The year 2010 was particularly fruitful for the Philippine BPO (business process outsourcing) industry with some noteworthy feats achieved by the sector, foremost of which is the top ranking it got in the IBM Global Location Trends Report that put the Philippines ahead of India in the voice BPO category.
The report came out in October but it was only in December when the major dailies picked it up during IBM's inauguration of its new facilities at the UP-Ayala Techno Hub. That piece of good news was featured in the front pages of the top newspapers and discussed in a television show.
For the first time, the BPO industry was front page material even if IBM did not send a press release about the report and without the BPAP (Business Processing Association of the Philippines), the main BPO organization in the country, lifting a finger to make it known to the public.
Well, the report merited attention from the old media because it pitted the Philippines against outsourcing giant India with the former seemingly coming out as the victor. In short, it landed on the papers because it played the Philippines-versus-India game.
Based on the IBM report, the Philippines appeared to have edged out India in generating "voice-based support services" for the year 2009 with about 15,000 jobs as compared to the sub-continent's 13,000.
Oscar Sanez, CEO of BPAP, told me during a chance interview that while his group was glad to hear the results of the survey, BPAP didn't want to add to the hype pitting the two BPO countries.
Sanez said news that the Philippines has surpassed India is "not a big deal" since the truth is that the latter is still far bigger in terms of size in the BPO space and that Indian call center companies have, in fact, contributed to job-generation by putting up locations around Metro Manila.
The BPAP official also said IBM released the report to serve as an internal guide for its own BPO business and that other third-party consulting firms still regard India as the world's primary outsourcing destination.
In summary, it's simply not appropriate--and sustainable--to build up a rivalry between the Philippines and India just like what the traditional media is trying to do. Actually, there's a better word for it: coopetition.
Just a couple days after the local print media came out with the Philippines-versus-India story, it again featured the BPO sector-–but this time in bad light. The article, written by a news wire agency and splashed in the front pages of the country's top newspapers, reported about "online sex" and branded it as an unfortunate consequence of the country's booming BPO sector.
The BPAP and the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) were quick to issue a press release that pointed out that cyber sex is not any way part of the BPO industry.
The clarification had to be issued immediately, CICT chair Ivan Uy told me later on, to give peace of mind to parents of call center and other BPO workers who have started entertaining thoughts and might be suspecting their children of doing something else in their workplaces.
It's good that the country's big media outlets are giving the BPO industry some press exposure, but sensationalized reporting could instead harm rather than promote the sector.
On the lighter side, a real and positive offshoot of the local BPO sector, which is aiming for US$11 billion revenue this year, is currently being shown in the theaters as part of the Metro Manila Film Festival. I'm talking about the movie "RPG: Metanoia", reputedly the first Filipino-made 3D animated film.
We all know that the animation industry is a vital cog of the BPO industry, with local animation studios doing hundreds of projects for some of Hollywood's biggest film companies. Now, here's your chance to see a world-class animated movie produced and created entirely by Filipinos.
Happy New Year, everyone.