Tanzirul Basher is the Joint Secretary General of Bangladesh Association of Call Center & Outsourcing (BACCO). The organization represents the Business Process Outsourcing industry of Bangladesh – an industry that has seen promising growth and holds great potential as a future billion-dollar industry of Bangladesh. He is also the Managing Director & CEO of My Outsourcing Limited, an ISO 9001:2015 certified IT services & BPO company with national and international clientele. Tanzirul Basher – a veteran in this industry – has been working to take it forward since the early days of the sector.
Bangladesh Brand Forum had the opportunity to discuss the current state of the industry, the future possibilities, and the role that BACCO and My Outsourcing Limited has been undertaking in taking the industry forward.
BBF: Tell us about BACCO and how it is creating a difference in this segment of time?
Tanzirul Basher: BACCO is the representative for Bangladesh’s BPO sector. When we started in 2009, only 7 or 8 companies were present in this industry and today we have grown to incorporate 165 companies and over 50,000 people in this sector. We have transformed into a Business Process Outsourcing industry rather than just limiting ourselves to call centers. We are currently bringing in US$ 300 Million annually, and by 2024 we are targeting to reach US$ 1 Billion. The Industry now offers services in voice, non-voice, back-office, data analytics, AI, graphic designing, and more.
What Services and Benefits does BACCO provide to its members or facilitated organizations?
BACCO is working to make its membership preferential to Government agencies on various purposes. Currently BACCO Membership comprises of General Member and Associate Member categories. Apart from advantages from the policy advocacy, the members get exclusive services from BACCO such as; tax exemption and 10% incentive on exports, various supports to members on issues with Government agencies, supports on issues with foreign clients, supports on participation in international call center events, exclusive participation of events, training, workshops, seminars exclusively designed for BACCO members only.
Can you tell us the story of My Outsourcing Limited?
I always had a passion to contribute the BPO Industry of Bangladesh to create more jobs for a population with limitless possibilities if nurtured correctly. When BTRC started providing call center licenses back in 2009, I grabbed the opportunity immediately. That is how and why I entered into this field and realized the opportunity to build using IT enabled services and I feel I am fortunate that I have witnessed where the IT industry is going in different parts of the world. I had the scope to work in different challenging and milestone projects like WAP, Online Portal and more – with the 999-emergency service being my more recent involvement. So, all that has been in a span of 17 years in different IT Organization including my own, rather proud, establishment of MY Outsourcing Limited back in 2012.
With a team of 3 strong in the beginning, MY Outsourcing Limited now has 400 employees. Along with the outstanding youngsters working with us, we are proud to host and facilitate persons with special physical disabilities, in cooperation with local NGOs such as CSID, SightSavers, and Institute of Hazrat Mohammad (SAW). We have four dimensions using which we provide services & solutions such as – Voice, Non-Voice (Data Analysis), Surveys, Customer Care (back office support) & Health Care service, and Remote Surveillance Monitoring, Contact Center Solution, CRM support, Software Development, App Development, Training and various VAS services. It is only fair that I mention MY Outsourcing Limited (MYOL) is now a concern of MY Group Companies which is a combination of several other businesses focused on contributing to the modernization of Bangladesh by providing technology driven solutions to our clients in various market segments including the Government.
Bangladesh is an emerging market for multi-disciplinary talents. How is BACCO helping them in pursuing better opportunities?
This industry has a big prospect locally and globally. The global BPO & IT market is valued at around US$ 550 Billion, whereas our IT & BPO sector is worth around US$ 1 Billion. Therefore, there are many opportunities to get a much larger share of the pie. We’re planning to create another 100,000 jobs in this sector in the next few years. The talents working in this industry are usually young and pursuing degrees or education, and here BACCO is working to create opportunities for them to grow their skills and also helping them to improve their lifestyle.
The Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector grew 20 percent year-on-year to about $300 million last year. How do you think Bangladesh market is growing in comparison to other developed countries?
While there’s no doubt that IT is growing, we also need to focus on this sector on the global platform. Technology is changing so fast and BPO has been spreading all over the world. Our neighboring countries like India, Sri Lanka, and Philippine are way more advanced than us with more than a 2-decade head start. India alone dominates this market with US$ 108 Bn market share. Philippine occupies US$ 26 Billion and Sri Lanka holds the market of US$ 3 Billion. Our current government has been highly motivating, inspiring and helpful and if we can move forward with proper planning I believe it is a matter of time before we, as an industry, cross the billion dollar goal. It is absolutely possible to bring significant remittance from this sector as we do from Manpower recruitment and ready-made garment export. The Initiatives taken by our government to boost this sector such as hi-tech parks should be strongly mentioned helping us reach that goal and go beyond. We already have Sheikh Hasina Hi-Tech Park in Jashore where many youths already have the opportunity to join us in this endeavor.
What is the progression plan towards creating an even bigger BPO sector in Bangladesh?
