Recently I conducted a fact finding trip, visiting multiple companies across the US, to discuss BPO opportunities in Vietnam. My traveling partner was Frank Schellenberg, the owner of Digitexx, a company based in Ho Chi Minh City.
Frank’s Bio Blurb
– Master in Technology at University Jena (East Germany)
– 15 years in publishing, telecommunication and IT industries in Germany and the US
– Came to Vietnam and founded Digitexx in 2002 (still an owner)
– CEO of GHP Far East from 2004 to 2014, a spinoff from Digitexx (1,500 FTEs)
– Returned to Digitexx July 2014 to position it for growth
Frank and I started the tour in Chicago – where I was excited to introduce Frank to my favorite German restaurant, the 120-year old Berghoff Restaurant. After Chicago, we traveled to Los Angeles and finished off in Seattle.
We conducted in-depth conversations with four US companies. In one case, I also facilitated a three-hour workshop with multiple stakeholders. The list of companies, not in any particular order, is listed below:
- Fortune 500 Mortgage and Title Insurance company – Discussion with CPO, Head of Indirect Sourcing and Offshore Vendor Manager
- Fortune 500 Travel & Entertaining company – Discussion with Offshore Vendor Manager
- Fortune 500 Global Insurance company – Discussion with the COO
- Midsize IT Security company – Discussion with the CIO
After spending four days in the US meeting with decision makers at major companies, Frank was very excited about BPO opportunities in the US. He realized the business model is not about moving jobs from the US to Vietnam (which is the model he faced in Europe) but more about moving jobs from India to Vietnam. This is a much easier value to sell!
The discussions were also helpful and informative for the folks we met with. Overall, many people were surprised to hear about Vietnam’s BPO capabilities. The consistent feedbacks about Frank from the US executives were that he really knows the operations and he can do high quality work. They agreed that India is too large and concentrated which makes the risk too high and they were clearly not aware of Vietnam as an option.
One executive told us that his management team recently discussed their exposure in India. They had 15,000 FTEs based in India, both captive and non-captive. His goal for 2015 was to mitigate the “India risk”. A week after his strategic meeting where this was discussed, he received my call asking if he wanted to consider Vietnam. His joking comment “it was almost as if Viet was listening in on our discussion…”
Summary of Discussions with Potential Clients
Knowledge of Vietnam
- A spectrum of various personal experiences ranging from a tourist perspective from a vacation in 2000 to no knowledge beyond the Vietnam War
- Many folks expressed surprise regarding Vietnam as a “hot” offshore location (due to its large talent pool, financial benefits and stability).
Vietnam’s BPO scope overall and Digitexx’s capabilities in particular
- Understood that the focus is on non-voice BPO for Vietnam (most of these clients are using India for non-voice and transitioning to Philippines for voice BPO)
- Impressed with the broad capability of Digitexx, like Frank’s slogan “German engineering, made in Vietnam”
- Intrigued with the flexible capacity of Digitexx’s operations where the staff is cross-trained for multiple clients and Digitexx can move staff across various clients on a daily basis. This was a big challenge for companies using India suppliers where the staff was hired and fired based on fluctuating volume
Will Vietnam be in the 2015 Plan?
- The Insurance company will look for “low complexity” functions to test out Vietnam, and Digitexx
- One executive plans to visit Vietnam during his Asia trip (scheduled in June 2015) to examine the flexible staffing model
- One company referred us to their IT Vendor manager for ITO opportunities
- Vietnam is a viable option for any additonal capacity growth from India and should be on the radar of the businesses
For me, this trip was definitely proof that Vietnam’s BPO services can grow with US clients. But it is clear that it’s up to people, like Frank and me, to introduce the capability and to make it happen.