Until very recently, when you picked up your phone and heard a telesales marketer on the other side, it is quite likely that you were able to detect a slight Indian accent. This is because the telemarker or call centre agent was an Indian – and because India used to rule when it came to call centre outsourcing.
This is according to Andrew van Niekerk, MD of Teleforge Communications, a specialised call centre solutions provider. “But India has been losing traction in the call centre outsourcing industry, with countries like South Africa taking up the slack,” he says.
Until very recently India could boast of a booming call centre industry, with estimates put at more than 350 000 call centre agents. But this impressive boom has diminished markedly and more and more companies are turning to South Africa for their call centre requirements.
According to a recent press article in Business Day, the local call-centre industry has grown by about 8% a year since 2003. It directly employs about 54 000 people and contributes 0,92% to South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The Key Indicator Report for 2014 from the Business Process enabling South Africa (BPeSA), a specialist investment promotion agency for business process outsourcing (BPO), reveals that the main reasons for this growth in South Africa can be attributed to a number of factors.
Firstly, South Africa is known to have a similar culture to that of the UK, Australia and the US – which are also popular call centre destinations. An important fact is that the Western Cape has a 85,1% pass rate for matriculants – and the Western Cape, alone, is home to three of the country’s top universities.
This has the effect of providing clients with a skilled, English-speaking talent pool. And companies seem to prefer the English language.
Secondly, South Africa’s tertiary education system produces three times as many actuaries than India and the Philippines combined. Because of factors like this, the country rapidly becoming known as the renowned legal process outsourcing (LPO) destination.
Thirdly, due to some clever incentives, South Africa is renowned to cost 50% to 70% less than source markets.
Fourthly, from roads and power through to education, healthcare and entertainment – the Western Cape provides a First World experience, with Cape Town being ranked “the best city” in 2013 and 2014 by The Daily Telegraph.
And fifth, the Western Cape government has named the contact centre industry as a focus area for investment. It has, in fact, committed its full support to growing the industry – thus providing a strong and attractive enabling environment.
“The call centre outsourcing industry in South Africa is thus becoming increasingly important as an employment creator and, unless things implode, this looks set to carry on,” Van Niekerk says. “We should just take care -and ensure that we maximise on the advantages and leverage we offer offshore companies. We could be looking at a veritable call centre bonanza – right here in South Africa.”