Nearshore Americas

The Evolution of a Pandemic: Top Ten Articles that Rocked the Nearshore

Just over a year ago, a health crisis unlike anything seen in a century gripped the globe. Covid-19 caused borders to close, supply chains to lock up and offices to be abandoned as countries around the world attempted to protect themselves from the ‘silent menace’.

All global outsourcing markets were hit by the virus, some harder than others. After a hugely successful response to the first wave within its territory, India is today suffering terribly from a new surge of infections. 

Nations of the Nearshore arena were not spared, and Mexico and Brazil endured particularly testing times. But as vaccination campaigns get underway, infection rates are dropping in many countries and, with some luck, the worst may soon be over for much of the world.

This look at the Top 10 Nearshore Americas analysis pieces over the pandemic period charts the development of the virus from its beginning to today, and illustrates the diverse ways Covid-19 has impacted the industry. From the work from home model and pushing some salaries higher, to new ‘digital nomad’ visas and BPO operators search for a safe haven, the stories that matter to Nearshore at all outlined below.

Just click on the title to see the whole article. 

1. The Phillipines BPO Meltdown: What Went Wrong?

The Philippines is regarded as the contact center world capital with good reason; the industry employs 1.2 million. But despite its place in the outsourcing hierachy, the country struggled to adapt to the work from home model and, as our article points out, both clients and providers began pulling out of the country altogether. 

The reasons for the country’s poor service performance range from internet penetration and quality to home arrangements, while the actions of industry leaders and the national government badly underserved and under protected the industry’s workforce. 

Workers were allegedly being forced to travel into the office during the pandemic’s most dangerous periods while in other global markets the work from home adaption was advancing

As can be seen in the comments section, workers were allegedly being forced to travel into the office during the pandemic’s most dangerous periods while in other global markets the work from home adaption was advancing. 

The Philippines loss appears to be Nearshore’s gain. Nearshore Americas estimated that up to 25,000 BPO jobs would be lost in the Philippines due to the pandemic and be transferred to Latin America.

2. Will Digital Nomads Deliver Benefits to Caribbean Tech Ecosystems?

The idea of the digital nomad was not borne from the pandemic, but its potential as a means for tourism-reliant countries to generate much-needed income while travel restrictions bit hard, was brought into sharp focus by it. The ‘digital nomad visa’, that allows tech workers to live and work in-country temporarily, was one measure rolled out by several Caribbean island nations.

For two Caribbean tech insiders – Director of AI, Automation and Analytics at INCUS Services Leslie Lee Fook and ICT and digital economy specialist Tracy Hackshaw – the potential of digital nomadism went way beyond some short term dollars.

Both experts said that Caribbean governments needed to factor into the digital nomad visa agreement some means of knowledge transfer from those entering the countries to the local tech ecosystems. The financial requirements of the visas meant that applicants would in the main be highly-skilled. Rather than money, nomads could invest into the region “through coaching, mentoring and other knowledge transfer activities,” said Hackshaw.

3. Competition for Talent Triggers “Dog Fight” in Colombia

The shutdown of brick and mortar banks, offices and retail sites last year prompted the acceleration of digital transformation around the globe. The problem, known long before the pandemic began, was that the talent required to make that transformation was – and still is – seriously lacking.

This third article of a series on tech salaries focused on Colombia where the booming Nearshore industry and digitally-friendly market are generating serious economic force and pushing  tech worker salaries through the roof. 

Talent switching between competitors but staying in the same role received receive a 50% wage increase

Sebastian Hoyos, former IT Recruitment Manager at Hays Recruitment Colombia, explained that talent could switching between competitors but staying in the same role received receive a 50% wage increase.

A combination of large multinationals hunting for foreign talent and well-financed local new economy prompted a “dog fight” that does not appear to be slowing down soon.

4. The Dollar Differentiator: Greenbacks Rule in Turbulent Argentina

The complexity of the Nearshore market was on show in our analysis piece about tech salaries in Argentina, where peso devaluation is pushing English-ready tech workers to seek pay in US dollars. 

Juana Cervio, tech recruitment trainer and co-founder of HumanosReales noted that “inflation is a constant problem” in Argentina. This has lead to an official peso price and an alternative peso price, which is what “95% of the economy in Argentina” is managed by, said Pablo Rovito, senior talent manager at iTechCareer. With the difference between these rates making a major difference to lives, the dollar is seen as the preferential and safer financial option. Crypto currency payments were also growing in popularity. 

But not everybody agreed. Commentators on social media and LinkedIn, suggested that the current government is doing a better job at controlling inflation and that those paid in USD could eventually begin to lose out.

