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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Business

The Year In Review

Call centres on the rebound

Call centres have emerged as a new foreign currency earning sector, generating more than 30,000 jobs since its boom in mid-2009.

With around 1,500 seats in 47 such centres currently in operation, experts say, this sector has every potential to flourish, bagging high-end work contracts from global markets.

Successes are many. So are the industry insiders encouraged for expansion of business that now enjoys 60 percent growth.

"It is quite encouraging to see what call centres have accomplished in a short span of time," said Habibullah N Karim, president of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS).

Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) allowed setting up of call centres in April 2008. However, such business started springing up this year.

A call centre is an office where a company's inbound calls are received, or outbound calls are made.

The industry here mainly works for different companies based in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. Its job responsibilities include selling products, verifying international credit cards, campaign for new product sales, booking hotel rooms and even selling laptops.

In addition to outsourcing different services globally, the industry now eyes grabbing Tk 500 crore a year from the local market, although a dearth of skilled agents haunts call centre business.

"A learning phase we're now passing. We have success stories as well. More than 60 percent call centres are now in break-even, says Reazuddin Mosharaf, secretary general of Bangladesh Association of Call Centre and Outsourcing (Bacco).

An amount of al least Tk 1 crore is required to set up a centre having 25 seats.

Initially, entrepreneurs deemed global recession a threat to their business, which eventually proved to be wrong as the financial firestorm had left some openings. The foreign companies using the call centres for promoting products and services have opted for working with Bangladesh's novice call centres.

Now the industry presents a base to brighten its future prospects, even though its turnover in terms of forex earning is not that impressive.

"Some expertise now we've earned. We've ideas as to how a call centre should work, " the Bacco executive pointed out.

Many a company have centralised their customer support functions at call centres, which contributed a lot to make this business popular.

However, efficient agents remain scarce, a main obstacle to the sectoral development. In the coming years, around 1,50,000 agents will be required to cope with the growing demand for call centres.

Mainly students from English medium schools and private universities work with such centres.

Rumana Hossain, an agent of ATN call centre, thinks the profession is not bad at all. "Our working environment is nice. So we do not feel bad during day or night time."

From a social perspective, the second year student of BRAC University said, it is a new idea in Bangladesh. She also pointed to the fact that she faced a volley of questions from fellow students.

"But when someone gets to know responsibilities of the job, they also become interested."

Mosharaf, who is also managing director of Windmill Advertising Ltd, said the local market is worth about Tk 500 crore.

Usually telecoms, medical institutions, insurance companies and banks provide different services through the domestic call centres.

Masrur Alam, director of Computer Source, demanded that the regulator allow providing domestic and international call centres services at the same premises with the same set up.

"We are busy with our international clients mainly at night because of the difference in time. But in the day time, our call centre becomes lazy as we have no work then, he pointed out.

In this context he cited the example of India where both domestic and international operations are allowed from the same premises, which makes room for flourishing within a very short time.

The BASIS president brushes aside such a dearth. "I believe, one or two lakh agents are available in the market. Let them know that it is an opportunity."

Zia Ahmed, chairman of BTRC, believes that the call centre industry is a promising sector to earn foreign currency.

"The plan to set up a call centre village is under consideration by the telecom ministry, he told The Daily Star.

hasan@thedailystar.net

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