Nearshore Americas | December 5, 2019
itelbpo Smart Solutions is set to launch new operations in Saint Lucia, with the Jamaican company signing a deal with local investment promotion agency, Invest Saint Lucia, for housing a contact center in Vieux-Fort, a town in the southernmost point of the Eastern Caribbean country.
The contact center will spread across a 20,000 square-foot area in Hewanorra Free Zone, and employ more than 500 people over the next two years. If everything goes according to the plan, the delivery center will be up and running by April next year. Renovations to an existing factor shell are already underway.
The site is within walking distance from the Hewanorra International Airport, and the town is undergoing extensive development in recent years, stated itelbpo in a press release. “It is a strategic move aimed at expanding our geographical footprint, ultimately diversifying our workforce and further enriching the talent pool.” itelbpo was founded in Jamaica nearly a decade ago.
Expanding operations to Saint Lucia also fits well into the company’s contingency plan. “Today, 75% of our operations are based in Jamaica. We don’t want to become over-dependent on one country,” Yoni Epstein, the Founding Chairman and CEO of itelbpo, said to Nearshore Americas. “The investment promotion agency would build the facility in accordance with the design approved by us,” Epstein added, refusing to disclose how much money the new delivery center would cost.
Saint Lucia’s population (180,000 citizens) might be seen as a negative for some BPO operators, but itelbpo is confident there is still a wealth of well-qualified, professionals in a labor pool – where a slim set of operators – namely KM2 Solutions, OJO Labs and 1-888 Go Answer – have operations.
The company asserts that it has the capacity and experience to provide targeted training that will enable the Saint Lucia team to deliver customer experience on par with its other locations. Training recruits will be inevitable for itelbpo, as it is pursuing a goal of increasing its headcount to more than 5,000 over the next five years.
“We see the enormous pipeline of opportunity for the Caribbean in this fast-growing sector,” Epstein said, adding that his company “would not waste any time” instead of capitalizing on the demand.
The Rise and Rise of itel
Founded in 2012 in Montego Bay, itelbpo started with just seven employees. Today, its headcount has leapfrogged to over 2,700. The company is running delivery centers in the Bahamas, Mexico, and the United States in addition to Jamaica.
Between 2017 and 2016, Itel grew over 40 percent, while the rest of Central America and the Caribbean only grew 11.7 percent, according to research firm Frost & Sullivan, which in 2018 described the Jamaican firm as the ‘Growth Excellence Leader’ in the region.
According to this report, itelbpo’s revenue increased by 160% between 2014 and 2017, while the overall industry revenue in the region grew by 45%. For itel, a significant turnaround came in 2018 when it acquired Granada Corporation, a California-based bilingual customer service provider with a focus on work-at-home delivery. In the space of a year, it grew the number of remote workers in the United States by 35%.
Its sudden success also attracted venture capital interest. In November, reports emerged that two private equity firms had agreed to acquire a 15% stake each in the BPO provider.
With new cash in its coffers, itel is planning expansion in both nearshore and onshore. “Currently, around 250 agents working remotely in the US, and we are planning to add another 250 employees there over the next two years,” Epstein said. Also, itel is increasingly deploying chatbots, saying the AI-powered machines augment its efficiency.
In the interview with Nearshore Americas, the CEO dismissed news reports that Itel would soon float its shares in a stock market. “We have no such plans, we will remain private,” he confirmed.