means that disruption is unlikely and business continuity can be assured. “We have a healthy sector but it’s still emerging,” Gopee-Scoon said. “[The] government understands sustainable development. We are the most developed country in the region, ahead of Jamaica. We have a government that has a robust development plan, and we know where we are going in terms of diversifying our economy.”
The country is now hoping to replicate the success of its petrochemical sector, while diversifying its economy.
Gopee-Scoon highlights Trinidad and Tobago’s access to the North American and Latin American markets. Combined with language skills that extend beyond the official language of English, Trinidad and Tobago is positioned to service the Americas with bilingual English-Spanish skills.
The Right Infrastructure
The national government and industry have worked together to build and grow an infrastructure that can support business continuity in a cost-effective manner. Real estate costs are competitive and extend beyond Port of Spain, the capital, offering pockets of real estate across the east-west corridor. Utility costs, too, remain low. Electricity costs are US$3 cents per kwh, which is among the lowest in the hemisphere.
The minister also stresses that the infrastructure and reliable connectivity has allowed companies and individuals to transition quickly to work-from-home during the pandemic, something highlighted during the recent webinar.
“Having foreign direct investment in the different sectors in Trinidad just drives home the point that this is a place where people are comfortable and things work, the ICT works, the infrastructure works,” the minister said. “This is a place where business happens; we are the business capital of the region.”
Talent and Support
Building on its history of focusing on education, Trinidad and Tobago continues to shape and nurture a skilled and talented labor pool. It offers free education at least until the end of secondary school, with options for needs-based free education at higher education level. Accounting and legal expertise skills mean that Trinidad can service the many sub-sectors of the BPO industry.
The government has worked to position Trinidad and Tobago favorably for BPO, setting up InvesTT as the foreign direct investment agency. There is an incubator space available to companies wanting to make their entry into the country. The use of the space is free for a six-month period and can be extended beyond that. “We work to facilitate the entry of companies into Trinidad and Tobago,” Gopee-Scoon said. “It’s driven by the Ministry of Trade and Industry.”
The vision is to achieve 5,000 seats – the twin island nation is at 1,000 seats with IQor now – and once that target is reached, the focus is on high-end services like software development and technical support. “We have the talent pool and the infrastructure in place to become the preferred destination for all IT services,” Gopee-Scoon said.