Infotel’s Success a Beacon for BPO Industry Print E-mail
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Thursday, 26 March 2015 00:00

Infotel started operating in Belize in September of 2006 as a call center with only nine employees. This was a time when the industry was still new, unkown and stigmatized in the country. Though investors were attracted to the relatively cheap quality labour in the country, they were concerned about the extremely expensive cost of doing business. Just getting off the ground requires a substantial investment; then, once the company is operational it had to set a large slice of its budget for bandwidth from Telemedia, the only Internet Service Provider (ISP) at the time. Another challenge was attracting the caliber of employees talented enough to develop an infant business but optimistic enough to see working at a “call center” as a career.

The early years at Infotel were challenging. Reynaldo Malik Jr., Vice-Presidents of Operations for Infotel International Limited, was extremely emotional when he reflected on his early days at the helm. He recounted a story from the first week of operations when at the end of the week he did not have a bank to process payroll for the nine employees. Malik says he had to barrow cheques from a friend to pay employees and that went on for a couple weeks. That was just one of the many problems facing an infant Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) firm in 2006. Malik made light of the fact that they had to run a VPN around the VOIP ban for almost six months in order to cut bandwidth cost. The company thread water for the first few years, taking about two years to break even on its initial investment.

Fastforward eight and a half years later, Infotel is now in its glory years with over 150 employees. The company is in the middle of a transformation from simply being a lending agency to a full fledge interactive BPO company. Malik says, “Now it is about providing the best customer service possible to clients. Making our firm customer friendly by being available through e-mail exchange and even chatlines.”

The success of the company in recent years has been aided by the Ministry of Economic Development’s new focus on the BPO sector. Infotel invited Mike Singh, Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, to give the keynote address at the inauguration of its new headquarters at the Pickwick Building on Newton Barracks. Singh said, “The BPO sector is very near and dear to my heart.” It was on a trip to Costa Rica years ago that Singh saw how the gaming industry provided opportunities for individuals who had been left out of the labour force. Singh says it was then that he saw how business outsourcing could improve a country’s employment rate. Singh made a promise to himself that once given the chance he would do all in his power to see a vibrant BPO sector in his own country. Therefore, since 2010 as Executive Director of BELTRAIDE then 2012 as C.E.O. in the Ministry, he has worked with industry stakeholders to amend laws to benefit the sector. BPOs now fall under a different category for bandwidth rates from BTL. The Ministry has also made recommendations for new labour regulations to ease the startup burden on BPO firms. They also work with firms to apply for Export Processing Zone (EPZ) status. Prime Minister Barrow also provided funding for the Belize Training and Employment Center (BTEC) which trains individuals interested in joining the BPO sector.