It would be a mistake to only perceive how far behind Bangladesh is in this sector. Our neighbors had a head start in this sector of over two decades. We cannot let that hold us back. However, we do need to overcome some structural weaknesses. To be more specific, our education system is not ready for this sector and nor is it contributing to its need with its current curriculum. We have started the BPO summit from 2016 and our young generations have been taking notice and participating in it as well. This is a matter of hope and inspiration. We have discussed with our ICT division and education ministry to include IT enabled subjects or BPO related subjects in education so that students are ready to join the BPO market if they wish. Since voice and non-voice applications make up a significant part of the BPO market, our students need proper fluency in multiple language – especially English and Bangla. This is something our education system should focus on as well.
The industry leaders need to make more summits and seminars on this issue to uphold our country to the world’s doorsteps. A proper guideline should be created for this sector. More training and workshops need to be created simultaneously. And most importantly, no discrimination between men and women should prevail especially in this sector. Many competent women are pressured out of opting for these jobs by families and peers due to social insecurity. In this regard, I think we have to change our mindset and work to ensure the security for women so that their families can support them on this matter. If we can bring men and women in this sector irrespectively, it will not be long before our BPO sector reigns the world market.
As the BPO sector has come a long way, what obstacles has it faced in the journey?
When we started out, the biggest obstacle was educating the market about BPO services and the opportunities that it can provide. We had to earn the trust of the market. Next, we faced significant hurdles in finding the proper skilled talent. We had to invest heavily in training people. We had also faced problems with infrastructure which has improved over the years, and once our country can increase the bandwidth, it will help us go a long way. Finally, there was also a need for our marketing and country branding and our sector was a novice player in the market at the time. When we participated in international markets, we were a new addition to the market, whereas other countries brought in their own experts and professionals and had developed packages and solutions catering to different businesses.
BACCO ensures fair and appropriate operating environment and provides assistance to interested operators who want to enter the market. How is it changing the ecosystem?
For any institution to set up their business here, they would require the additional license from BTRC if they are to operate call centers. Apart from that that, the requirements are the same as setting up any other business in Bangladesh. For prospective members, we carry out an assessment and we would facilitate the connection of our members to international and national clients through expos, events, and dialog. As a BACCO member, we would be lending our credibility to the member firm, further helping them in their business and we would be monitoring their activities assuring all clients about the optimal performance of member firms. We also partake in the government’s policy making, ensuring that the concerns of our members are taken into account.
To take the industry forward BACCO requires skilled resources. How do you plan on developing the resources for the betterment of the BPO industry?
Our young generation is very active and assertive. But they need to have the patience to work. They need to be able to work anywhere in the country. Many of the young people think of earning money without giving the least heed to perseverance. The potentials they have should be harnessed well. In my company, there are so many young people working here and many of them are graduates or even students. So, I believe our BPO sector will be dominated by the strong young hands very soon, if they can set their mind up for being the assiduous leaders.
We have the resources to train young talent who wish to start their career in this sector. Many firms offer training in order to develop resources for the sector. My Outsourcing Limited – as an approved Training Institute of National Skill Development Authority (NSDA) – has been conducting the Skills & Employment Investment Program (SEIP) 2016. So far, we have conducted 64 batches consisting of 1548 successful trainees from this program. We are offering this Govt. Certified training in order to create skilled resources within the sector for Call Center/ Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry.
Has BACCO introduced process innovation to the fraternity? Has that changed the service orientation point of view to deliver better?
We carry out R&D with regards to our service processes. This is borne out of a need for increasing and unique demands from clients, and therefore our packages change to incorporate that. As I’ve already said, initially we only offered call center services and over time we have vastly widened our portfolio. Today, we work towards developing solutions to analyze the ROI with regards to the different communications and operations of clients. We are also innovating in terms of developing data analytics solutions for our clients. We are also working towards ensuring that disabled citizens can contribute to this industry and improve their lives as well. We are continually working to integrate more.
The role of BACCO is to encourage creation of proper policies and regulations for the BPO industry. How are the government affiliations planning to take the initiatives forward?
We are working with the policymakers in different levels. We work closely with the ICT division to increase benefits for our member’s and their growth. We have worked with the government to introduce tax exemptions and export incentives for our members. It is a coordinated effort of BACCO, BASIS, ICT Division, and the government. For the future, we are discussing how to increase visibility and global presence by coordinating with our embassies worldwide, where prospective clients would be exposed to the services we offer.
Where do you see the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry in 10 years?
The next 10 years will be very interesting as client requirements are changing. We will be seeing the rising importance of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data analytics. These three components are becoming the core component of many services. I personally manage a multinational client, generating millions of data for the client. Initially, it was a rudimentary service, but now we are incorporating machine learning to bring about patterns and trends from the data that our client can find useful. As we will be incorporating this more and more in the future, we need to upskill our talents in all levels and we need to integrate these processes in our core. In the next ten years, we will be putting our footprint in the global market and we will be seeing over a tenfold increase in our upskilled workforce to cater to the future demands and capture a larger size of the pie.