Southeast Europe vs Southeast Asia
Southeastern Asia (SEA) is the largest supplier of offshore services to US companies. In this region, India is the major provider, with the Philippines as a distant second. Together, those two countries account for 50% of the world’s BPO and call center market.
However, the economic environment of our globalized world is volatile. And this region is now becoming less attractive from the perspective of the off-shoring industry, whereas Southeast Europe is gaining ground. We have been digging a bit deeper in order to understand why.
The BPO/call center industries in Romania and Bulgaria have experienced amazing growth. In the last yar, the growth rate is almost double than the rate of India’s BPO market.
The entrance of world leading brands such as HP, Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, Siemens, P&G and Ford in Southeast Europe have prompted other US companies that had little or no contact with this region in the past.
The trend of outsourcing to Asia started in the early 1980s, when several European airlines such as British Airways started outsourcing in India, followed by American Express, which consolidated its Japan and Asia Pacific back office operations into New Delhi. Many analysts believe that the growth of India outsourcing sector is going to decrease for three main reasons:
- These sectors are tremendously dependent on the fragility of the US dollar currency: if the US dollar depreciates, it impacts the entire sector.
- Wages in India are rising by 10-15 percent as a result of skill shortage.
- International competition is a threat, from Eastern Europe especially.
Multilinguism: SEE’s strongest asset
In the past 30 years, American multinationals have been merely outsourcing to India and Philippines because they were primarily focused on providing English-speaking services. But nowadays, English alone is not enough. US companies in the IT, travel, financial and ecommerce industries are now willing to serve their customers in additional languages beyond English, such as Spanish and French.
As you can see it below, call centers and BPO in Southeast Europe are able to provide Spanish and French speakers on a large scale. But not only these two languages… the region is also home to many native speakers of German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and other European languages. This is the main strength of SEE: being able to provide real multilingual operations, rather than monolingual, as SouthEast Asia provides.
India & the Philippines, though, are effective “monolingual” outsourcing destinations. SouthEast Asia benefits from a large pool of English speakers. As a consequence, US companies have been using Indian and Philippine BPO and call center suppliers for the past 30 years.
These countries may provide English speakers, but they struggle to provide additional European languages in a satisfactory manner, both in terms of quality and ability to handle volumes at large scale.
SouthEast Europe countries, primarily Romania and Bulgaria, are performing well as real “multilingual” players. Some contact center providers in Southeastern Europe offer 15-20 languages from one single location. This is an asset for all large US companies with operations in many countries, as it allows them to cover all their customers’/clients’ languages and manage only one single call center location.