The Emirates is pushing to become an outsourcing hub, with more companies with offices here wanting to place some of their operations with other firms locally. But numerous challenges remain. Brownell O’Connor, chief consultant of Insights, a call-centre training company in Dubai and the organiser of a conference focused on outsourcing that is to be held in the emirate next week, discusses the issues.
The UAE is not very well known for outsourcing. How is that changing?
It is changing for sure, though we are still slow. There is a huge acceleration of demand for regional outsourcing [as] more companies establish here in the UAE and look to outsource [some of their] operations here locally. The reason is that [local] outsourcing leads to less overhead costs for the companies. Instead of wasting money in setting up telephone lines or offices [for these particular functions], companies can now use that capital to further develop business. Outsourcing frees up their assets.
Why is it a challenge for Dubai to become an outsourcing hub?
Dubai is primarily seen as a costly place; infrastructure is relatively expensive when compared to India and Egypt, [as well as in] real estate and labour force. If a company from the US or UK want to outsource, they will clearly go to India or the Philippines. If they want to come here it will be for Arabic language skills or local-knowledge skills, such as understanding the local culture and business climate.
What are the challenges in the Northern Emirates?
In Northern Emirates, you can save on real estate costs but not on telecom or labour costs. But local companies such as banks could see a huge opportunity in … [the] Northern Emirates because of the … resources in terms of local population.
Which sectors are leading the call-centre outsourcing jobs locally?
That includes mobile operators, banks who are outsourcing customer sales calls, and the government sector.
How big is the outsourcing industry in the Middle East?
It is a huge industry here, and it is beyond just call centres. Globally, 20 per cent of the outsourcing business is in call centres; the rest is in outsourcing back-office jobs, IT, human resources, accounting and financing operations. In the Middle East, the industry is very large in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the latter simply because of the size of the economy. The outsourcing business is worth [one] quarter of a billion dollars in Middle East. In the UAE, it would be 25 per cent of that.
Why did you base your business in Dubai more than a decade ago?
Companies here need the expatriates to serve the local market needs as they look at outsourcing locally. The genesis of Insights was as a technology company, and we helped launch computer telephony integration technology in the region. We moved over to call-centre training and consultancy in 1999.
This article is originally Published in “The National Newspaper ” .