Jamaican-owned business process outsourcer itelbpo has partnered with Invest St Lucia to develop a 20,000-square-foot facility in the Hewanorra Free Zone in Vieux-Fort, in the south of the island, to house some 300 employees.
The announcement comes a couple of weeks after the contact centre operator revealed that it had exchanged a 30 per cent stake with Portland Private Equity and PanJam Investment for an undisclosed sum.
Chairman and CEO Yoni Epstein revealed to Caribbean Business Report, then, that the injection of capital will be invested will be used to “expand [itelbpo’s footprint] in Kingston, Jamaica, as well as in the Eastern Caribbean in 2020”.
Expected to be open by April 1, 2020, the new facility forms part of itelbpo’s strategy to expand its geographical footprint, diversify its workforce and enrich its talent pool. The company aims to increase the number of agents employed to 5,000 by 2021.
“We are wasting no time in taking advantage of the growing global business process outsourcing (BPO) market. We see the enormous pipeline of opportunity for the Caribbean in this fast-growing sector and we’re excited to realise the potential for job creation and revenue growth,” Epstein commented in a joint release
Further, he told Caribbean Business Report, “We have been to others and done our research, but felt that St Lucia was the best [fit] for the company.
In 2018 Nearshore Americas published a study, in partnership with Invest St Lucia, that outlined the Eastern Caribbean island’s readiness to take advantage of the growing demand for specialised expertise in business process outsourcing and contact centre services.
According to the study, the island’s size, history and population make it a favourable destination to deliver services to companies in the travel and tourism industries.
In fact, when Caribbean Business Report inquired about the specific industries itelbpo will serve through the new location, the CEO said, “To begin with we are starting out with utilities and travel, but we are speaking to some of our existing clients that are in the financial services arena and retail.”
In addition to research, Epstein explained that there was another factor that contributed to choosing St Lucia — his own personal experience.
“St Lucia is a place that I have extensive knowledge of and experience from with my previous job. Based on that, I know the experience in the industry, English language, skilled workforce, and determination to do well are on the same level as that of Jamaica. I also felt that it will be less likely to become as competitive as Jamaica and, therefore, a way that we could manage our concentration risk as a company.”
However, he willingly admitted that Invest St Lucia had a critical role to play in the decision-making process, having made attempts to woo his company’s interest.
“Last year I was invited by Invest St Lucia to visit and to see what their offering was all about. In March they put an offering to us in order to invest, and that was to retrofit an existing space for us to make our home in St Lucia,” he informed Caribbean Business Report.
Epstein believes his company has the “capacity and experience” to train prepare the keen workforce with the help of the island’s stakeholders.
The press release quotes Epstein: “As a global organisation itelbpo… will enable the St Lucia team to deliver customer experiences at our award-winning global standard. St Lucia is ready and waiting for us and we’re excited to collaborate with government and private sector partners in helping move the country further up the economic value chain.”
Speaking on behalf of Invest St Lucia, Investment Promotion & Fulfilment Officer Marie-Grace Walcott said her organisation had been paying close attention to itelbpo’s strength in the nearshore BPO market and its “solid focus on corporate social responsibility”.
“These attributes, amongst others, led us to actively engage itelbpo to explore the many benefits of expanding in St Lucia,” she continued.
Walcott noted, too, that St Lucia offers investors “an unsaturated market” with a labour force that will enable capacity building and growth.
Over the last few years, itelbpo has been on a growth trajectory.
At five years old, in December 2017 the company acquired Granada Corp — a California, USA-based BPO operation with work-from-home agents who offer, among other things, Spanish-speaking services. A few months later, in February itelbpo subsumed the Carrental8.com within its operations.
In April this year, Frost & Sullivan awarded itelbpo the Latin America & Caribbean Growth Excellence Leadership Award. The chairman for that organisation, David Frigtstad, wrote then: “Whereas revenue for the BPO industry in Central America and the Caribbean grew by 45 per cent from 2014 to 2017, itelbpo’s revenue increased by 160 per cent over the same period.”
He added: “…when comparing 2017 to 2016, itelbpo grew by over 40 per cent while the rest of Central America and the Caribbean only grew 11.7 per cent.”
Starting with seven employees in 2012, itelbpo now has a headcount of approximately 2,700 employees.