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Never Sleep

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After we were done putting another title to bed recently, I happened to drive past Shaw Boulevard corner Edsa close to four o’clock in the morning.

I was surprised at the number of people milling about, the swarms of commuters making their way to board the buses blocking the right-turn into Shaw, and the general bustle from the Megamall area all the way to the 7-Eleven in Loyola Heights near where I live.

What is going on in Metro Manila?

The same month as our epic all-nighters at the office, between pushing to meet four press deadlines, the China Business team had the opportunity to talk to Russians, Indians, and Canadians—all businessmen investing in the Philippines, particularly IT-BPO.

If all off-shoring roads lead to the Philippines, then it is no longer surprising that Metro Manila and other metropolises that are home to the multi-billion- dollar Philippine IT-BPO industry joined the ranks of cities that never sleep.

Philippine BPO posted US$11B in revenues last year. As this issue goes to press, the 2012 numbers are expected to total US$13B. What other local industry can grow by US$2B in 12 months?

This summer, the local BPO voice sector rejoiced after it surpassed India—at least 400,000 call center agents compared to India’s 350,000. But, in terms of total BPO earnings including non-voice, the Philippine has quite a ways to go.

While latest Y-O-Y figures from Canadian research firm XMG have the Philippines at US$12.7B in estimated annual revenues for 2012, India was estimated to post US$63.2B and China, US$43.1B for the same period.

Our Russian sources say that the BPO industry in India has turned conservative and is focused on savings and stopping the exodus of clients to other countries. Our Canadian sources, on the other hand, say that they have stopped short of investing in Chinese BPO because it mainly caters to Chinese- speaking clients, not exactly the Cannuck area of expertise.

Knowing the Chinese mindset, China BPO may just close in on India, especially with a doer like Xi Jinping at the reins next year. Meanwhile, the Philippines threatens to turn off investors with its unpredictable enforcement of laws and maverick new legislation like the warrantless collection of data under the new Cybercrime Law.

When will the Philippines finally stay awake and get its act together?

Print ed: 11/12


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