Jamaica Gleaner / Hinduja Global Solutions plans to double its Jamaican workforce in the medium term, but is hedging full execution of the expansion plan against market conditions.
Anand Biradar, the country head for Jamaica and vice-president for business development for the Latin America and the Caribbean, said Hinduja would be investing around US$2 million in the new centre, but is yet to decide whether to expand its footprint outside the capital, Kingston, where it’s operations are currently concentrated.
“In 2018m we might be looking at another facility, likely in Kingston. We might also look at Portmore or Montego Bay. To date, we have stayed in Kingston because it is closer to the airport and hotels, closer for our clients. We have also surveyed our workers and they want to come to the city and work,” Biradar said.
Hinduja Global started with 50 workers in Jamaica in 2013, and currently employs 2,000 at three centres. The company has already invested US$10 million in its operations to date, according to Biradar.
“Jamaica was a great nearshore choice because of its language and cultural affinity to the United States,” said the Hinduja executive. “In the next three to five years, we expect to grow to 5,000. However, that will depend on two factors – business demand and supply,” he said.
Jamaica has a marginal share of the US$70 billion global business process outsourcing, BPO, market, but is positioned for excess business from clients seeking to mitigate political risk and diversify geographically, said Biradar.
But, there are challenges and issues that need to be addressed, he said. His list of concerns includes limited infrastructure, that is, the ready availability of ‘plug and play’ call centre space; worker transport, worker attitudes, management shortages, and the absence of choice of telecom provider, whose backbone services are relied on by BPO operators.
“First is telecommunications infrastructure. We only have one company – Cable & Wireless. There is no major issue as yet, but it could become a problem,” Biradar told Gleaner Business .
Next is the skills pool from which call centres recruit.
“For those on the telephone, a lot have not finished college. They are capable when trained, but the lack of education shows in their maturity and their ability. It is a lot of heavy lifting to groom them,” he said.
Biradar said Hinduja pays US$200 to US$300 fortnightly to telephone workers, with added incentives. That’s equivalent to over $32,000 per fortnight, on average, and $845,000 annually.
The company suffers from high attrition at 40 per cent annually, but says higher wages would not attract a better quality worker.
“It’s okay to raise wages for superior quality. We will not get better talent unless service levels go up,” Biradar said.
And as for the infrastructure, the lack of ready to use facilities means investors have to pump capital into developing their own space.
“There are not a whole lot of places with ‘plug and play’ facilities. It’s just not there. This location was once a warehouse which we spent a lot of capital to upgrade,” he said, referring to the centre at Constant Spring Road in Kingston. Hinduja’s other two centres are located at Worthington Terrace and Saxthorpe Avenue.
Globally, the Hinduja Group employs 45,000 persons, serving clientele in telecommunications and media, health care, insurance, banking, consumer electronics and technology, retail, and the consumer packaged-goods industries. Its regional operations are mostly centred around Colombia.