Photo - Mauritius - a tourist view.
Computerworld Malaysia spoke with Malaysia-based global ambassador of the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP) Bobby Varanasi who recently brought together companies and investors to a by-invitation conference in June 2013, hosted by the government of Mauritius, to help the island better position itself as an outsourcing services destination.
During the interview, Varanasi commented on how countries such as Malaysia, India, China and Philippines could fare in the next 10 years in the outsourcing services sector and what Mauritius is learning from different sources on what to do and what blind alleys there are.
He adds that Malaysia too should benefit from similar international sharing particularly during the regional Asia Pacific Outsourcing summit to be held in Iskandar Malaysia in October.
What sort of industry trends in the last 10 years have led to Mauritius claiming a stake as an outsourcing services provider?
Mauritius, a small volcanic island nation in the southern Indian Ocean, adjacent to the large island of Madagascar, east of the continent of Africa, with a population of a little over 1.3 million, emerged from the colonial clutches of the Dutch, English and subsequently the French, to drive an economy based purely on sugar and tourism.
Realisation that their fortunes are invariably tied to creating sustainable and fast-growing economic sectors that could reduce their inordinate dependence of imports, the nation took a plunge into creating an ICT sector that could support the needs of its erstwhile colonial masters (namely France and the UK) through provisioning competitive yet cheap labour.
Much like any other emerging nation, Mauritius created dedicated technology parks (thanks to investments from India), and tried to garner investments into the ICT sector (where the positioning was that the nation was a compelling offshore destination). Alongside Kenya (38 million population), South Africa (51 million population), Ghana (25 million population), Mauritius, in the initial years starting 2000, continued to woo investors.
Various French companies did invest in Mauritius, predominantly owing to a population that spoke French/Creole and came significantly cheaper. Since then, the ICT sector saw a steady emphasis at both the policy and implementation level with the establishment of the ICT Authority (regulator), the National Computer Board (implementation agency for government) and the Ministry of ICT.
Together these organisations have endeavored in e-enabling much of the economy through concerted investments into technologies. Fuelled by the need for connectivity, Mauritius has invested significantly in bandwidth, connecting the island to both Europe and to Africa. Propelled by a competitive and liberal environment, structured regulations and long-term goals to connect the entire island, Mauritius has implemented communications networks aggressively in a manner that today the entire island is connected.
The country is interestingly only the second nation on the planet (after Finland) to make access to Internet a basic human right in its constitution. From a standpoint of provisioning compelling outsourcing services, the nation has a long way to go, though it principally has done all the necessary in terms of creating the enabling environment. Business readiness indices rank Mauritius as # 1 in Africa (and #25 globally), indicative of a conducive environment. A young population is available for the picking that has resulted in creation of more than 17,000 jobs in the sector as we speak today.
What have the 'wins' been so far for Mauritius?
The nation has been able to garner quite a few investments into the sector, particularly from French, Indian and South African companies. Some of the major MNCs that are leveraging Mauritian French and English capabilities are Accenture, Ceridian, TNT, Orange/ France Telecom, IBM, Hinduja Global, Medscheme etc.
Primarily the emphasis for these companies is in the significant labour arbitrage opportunities with employing Mauritians, alongside a conducive business environment and a supportive government. Mostly the nature of services being delivered from Mauritius are voice-centric technical and non-technical support services.
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