One of the few industries that has thrived during the coronavirus pandemic in Fiji , business process outsourcing (or BPOs) is also a sector which carries the hopes and ambitions of Fiji’s government and economic managers.
During the early days of the pandemic, as businesses around the world shut their doors and sent workers home, Fiji’s BPOs were able to quickly pivot.
The chief operating officer at Mindpearl (Fiji’s largest BPO), Alan Graham, says not a single day of work was lost during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Elsewhere, says Carol Watkins, the general manager of Pacific Centrecom and Chair of the BPO Council of Fiji, “contact centres all over the world had to just shut down overnight because of the lockdown. It was crazy, you had customers calling and nobody answering.”
“In Fiji we were able very early to organise the people to work from home… we had people working from home as well as in the office without any issues with regards to quality.”
BPOs currently employ more than 3000 Fijians, but Watkins and the Council estimate that could rise to 8000 in 2023, and almost double that again, if enough was invested in infrastructure and marketing.
Fiji has many competitive advantages over the industry’s big players in India and the Philippines say local operators; the very generous tax incentives offered by the government, a fast and reliable Internet connection via the Southern Cross cable, a young and well educated workforce, its proximity and time zone in relation to Australia and New Zealand, the very high literacy rate, the neutral Fijian accent and widespread use of English, and the high levels of service honed through the tourism industry.
“It's in our DNA and it comes naturally,” says Watkins. “When you talk to someone and they ask when you're calling from and you say Fiji, it really helps with the conversation because they say, ‘Yeah, I've been there for holiday, I love Fijians they're friendly’; it’s a big plus for us.”
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