U.S. outsourcer opens third Philippine call center

ICT Group Inc. recently opened its third call center in the country, located in Marikina City, and plans to expand further and build at least two more facilities next year.

The Pennsylvania-based business process outsourcing (BPO) provider's new facility is located within a 7,000-square-meter business complex built by the city's Riverbanks Development Corp. It houses 1,100 workstations and employs an operating staff of more than 1,400 people.

High literacy rate among Filipinos continues to be the driving force behind the growth of the call center and BPO industry in the Philippines.

"By the end of 2007, we expect to have up to five facilities supporting over 4,000 workstations and employing more than 5,000 staff in the Philippines," said John Brennan, president of ICT Group Inc., who visited the country in time for the inauguration of the Marikina facility Thursday.

Brennan said ICT Group is currently in the process of identifying and evaluating possible sites -- within and outside of Metro Manila -- for its two additional facilities.

The company opened its first contact center in Makati City in May 2003 and opened another one a year later located at the Ortigas business district in Mandaluyong City.

Including its third facility, ICT Group's Philippine operations supports more than 30 clients across the U.S., the U.K., Canada and Australia.

It has invested more than $16 million in its three facilities in the country over the past three years, which have a combined total of 2,800 workstations, according to Brennan. The Philippine operations represents almost one fourth of ICT Group's total call center operations worldwide.

According to ICT Group executives, the company chose to locate in Marikina because of the high density of colleges and universities in the city, thus providing a ready pool of English-skilled agents.

Overall, Brennan himself is confident about the high literacy rate in the country as a primary reason for expanding its operations further in the Philippines.

According to a study by ICT Group, out of a total workforce of more than 29 million, the literacy rate is more than 90%. More importantly, cost of labor is more than 40% lower than operating in the U.S.

Said Brennan, "The Philippines has become the preferred choice among existing and prospective clients, particularly in the U.S., in the delivery of consistent, high-quality sales, service and BPO support services for customers around the world."

Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo attended the inauguration along with Marikina City Mayor Lourdes Fernando. Also present U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney and the mayor's husband, Metro Manila Development Authority chair and former Marikina Mayor Bayani Fernando.

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