HANOI -Vietnam has all the hallmarks of becoming a major business process outsourcing giant in Asia, thanks to its low labor costs and growing pool of IT-savvy workers.
Bellsystem24, an outsourcing service provider owned by trading giant Itochu, has acquired a 49% stake in Hoa Sao Group, a leading Vietnamese call center operator, to expand its operations into the country.
With the investment, the Japanese outsourcing company is seeking to capitalize on Vietnam’s advantages as a potential outsourcing hub, including a large population of workers with high IT skills who can be hired at lower wages than in China or the Philippines. Another key factor that could draw Japanese outsourcing businesses to the country is the more than 100,000 Vietnamese who are learning Japanese.
Vietnam clearly has the potential to become a business outsourcing power like India and the Philippines.
It has great competitive advantages as a supplier of business process outsourcing services, such as relatively low-cost labor and political stability, said Hoa Sao President Nguyen Anh Tuan.
Founded 10 years ago, the Vietnamese company now runs eight call centers with 3,000 operators. Hoa Sao wants to parlay its alliance with the Itochu group into an increase in its overseas customers.
Hoa Sao has started recruiting Vietnamese with Japanese language skills with an eye to winning contracts to provide call center services for Japanese companies through its partnership with Itochu.
The Vietnamese company will ensure its call center services for Japanese customers can handle both phone calls and online chat. The company plans to introduce artificial intelligence by next spring to enhance the chat capabilities of its services. The AI will be used to display multiple model answers to requests from customers so that operators can choose the most appropriate ones from the options. This system will make it possible to make effective responses to customer requests in a shorter time.
Hoa Sao is also betting that it can use the personal data about 7 million consumers in Vietnam to cater to Japanese customers’ needs for advice over their sales promotion and marketing efforts in Vietnam.
There are only about 10 or so providers of business outsourcing services, including call centers, in Vietnam.
In Vietnam, the outsourcing industry has not grown as fast as in India or the Philippines because of relatively lower levels of English language skills among the people and a smaller population of highly-educated workers.
But the situation has changed dramatically in the past decade. The number of university graduates has more than doubled during the period, while the number of people able to communicate in English has been improving.
The country’s most powerful attraction for Japanese businesses is the large number of Vietnamese learning Japanese. According to Justice Ministry statistics, some 180,000 Vietnamese were living in Japan as of June this year, making them the fourth-largest group of foreign residents in the country, following Chinese, South Koreans and Filipinos. The number of Vietnamese living in Japan has grown 240% since December 2012.
In particular, the ranks of Vietnamese working at farms and factories in Japan to acquire job skills have increased sharply. The number of Vietnamese students studying at Japanese universities and tourists visiting Japan have also increased significantly.