Romania: The 'India' Of Europe?
By Tracey Schelmetic
Editorial Director, CUSTOMER [email protected] Solutions
Romania is still climbing into the modern world. After the dramatic fall of the country’s Communist regime in 1989, the country slipped into a recession that lasted until the mid- to late-1990s, at which time it began to embark on a series of reforms and stabilization programs. In 2000, Romania, with her population of 22.3 million people, threw her hat into the ring for membership in the European Union (EU). That membership is expected to be fully achieved in 2007. Currently, the country is experiencing economic stability, high growth and low unemployment. It’s a democratic republic whose capital, Bucharest, is home to 2.3 million people, or about 10 percent of the population.
And it’s caught the call center industry’s eye.
Perhaps it’s not fair to focus on Romania only. In truth, the whole of Central and Eastern Europe has caught the eye of call center companies, software companies, BPO providers and IT organizations. According to a Datamonitor report issued last year, “Profiting from European Nearshore Outsourcing,” the number of outsourced call center agent jobs in Central and Eastern Europe and North Africa will increase to 13,700 by 2008. In addition to Romania, the report predicts that the most popular spots for call center activities will be Poland, Hungary, the Baltics, North Africa and the Czech Republic. According to the report, Central and Eastern Europe are “hungry and business friendly.”
According to the same report, The Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary will be popular with companies looking for higher-end customer care for both English-speaking and German-speaking customers (these countries’ economies are somewhat ahead of that of Romania). Romania and Bulgaria will increasingly gain business for more routine customer care, with Romania handling Italian- and French-speaking clients (recall that the Romanian language is a Romance language and therefore kindred to French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian), while Bulgaria will draw companies serving customers in the UK and Germany. Additionally, Croatia and Slovenia are thought to be well suited to accept business in Italian and German-speaking customer care, and the Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) are well-placed in terms of geography and language for taking customer care calls from Scandinavian customers.
Some voices in the industry are going as far as to call Romania, in particular, an upcoming “outsourcing rival” to India. Costs are still very low, education levels are high, science and engineering graduates are readily available, and cultural affinity with the West is greater than that of India (and the flights are much shorter). The average gross wage per month in Romania is currently reported at $328.76 (including taxes).
In preparation for its run for call center and BPO business, the Romanian government has been building up its infrastructure. (See “ECI Telecom Does Romania” by TMCnet’s David Sims, at http://www.tmcnet.com/usubmit/-eci-telecom-romania-astral-service-provisioning-/2005/jul/1163232.htm.) The initiative to modernize the telecom infrastructure to line it up closer to that of the EU began in earnest in 2000, when a group of ISPs created the “Association of the National ISPs.” The group hoped to encourage the regulation of telecommunications in Romania by creating legislative initiatives to liberalize the country’s telecom market and make it similar to those of the U.S. and Europe. The group also hoped to create an internal code to help regulate the local ISP market. They forged a partnership with RomTelecom to help bring about the changes demanded by the EU as conditions for membership. The founding members of the ISP group include PC Net, Astral/Kappa, Fx Internet, Dynamic Network Technologies (DNT), and Romanian Data Systems (RDS).
Companies turning to Romania for contact center support are finding organizations that offer a full spectrum of customer care services, including inbound/outbound, b-to-b/b-to-c customer care, multilingual services, and 24/7 “follow the sun” schedules.
A few of the organizations currently offering outsourcing services in Romania include:
TechTeam Global, Inc. (www.techteam.com)
CP Service (www.cpservice.it)
GECAD Cvantage (www.c-vantage.com)
Tracey Schelmetic is editorial director for CUSTOMER [email protected] Solutions. For more articles by Tracey Schelmetic, please visit: