Scotland aims to attract Indian outsourcers

Four Indian outsourcers have shown interest in setting up call centers and BPO centers in Scotland, where staff offer multilingual capabilities

Scotland aims to get Indian outsourcers to set up call centers and business process outsourcing (BPO) centers in the country, by offering staff with multilingual capabilities.

A number of Indian outsourcers are setting up centers in Europe to offer near-shore services to European customers in their local languages. India's second largest outsourcer, Infosys Technologies, for example, has a service delivery center in Brno in the Czech Republic.

Rather than set up a number of small centers in various European countries to support different European languages, Indian outsourcing companies can set up a single center in Scotland, where staff can offer services in up to 25 languages, said Shivendra Singh, country manager for India of Scottish Development International, a Scottish government-funded agency set up to attract investment to Scotland.

Scotland's key advantage is that there are a large number of foreign students who come to study in universities in Scotland, and stay on to work there, said Ronnie Melrose, head of IBM's hardware services delivery in Europe. "This gives us an opportunity to hire people for their language skills," he said.

The government in Scotland has also helped as it gives foreign students graduating from universities in Scotland an automatic work permit, Melrose said.

IBM, which started manufacturing equipment in Scotland in the 1950s, has been running call center and BPO operations in the country since 1995, both to support its own operations and those of its customers that have outsourcing contracts with the company.

IBM's five centers in Scotland, with a staff of about 1,100, offer services in 23 languages, including French, Italian, German, Spanish, Dutch, Turkish, Hebrew, and the Nordic languages.

"One benefit for us is that there is as yet very little competitive attrition in Scotland," Melrose said. There is however attrition of a different kind: Students that stay in Scotland for their first job often move back to their home countries after about two years, Melrose said.

Scotland currently has over 70,000 call center and BPO staff in Scotland out of a population of 5 million, said Phil Taylor, professor of work and empowerment studies in the Department of Human Resource Management at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. About 10 percent of these staff speak at least one more language besides English, he said. Foreign students coming to Scotland, as well as migrants, have helped position Scotland as a location for multilingual services, he added.

Scotland also has a large pool of staff specialized in the financial services area, because of the large number of banks and other financial services organizations in Scotland, Taylor said. A large number of banks in London have also set up call center and BPO operations in Scotland, to take advantage of this expertise, and also because costs there are lower than in London, Taylor added.

Four Indian outsourcers have so far shown interest in setting up centers in Scotland, Singh said. Some Indian outsourcers have already set up or acquired delivery centers elsewhere in the U.K., typically as part of outsourcing contracts with clients in the U.K.

HCL Technologies, of Noida near Delhi, acquired the Apollo Contact Center in Belfast, which was operated by BT Group, to offer contact center services from the center to BT and other clients.

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