International Outsourcing Summit

Michael Alan Hamlin

Posted on October 14, 2009

Typhoon Pepeng-which made landfall three times in northern Luzon with devastating results in the aftermath of the already deadly onslaught that was Typhoon Ondoy-is gone. The skies are clear and the sun is shining, but hundreds of lives have been lost. Crops, buildings, and personal possessions have been destroyed. Although the economy is expected to grow in the coming year, significant reinvestment will be required for many entrepreneurial, small and medium businesses to regain lost ground.

Despite the often horrific impact of the calamity, many ordinary Filipinos determinedly overcame adversity to both help others and to help themselves, as I and others wrote last week. Visually, the site of street vendors plying their trade in ankle and sometimes knee-deep waters was, frankly, inspiring. While much relief effort was necessary and critical for many victims, these individuals and those they served were determined not be victims, and to hold their own despite harsh circumstances.

They reminded me of an imperative that seems to have gone lost in the past two weeks, and that is that life will go on. Our collective mission now is not only to come to the aid of those in dire need, but to do our part in rebuilding, and continuing with the work that will bring greater and sustainable prosperity to the Philippines. It is not the suffering of the Philippines that we want the world to remember, but how the Philippines rallied in adversity.

In less than a week one of those opportunities will occur. The International Outsourcing Summit (IOS)-months in the planning-has attracted the attention of delegates from 10 different countries and speakers and panelists representing the industry’s top performers. They are visiting the Philippines for the opportunity to gain insight into the future of the industry from its most influential personalities, and to network in what has become the world’s number two center for offshore business process outsourcing (BPO) services.

Last year, the Philippine BPO industry generated revenues of $6.1 billion. It is on track this year-despite the impact of the global financial crisis and natural calamities locally in recent weeks-to grow 20%. According to a recent industry survey conducted by the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPA/P) and Outsource2Philippines (O2P), a significant portion of that growth will come from knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) services. (Full Disclosure: IOS is produced by my firm for BPA/P. My firm administers the BPA/P-O2P periodic surveys.)

That’s a huge development for the Philippines. KPO is defined as “an extension of BPO involving greater business complexity and focusing on knowledge-intensive business processes that require significant domain expertise,” according to BPA/P and O2P. These services-which range from back-office procurement and supply-chain management to business intelligence to financial and legal research, analytics, and decision-making-provide significantly higher paying jobs that provide real opportunity for Filipino knowledge workers to achieve their true potential.

Very clearly, it’s important that the Philippines and its BPO industry not miss a step that could interrupt this momentum. Many BPO firms have taken action to convey the message that the industry is operating normally. And that message is getting through. According to one BPA/P official I spoke with last week, investors are continuing to express interest in establishing operations here. Potential investors were still being squired around BPO hubs in Metro Manila last week.

The IOS will drive that message home to hundreds of top executives attending the conference as delegates. They will sit in sessions featuring Ganesh Natarajan, former Nasscom chairman; Steve Mitchinson, chairman of the Australian Teleservices Association and Fu Xuekun, deputy director for China Sourcing. Industry analysts include Avinash Vashistha, global managing partner of Tholons ; Gerry Clark, partner at TPI, Ian Bellord, principal and founder of ID Bellord Consultancy ; and Nitin Bhat, senior vice president for ICT Practice in Asia Pacific for Frost & Sullivan.

Their perspectives will be juxtaposed against those of top industry executives who have agreed to speak. They include Peter Schmitt, co-founder & chairman of DPC Data ; Bill Pfluger, former general manager for Chevron Shared Services in the Philippines and Argentina; Garry Taylor, general manager of Macquarie ; Larry Jones, CEO of StarTek ; and Nora Terrado, country manager for Headstrong. Leading academic personalities will also speak on how the educational sector is preparing young knowledge workers for BPO and KPO careers.

They will focus their comments on new challenges facing the industry, and how the global financial crisis in particular is reshaping it globally. IOS takes place October 20-21 and is organized by BPA/P with the support of the Commission on Information & Communications Technology. Other government agencies and sponsors are also lending a hand, including PLDT, Globe Telecoms, and Eastern Telecoms. The conference has been visible locally and abroad in large part thanks to media partners, including this newspaper.

September and October have been tough months for the Philippines. The IOS demonstrates that they haven’t beaten us down. Visit for details.

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