A year ago, lotto scamming activities threatened to flat-line the business processing outsourcing (BPO) sector. Today, with a clampdown on the illegal activity, bolstered by the relevant legislation, there is now next to no reports of the illegal activities and the industry is thriving.
“I would say a year or so ago that was the number one issue affecting not only the sector but more broadly and certainly in the last couple of months I have not heard that as a major issue anymore,” Julian Robinson, the state minister in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Mining and Energy, told the Jamaica Observer West.
Robinson attributed the reduction of complaints to Government’s introduction of legislation to battle the illegal sweepstakes, which not only posed a threat to the existence of BPO industry but has resulted in a spate of killings across western Jamaica.
In the past, scammers would get data from within some of the BPO companies. They then used that data to target their victims, mostly elderly United States residents. As the activity flourished local companies were at risk of losing their contracts from overseas entities.
BPO services target offshore or near-shore back-office operations such as accounting, human resource management and customer service (call-centre facilities).
Meanwhile, President of the Business Processing Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIAJ), Yoni Epstein confirmed that reports of scamming activities within the sector has fallen.
“The reality of it is it is on the decline. We have not heard of any instances, and to me more importantly, I haven’t heard any instances locally as the clients and prospective clients are asking about it less and less,” Epstein told the Observer West.
Both Epstein and Robinson were speaking to the Observer West following the historical signing of a deal between Columbus Communications and the BPIAJ to establish an incubator within the Montego Bay Freezone, which is expected to trigger growth, enhance market access and create new jobs.
The incubator, which is slated to be fully operational by December, will fast-track entry of new players into the business process outsourcing sector as well as facilitate short-term expansion for current investors.
The telecommunications firm — which trades as Flow and has been vigourously marketing its business brand Columbus Business Solutions (CBS) — will install, as part of its workstation solutions, screens and a combination of physical and so-called soft phones.
Columbus, which offers telephony, Internet and cable services, has ramped up its infrastructure to capitalise on businesses’ appetite for one-stop-shop, holistic technology solutions. “The partnership recognises the importance of the Business Process Industry to Jamaica’s national development and is intended to provide a solution that fast tracks new entrants to the local market, a problem that has often been cited by the Government and Industry players alike” said Sean Latty, head of the communications giant.
The BPO sector is a fast-growing industry which local economists and Government officials see as having great potential for growth, as business confidence rises and investment opportunities emerge.
Currently, there are approximately 40 BPO companies in operations, accounting for approximately 14,000 jobs in Jamaica, according to Epstein.
“We believe that this is a small portion of what the industry is capable of and the partnership with CBS will ease one of the challenges that has stifled the sector’s growth,” Epstein said. Epstein’s point is supported by JAMPRO, the government’s trade and investment promotion agency, that has indicated the sector could create 15,000 new jobs over the next five years.
“The BPO sector represents the fastest growing growth sector in the economy right now and we commend Flow as a private sector partner for coming on board and supporting this initiative,” he added.
As Jamaica seeks to improve its rankings in global competitiveness and the ease-of-doing-business indices, CBS’s initiative will help to expedite the entry of new BPO entrepreneurs, making the industry more dynamic and innovative.
Epstein was upbeat over the soon-to-be established incubator.
“The incubator is a 200 seat call centre that will be developed in the Montego Bay Freezone. The goal of the incubator is to attract foreign investors as well as local investors to start up businesses. Its cheaper access to entry, lower barriers to entry and faster uptime to get started into business. We want to make it as easy as possible for investors to want to come to Jamaica as well as for local investors and entrepreneurs to start businesses,” Epstein told the Observer West.
Epstein added: “It is also going to foster growth in existing businesses because if we have the space and someone can’t build out fast. Enough they will have access to the incubator to start-up grow their business while they develop their existing spaces.”