Stream gives steam to Egypt's outsourcing ambitions

Daily News Egypt
7 Min Read

CAIRO: Egypt wants to double revenues from its budding outsourcing industry by 2013 to $2 billion from an expected $1 billion in 2010, Minister of Communications and Information Technology Tarek Kamel said Tuesday.

“We [expect] $1 billion in service exports for 2010. We want to double this number by the end of 2013 and increase it tenfold in 10 years from today, Kamel said at the launch of Stream’s first call center in Egypt.

As the global business processes outsourcing (BPO) company Stream officially launched its call center in Sixth of October, Kamel looked forward to the next project on the agenda: the development of the Contact Center Park in Maadi, where a few companies have already started.

In its efforts to make Egypt an outsourcing hub, the government has been offering international companies an attractive incentives package, offered through the Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA).

“The total budget for the incentives is in the tens of millions of dollars, said Amin Khaireldin, strategy advisor and ITIDA board member. The budget is used to encourage new entry in Egypt’s nascent outsourcing industry and will be decreasing as it moves toward maturity, he added.

“I am happy for two reasons, said Kamel. “First, we see a partnership with an Egyptian company Raya, which has been growing over the last decade. This is exactly the model we would like to see: a multinational service provider coming in and working with local companies, he explained.

“I also have to express my delight because Stream started by having an Egyptian running their business in Egypt, added the minister, referring to Mohamed Fouad, the site director for Stream in Cairo.

Stream started trial operations in Egypt in March 2009 with 15 people. The facility was then expanded to 400 employees. With the new expansion of the facility, it will be able to provide 600 more working spaces. By June 2010 the call center is expected to host 1,000 employees, a number previously projected to be achieved by 2012.

Introducing the new facility, Scott Murray, chairman and CEO of Stream said, “Why Cairo? Because we found a great partnership between a national company Raya and the government; the opportunity to hire the best employees from the universities here; the ability to service both Europe and North America; and the diversity of language skills.

Representing one of Stream’s long-term clients, Joe McGinnis, senior director at Sirius XM Radio, also spoke at the event. He explained that after they found expansion in the Philippines limited, Sirius decided to explore Egypt.

“Between the talent that we have seen here and the educational system which we had the opportunity to look over a year ago, it really looked like an attractive alternative to us. Now we have close to 200 folks that are in this building. In a very short time we had great success here. We have some metrics [of the Cairo call center] that are outperforming and on all the rest we are almost there, he said.

According to Kamel, these are just beginnings as the government is working hard to attract more customers and companies like Stream.

Khaireldin said that to encourage more interest in Egypt, ITIDA has been on two different programs worth millions of dollars to supply the industry with qualified cadres. In cooperation with the Ministry of Higher Education and IBM, the agency will introduce a new curriculum called Service Science Management and Engineering to the faculties of engineering, computer science and business at Cairo University, Ain Shams University and Alexandria University. The curriculum is geared towards teaching skills that are need by employees in the different structures of the service industry.

The other program started last academic year in the faculties of law, commerce and art in Cairo, Helwan, Alexandria, Assiut, Mansoura and Ismailia. The program offers a competitive course on competencies specified by companies in the customer service industry. At the end of the course, the students are given a certificate with their exam results with which they can attend a placement fair where companies recruit new employees for customer service jobs.

The program has trained 3,000 students of which Stream has already employed 30. Nehal Arisha is one of them. “At the course, our instructors were teaching us cultural background, soft skills, and language use, preparing us for jobs in customer service and call centers, she said.

She graduated last year from the English department of the faculty of arts in Cairo University and has been working at Stream for the past six months. “Knowing English is the basic thing and then knowing how to deal with people, especially angry people, she said.

A colleague of hers, Amany Mohamed, who graduated with English from Ain Shams University in 2004, started three months ago. “As long as your English is good, you will find a job in Egypt, she said.

Amany previously worked at Vodafone and another Egyptian call center. “The opportunity to grow here [at Stream] is much better, even though the working environment in both Stream and Vodafone is good, she said, clarifying her motivation to switch jobs.

“We are working on the two ends of the value chain, said Khaireldin, explaining that Egypt is seeking not only service jobs like the ones offered in the call centers, but also high-end ones. He pointed out that 60 percent of the $1 billion of exported services that Minister Kamel announced are from high-end service jobs, such as software solutions produced by local contractors for large international companies.

Khaireldin also said that ITIDA is working on reversing the brain-drain to keep talented Egyptian scientists in the country. Partnering with foreign high tech companies, ITIDA offers them new facilities and attractive pay to remain in Egypt.

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