US BPO Firms Eager To Invest In Cebu City

Cebu City is no longer just a call center haven. It’s maturing into higher value services. The boom in business process outsourcing (BPO) has actually shown a changed trend with non-voice services leading the way, according to services leading the way, according to an investment official.

“There are more non-voice processes done here now,” said Joel Mari Yu, managing director of the Cebu Investment Promotion Center (CIPC), the marketing arm of Cebu City government.

Yu said there are more employees working for knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) companies in Cebu doing higher level work like accounting, research, medical coding, medical billing, and computer programming than those working in call centers.

“Based on our last data, we have 52 companies into KPO hiring 45,000 people out of the 75,000 direct employment in outsourcing companies. This leaves only 30,000 people working in call centers now,” said Yu.

He added that at least eight American outsourcing companies have confirmed plans to set up offices in Cebu City since January.

This developed despite fears of the adverse effects to the Philippines of a pending anti-outsourcing bill pending in the United States Congress and supported by US President Barack Obama.

Yu said that even with the US protectionist stance, Cebu City is being visited by many BPO firms interested to open offices here.

“In the past, we only got one to two visits every month. I have already met and got confirmations from eight companies within the first two months of this year,” Yu said.

“This is what I have been saying. The bill will never slow down our outsourcing industry but will instead encourage more. Outsourcing is today’s reality if you want to be a globally competitive company,” he said.

He said these companies will need 4,000 and 5,000 employees to man their offices.

“Companies like EXL, HCCA, United Health Care, Promet and Talleco have already confirmed that they will open offices here. Ironically, most of these are American companies,” said Yu.

“These are mostly higher-end outsourcing services that will help provide opportunities for our graduates especially the nurses who can work as medical coders because the company will need people who have knowledge in the medical science,” said Yu.

The outsourcing industry has enjoyed a boom since 2004 in Cebu, starting with call centers that relied on a large pool of young, English-speaking college graduates.

Yu said he expects more non-voice companies to come to Cebu this year because of the availability of capable manpower.

“Cebu City will continue to be an attractive destination for these companies. To ensure that we sustain that, we build capability by making sure the three critical areas are taken care of, he said.

He said these are hardware or the infrastructure, software or the business environment, and the “peopleware” or a sustained supply of appropriate manpower.

Cebu City was ranked the no. 1 “emerging global outsourcing destination” among 50 top sites worldwide in a 2009 2009 survey by Tholons, an international consultancy firm.

It was the second year Cebu City received this rating based on criteria of scale and quality of workforce, infrastructure, business catalyst, risk profile, cost and quality of life.

Following Cebu in second and third places were cities of Shanghai and Beijing.

Several industry experts said the Philippines has already overtaken India as the BPO capital of the world.

BPO and ICT (information and communication technology) companies are centered mostly in Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao cities.



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