The government needs to move beyond words and funding grants in its promotion of the contact centre industry, says a BEE investor, calling on local and provincial government bodies to follow through by using outsourced contact centre service providers.
Roland Govender, who led a recent management buyout of Syntell Business Solutions and has renamed the company 118 Contact, says the company won its first high-profile contract – a support call centre for the 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup – partly thanks to government requirements and support.
"That contract put us on the map," he says. "We started with one seat and have now grown to 200. Yet that kind of leadership from government is far too rare in the industry.
"I decided to buy this business partly because I believe the contact centre industry has the potential to create jobs on a large scale for the unemployed youth of this country," says Govender. "Doing more offshore work is an important part of that — especially in the financial services market where we have good expertise. There is a lot of opportunity out there."
Support from government at local, national and provincial level is critical to this process. "We have some long-standing international clients, but how will offshoring grow in South Africa if our own government isn't prepared to outsource?"
Govender says large local businesses, with the exception of some large financial services companies, appear equally reluctant to outsource. "I get the impression that despite all the evidence, local business is still not entirely convinced that smaller companies can get the job done. In some ways it's actually easier to win offshore contracts.
"Why, for example, is the City of Cape Town adding 40 new seats to its call centre rather than looking to outsource them? Outsourcing can make good financial sense for taxpayers and avoid tying up valuable skills in non-core activities."