Beautiful Cartagena has been the setting this week for a very lively IAOP Summit, hosted by the Colombia chamber of IT and BPO companies, ANDI. Over 400 delegates from about 15 countries have shown up – there is a well orchestrated mix of academic/thought leadership along with spirited, Colombian-style networking. There is little question that this summit is another significant breakthrough for an industry that continues to attract a wider audience, generate more credibility and provide opportunities for more introspection on how to maintain industry sustainability.
Here is our top seven hit list of news and trends standing out from the conference:
1. Colombia is thinking long term. In meeting after meeting, it’s evident that the strategy the government has deployed to generate a strong services export base, and also draw in foreign investment, is hands-on and long term oriented. We continue to hear references made to the influence of former Minister of Trade and Industry, Luis Plata (who served under President Alvaro Uribe until last year), in his ability to architect an extremely effective strategy for public-private coordination in stimulating growth in professional services sourcing. Plata, who had previously ran the Proexport Colombia agency, gained his credentials in the private sector in tier one IT consulting and in Silicon Valley.
2. Cashing in on Colombia. The level of investment and interest in this country is unmatched anywhere else in Latin America right now. Sutherland is ramping up in Barranquilla, Genpact is opening two centers – first in Bogota and then in Cali, TCS continues to grow its six-year old operation in Bogota while Infosys and Wipro continue to evaluate potential options in the market. Accenture is also examining new sites for expansion in Bogota.
3. Teleperformance takes off: Teleperformance reported to us it is adding another 1,400 agents exclusively focused on Nearshore service to US clients. Nearshore in fact is the fastest growing part of the TP business, which is a mix of domestic, nearshore and offshore (serving Spain).
4. A Rough Ride for Convergys : Widely known on the ground here is that Convergys stumbled out of the gate in Bogota. The company opened up operation last year, but saw attrition spike in part – according to sources – because salaries offered to new hires was lowered at some point during the first phases of operation. Also, the company was basically starting from scratch which became a disadvantage in developing a viable launch strategy.
5. IDB and Colombia: We caught up with Fabrizio Opertti, lead specialist with the InterAmerican development bank, whose organization is engaging with the Colombian government and a leading US university is developing a program to increase training in specialized areas of professional services.
6. What Risk?: ““Colombia, the only risk is wanting to stay.”” It’s the Colombia ProExport tagline and carries a lot of truth, at least from what we’ve experienced.
7. Top Off-Hours selection: Without a doubt, the best after-hours venue was a place called Cafe Havana just outside the walls of the center city. Every night conference delegates descended on the magnificent old town of Cartagena, where dozens of great restaurants, hotels, cafes and boutiques are located.