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Call Center Services

The Next Wave: Multilingual Call Centers

Call centers catering to the English speaking audience have been around for a while. While the market for English Call centers is growing, the next wave of multilingual call center outsourcing is arriving from key non-English-speaking markets like Canada, Japan, Germany, France, Netherlands and Italy.

The need for multilingual call centers

With the expansion of the European Union with countries like Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia joining the IT revolution and many like Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey anticipated to join by 2007, there is a growing demand for pan-European call centers which will operate not just in English but in many languages notably German, French as well as Spanish, Scandinavian and East European languages. In the US too, with more people speaking different languages especially Spanish, there is a demand for bilingual and multilingual call centers to cater to this segment of the population.

The Next Wave

According to Gartner, while the overall BPO market is expected to grow to 3 billion by 2007, a bulk of this growth will come from Western Europe rather than North America. The European BPO market alone is expected to grow to billion in 2005.

A recent report in the Financial Express stated that a number of German and French companies are seeking multilingual call center outsourcing, for both voice and non-voice based services. The report estimates that the French and German market could potentially grow to between 5% and 7% of the English speaking market.

Outsourcing multilingual call centers to India

Indian companies have begun to recognize the potential for multilingual call center outsourcing. HCL is setting up a call center in Ireland for a pan European population and Bangalore based Msource has set up a Spanish language call center in Tijuana ( Mexico). HTMT has announced plans to set up a call center in Mauritius to take advantage of the French speaking population there. Companies like ICICI OneSource, Progeon, Daksh eServices and Tecnovate now offer some services in French and German while iGate offers services in Japanese, Mandarin, Italian and some South East Asian languages.

Promoting non english call center outsourcing in India

One problem that India may face is the availability of non- English speakers. In India, though students often study foreign languages like Spanish, French and German, not many can speak such foreign languages fluently. In a note prepared by the HRD Ministry in association with the Indian BPO industry, there is a realization for a need to impart non-English language skills. With the increasing demand, such courses may soon be offered by Indian Educational Institutions. Tamil Nadu (a state in Southern India) has already indicated that it intends to create an enabling environment for teaching of languages other than English. Karnataka (another state in Southern India) has indicated in its IT policy that it will take measures to promote non-English businesses in the state.

Another unique solution is slowly emerging. With the growing awareness about India, there are a lot of young people abroad, who would like to spend time in India and would like to take up a job while they are here. They are providing a ready stream of agents for bilingual and multilingual call centers.

Given the cost benefits, the non-English market is seeking out Indian companies as potential vendors. With the Indian government taking initiatives to teach non-English skills, it is only matter of time, before India becomes a major player in the bilingual and multilingual call center outsourcing segment.

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