The recurrent image of celebrities vacationing in Jamaica, frolicking on the beach, is part of what has come to shape perceptions of the country in the minds of many US consumers. Jamaica offers the ideal ‘sun and beach’ location. However, leaders in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry understood a long time ago that Jamaica has a much richer and rewarding pathway – delivering services expertise to global markets.
Today, Jamaica has grown to be the most important outsourcing location in the English-speaking Caribbean, with more than 60 companies and over 43,000 employees active on the island, and the country’s global digital services sector has now an annual revenue of over US$700 million.
Montego Bay is the epicenter of this growth. Approximately 40 call centers currently operate from the city’s Special Economic Zones providing mainly customer services, collections, and technical support to international companies.
“I am passionate about Montego Bay because of its potential,” said Conrad Robinson, Manager of the Western Jamaica Regional Office at the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO).
“I see this city as the next frontier of development in Jamaica. Right now we still are primarily a hospitality type of city; tourism is definitely the top industry. But BPO is a close second and over the last five years we have been growing. When you look at areas such as housing developments or investment attraction, there is no doubt we have been leading development in Jamaica.”
As the world’s reliance on BPO and Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) increases during the Covid-19 pandemic, Nearshore Americas takes a deep look into Montego Bay’s ability to respond to this demand. How is the city elevating its levels of internet connectivity? How is it adapting to the pandemic? How are companies securing the talent they need to deliver for clients?
Securing Robust Connection to Support Businesses
The Covid-19 pandemic brought the opportunity and the need to implement digital strategies to not only guarantee business continuity, but to open the space for growth. Jamaica was one of those countries that effectively responded to these challenges. Jamaican authorities quickly changed certain regulations to allow BPO companies to move equipment and employees to remote working conditions.
Montego Bay has a high-capacity internet infrastructure distributed over completely fiber-deployed terrestrial and subsea networks
The massive transition from office to work from home generated significant challenges. From cybersecurity, data privacy to productivity issues and human resources management. However, one the main concerns of business leaders focused on how to maintain their teams connected and with access to the right tools.
“BPO, which is very important for Jamaica’s future, needs reliable internet. Providers recognized this and have been trying to bring new solutions to the market. We’ve seen internet providers heavily invested within the city,” said Robinson.
For Jason Wright, Managing Director of Montego Bay-based Redkey Solutions Ltd., the work from home experience was very successful.
“We saw the transition of many of our clients to complicated remote accommodations going really well. There are always issues when dealing with so many aspects of the operation, and things always come up. But most of our clients handled that very well. And the telecom providers improved their services and options quickly,” said Wright.
Redkey Solutions merges both electronic security and IT solutions while adding some complimenting aspects such as electrical and security design layout. The company provides services to most of the BPO industry, that go from electrical installation, network cabling to wireless and solar-powered solutions.
While Montego Bay has a high-capacity internet infrastructure distributed over completely fiber-deployed terrestrial and subsea networks, 4G mobile telephony, and several data centers, the increase in demand of more sophisticated solutions forced various providers to improve their offerings.
“We’ve been proactive in responding to the needs of our business customers and supporting their transition to the work from home norm while maintaining productivity and efficiency. We introduced solutions which enabled employees to work safely, securely, reliably and remotely. We were also very mindful of the impact of the various measures on the BPO sector and engaged them early to understand their immediate needs in light of the pandemic lockdown measures,” said Andrew Fazio, Director of BPO & Hospitality at C&W Business-Jamaica.
“To this end, we implemented our Distributed Workforce (DWF) solution which allows for teams to work safely, securely, reliably and remotely, and brings a business class service to the home,” he added.
According to Fazio, under the DWF solution, C&W Business provides high-end equipment which allows visibility through a secure portal for all DWF users. This provides companies with the ability to better manage their remote agents.
“With the BPO sector indicating that they expect to keep between 25% – 50% of their employees working remotely post-pandemic, this solution ensures that companies will be able to quickly expand as it facilitates agility and to pull workers from all over the island,” said Fazio.
“Montego is the primary point of entry into Jamaica … the airport being modernized and made more attractive. The city is being upgraded in many ways,” – Conrad Robinson.
C&W Business, like other providers in the city, engaged the BPO sector to prioritize the communities where most of their workforce resides, for expansion and upgrade of services. “This means that in most instances, most of their workers are residents of communities that are experiencing faster and more reliable service,” explained Fazio.
Montego Bay is not only well connected in terms of internet access; the city’s strategic location elevates its value proposition as a Nearshore market.
“Montego is the primary point of entry into Jamaica. We are a strategic hub in terms of connectivity. Now we see how the airport is modernized and made more attractive. The city is being upgraded in many ways,” said Robinson.
Role of Government
As soon as the pandemic hit, the government of Jamaica designated the BPO sector as an essential service under the Disaster Risk Management Act, which allowed many companies to continue working during moments of lockdown and curfews.
For Jacqueline Sutherland, CEO of the Montego-based BPO solutions company Contax360, the progress of public authorities’ perception of the industry, in Montego Bay and Jamaica in general, has been significant.
“When I started back in 2007, BPO was not on the government’s radar. It took a while for people to gain an appreciation for what this industry could do for Jamaica. Now the industry has grown in terms of visibility. We feel the support of the government when it comes to the Special Economic Zones, tax exemptions and training among other things,” said Sutherland.
Beyond BPO: TechEd Services
As Nearshore Americas recently reported, Jamaica is emerging as a location for software outsourcing. The island has the potential to be a regional leader in the tech services sector. Most of this success comes from a strong focus on training and upskilling.
“Montego Bay is not as large as Kingston in terms of potential human capital to hire. But everyone wants to come here now, the city has a different lifestyle to Kingston. This combined with all the training and opportunities constantly emerging is creating a great ecosystem,” said Yoni Epstein, Founder and CEO of Itel.
For Epstein this mix of training and city growth is allowing both the city and the industry to mature as the talent keeps developing.
“There are several programs, many of them in partnership with the government or just driven by industry, to facilitate the rapid training and upskilling of employees. This allows us to keep the influx of talent,” added Epstein.
The upskilling of workers in Jamaica in the BPO industry has been a critical issue for some time in order to respond to the increasing technological demands of the marketplace. But there has also been an effort to facilitate software programming courses as well as moving up the value chain to more Knowledge Process Outsourcing such as medical and other types of technology. Recently, the government of Jamaica teamed up with Amber Group to train its citizens in software development.
Projects such as Grand Ridge Med City are putting Montego Bay on its way to develop services beyond BPO and tourism. The focus on education is allowing the city to adapt to an even more digital future relying on developing the next generation of skills, closing the gap between talent supply and demand.
Population: Approximately 184,600
Universities: Several major institutions have campuses in Montego Bay including the University of West Indies, The University of Technology, The Northern Caribbean University, Montego Bay Community College, Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College and other smaller institutions.
Connectivity: Two international submarine fiber lands connect Montego Bay to the outside world, while a festoon around the island helps support high-speed internet connection nationally.
Languages: English is Jamaica’s official language.
Main Industries: Tourism, Business Process Outsourcing, Agriculture, Light Manufacturing/Assembly.
Transportation Infrastructure: Jamaica’s largest airport, the Sangster International Airport; a port (part of the special economic zone) and cruise line terminal.