Thursday, April 9, 2009

Calls, Cables & Business

I just had an interview with Nancy Bosire the CEO of Blueline Synergy, A BPO centre that’s about two years old and doing well! and this got me thinking.

I had earlier read Paul Kukubo’s blog: about his personal views on the BPO sector after the National BPO week came to an end in Nairobi, and it set me on a path i have been keen to learn more of.

There’s a lot of optimism in how far Kenya can imprint its position in the ICT space, and now with the coming of the fiber optic cable (which finally lands in June, seacom) we can begin to play fair game. South Africa and Egypt have dominated the scene but if the energy in the Kenyan sector is anything to go by, we may as well be on a good path ICT wise.

If you recall, in 2007 countless BPO’s which “call centre” driven sprung all around Nairobi. This was based on a World Bank subsidy promise that would offer fiscal support to BPO entrepreneurs. Compliance Issues and a slow release of the funds led several of these BPO’s collapse, am told now the fund is available for applicants who comply with the set standards.

Bandwidth has so far been the biggest challenge for the growth of this sector, and the Fiber optic cable will reduce costs of operation by more than half (someone mentioned that for instance if a BPO pays Ksh 400,000 per month on bandwidth, with the cable their monthly bill could be in the average of 100K). A lower cost of bandwidth and an international playing field can take you as far as your imagination goes.

Marketing will be critical for BPO’s that want to be felt, this is not a field where you make a silent entry. It’s about networking.the more people know and speak about you, the better it is for your company.The local market is keen on cutting costs, so outsourcing IT services, customer service & other business processes seems to be the way of the future. Orange (telkom) is already doing it, and after Zain's "right sizing", your guess is as good as mine.

It is expensive to set up a BPO centre in Nairobi, but the five blocks that Sameer Africa is constructing on Mombasa rd and our very own Silicon Valley set to set base in Athi River on (what I hear) is around 500 acres of land says a lot for the sentiment currently on the ground.

Of course there are Challenges. Stiff competition from BPO giants, political instabilty, incentives for investors and so on, there is no business that comes without risk.

If any entrepreneur is thinking of setting up in the BPO industry, the time to begin is now. The Kenyan Government is putting it’s weight behind the growth of ICT and in my opinion there is no better time to set up than now, learn from what others have burnt their fingers from, and from those that are doing it right.

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