One constant in BPO delivery is that nothing stays the same for very long. Just consider how different offshore and nearshore destinations were perceived a decade ago. Admittedly, back then there were far fewer locations vying for outsourcing investment, but among the most sought after was Egypt, which had emerged as a top choice for offshore delivery. However, following significant domestic disruption, the Egyptian BPO sector waned, as clients in Europe and North America waited for a return to stability. That wait may be over, as a new generation of outsourcing stakeholders in Egypt appear ready to pick up where the sector left off several years ago.
Thinking back to the heady days of Egyptian outsourcing circa 2005 – 2010, one is immediately hit with a sense of both nostalgia and awe. In the case of the former, this is due to the hard work put in by the sector’s pioneers that traveled the world evangelizing their country’s advantages, and the subsequent success that they achieved in their promotion efforts. As per the latter, to this day there remains a great deal of amazement at how, in such a short time, so many global BPO firms sprang up across Egypt, looking to leverage the country’s incentives, technology infrastructure and abundant language skills. However, with the events that occurred during and after the 2011 Arab Spring, the Egyptian outsourcing industry faced a monumental challenge in its very survival.
But, survive it did. And, despite the worst prognostications among outsourcing’s chattering classes, Egypt’s BPO sector showed significant resiliency. True, outsourcing ceased to grow at the double-digit rates associated with the 2005 – 2010 period; but for the most part, providers already on the ground maintained their capacity levels following the Arab Spring, with many growing their workstations organically. This was due primarily to the strong performance of Egyptian agents delivering sound customer experience across multiple languages.
Today, Egypt’s ongoing reputation for strong consumer interactions coupled with a significant decline in the Egyptian pound relative to major demand market currencies position it competitively for an offshoring comeback. These lower overheads are being complemented with an uptick in unemployment levels that will further help drive affordability for outsourcers and their clients. Global BPO vendor presence (including Convergys, Sutherland, Sykes and Teleperformance) remains a point of reassurance, while home-grown success stories like Centro Global Solutions speak to the new generation of upstart Egyptian outsourcing entrepreneurs.
To get Egyptian outsourcing moving again, much work needs to be done. To date, the country’s perception is still poor in the eyes of enterprise decision-makers that drive many site selection choices. However, there are green shoots of optimism. A notable one that emerged from the recent Ryan Strategic Advisory 2017 Omnibus Survey was the enthusiasm of Australian executives to consider Egypt among their most favorable offshore delivery points. If Egypt’s outsourcing leadership can leverage niche opportunities that come about to rebuild the country’s reputation in the eyes of the world, perhaps the momentum of a decade ago can be re-ignited.