5. The Case for Uruguay: “Value and Capability” Matter Most

The case of Uruguay was another example of how the pandemic turned the interest of service providers closer to home.

When the Philippines BPO meltdown occurred, companies scrambled for more reliable and resilient markets that could support their BPO needs. Though Uruguay’s smaller population could not provide scale, it could provide a valuable proposition in the wake of the pandemic: certainty. 

Though Uruguay’s smaller population could not provide scale, it could provide a valuable proposition in the wake of the pandemic: certainty

Companies like Alorica looks to Uruguay for its well-educated workforce with multilingual abilities. IT service firms like TCS praised the country’s reliable digital infrastructure.

Uruguay is climbing the Nearshore ladder, new legislation on telecoms workers in Free Trade Zones is helping its momentum.

6. Worry for BPOs as Jamaica Imposes Weekend Curfews to Curb Virus Spread

Just weeks after Jamaica was on course to become among the first of Latin America’s countries to achieve herd immunity, new cases on the island forced authorities to impose restrictions.

This was a concern to the BPO industry that had played a leading role in pushing for vaccination and safer working conditions among the working population. 

New cases peaked in late March and have been on a continual slide since, so the situation is looking brighter for the island now. 

Our interview with Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism the Hon. Edmund Bartlett explains the government’s plans for the island and its post-pandemic appeal.

7. Trying to Tame COVID-19, Central America Call Centers Forced to Take Drastic Steps

Back in March 2020, few people expected that the pandemic would be as destructive, both personally and economically, as it has proven to be.

In Honduras and El Salvador, March marked the moment that businesses were first closed and the nations’ BPOs started to make the move to work from home at scale. At this point, actors were still learning the ropes of the new model, taking steps to install security for clients and enhance internet connections for agents with the needed coverage.

Back in March 2020, few people expected that the pandemic would be as destructive, both personally and economically, as it has proven to be

In this article, Nearshore Americas investigated how BPOs in Central America’s Northern Triangle were facing this massive shift, regardless of the infrastructural and geographical challenges that 

8. Monterrey and Sutherland Proved Resilient During First Wave of Covid

BPOs – particularly Sutherland – in Mexico’s ‘most Americanized’ major city, Monterrey, decided to act fast and proactively when new Covid-19 cases climbed.

Sutherland sent its Monterrey staff to work from home 12 days prior to government announcements ordered offices closed. In doing so, it caught a march on the virus spread and effectively bridged a period of disruption for clients. 

Sutherland’s decisive action looks to have helped shield the company’s 800 Monterrey workers from harm and to have protected business interests in one swoop. Communication was key to the whole operation, said Francisco Robert, Sutherland’s Mexico country manager. 

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9. Jamaica BPO: Pressure Intensifies to Adapt to a ‘Silent Menace’

As the reality of the pandemic situation emerged, BPOs in Jamaica were forced into action. 

The industry employs over 36,000 people from the island’s 1.5 million employment pool, making it among the primary economic concerns to Jamaican authorities.

The industry employs over 36,000 people from the island’s 1.5 million employment pool, making it among the primary economic concerns to Jamaican authorities

This deep-dive article on how BPO operators were facing the pandemic looked at now familiar themes of health and safety improvements as well as the work from home model that the majority of the workforce would work under for months.

BPOs including Itelbpo, Advantage Communications and Hinduja Global Solutions all offered spoke about their plans and how implementation of safety protocols was the major concern during April 2020. 

10. Protocols, Policies and Bio-Security: Central America Grapples with a New Normal

In August 2020, the future of the Nearshore industry was clearer. At this point in the pandemic, we’d been working from home for several months and most countries of the world still had some form of travel restriction in place. It was clear that the working situation would not be ‘normal’ for a very long time.

But what were the changes? This article reviews the means and measures taken in Central American countries – El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Guatemala – to counteract and repress the most dangerous effects of the no longer novel virus. 

With a host of country analysts offering their perspective, we addressed the bio-security protocols being enforced in Guatemala, the hygiene regulations Panama put in place and guidelines that Costa Rica used to manage the spread. 

 

What are your thoughts after looking back over the last 12 months? Do you have an idea of where the industry is headed for the rest of 2021 and into the New Year? Let us know in the comments below.

Peter Appleby

Peter is the Managing Editor of Nearshore Americas. Hailing from Liverpool, UK, he is now based in Mexico City. He has several years’ experience covering the business and energy markets in Mexico and the greater Latin American region. If you’d like to share any tips or story ideas, please reach out to him here.

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