The Latest BPO Outpost: Guatemala

Steve Hamm

So many companies are piling on the offshoring bandwagon that it's becoming a bit like the dot-com phenomenon. It's hard to do the fresh thing anymore. Well, 24/7 Customer has managed it. In its quest to locate a new BPO call center in the same time zone as the United States, but not in a crowd, 24/7 has chosen Guatemala. The company, with headquarters in Silicon Valley but most of its 7,000 employees in India, scoped out other more commonly chosen places, too--like Costa Rica. But Guatemala fit the bill. "We wanted to be in a market where we were the first. You want an edge. It gives you a change to build your reputation and brand before you have competition," says P.V. Kannan, 24/7's CEO.

Kannan was particularly interested in Latin America as a location because his American banking and financial service clients are gearing up their marketing to the fast-growing Hispanic population in the U.S. One pleasant surprise: 24/7 found a pool of job candidates to choose from whom had lived significant chunks of their lives north of the border.
24/7 seems to be doing some smart things. Rather than running the Guatemalan operation with a bunch of Indian expats, it hired a four-person management team locally. Kannan found that Guatemalans value personal relationships in business, so he invited the Guatemalan management team to his home in California for dinner. He's also been to their houses a bunch of times as well.

There's a lot of excitement about this move in Guatemala City. Kannan has even met with the country's president. 24/7 is starting off with about 100 employees, and plans on having 500 by next March. "You go to places where the labor force is hungry for work and passionate about the opportunity," says Kannan. "In Guatemala, you have nothing happening economically. People are just waiting for something to happen."

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