It’s time for a fundamental rethink in the way companies approach their Business Continuity Planning (BCP), in general, and their locations strategy in particular. More than 70 percent of enterprises leverage only a single – usually tier-1 – location in one country for global business services delivery, according to our analysis. And even for companies that leverage tier-2/3 locations, deployment is the highest at their tier-1 location. This deployment model not only limits the full value they can achieve from location diversification, but also significantly increases their BCP risk. Let’s take a deeper look at this. As our recent blog on unlocking value from tier-2/3 locations pointed out, with tier-1 locations fast maturing and saturating, enterprises may soon have to factor in tier-2/3 locations to minimize risk, capitalize on the cities’ advantages, and ensure business continuity. Leading co-working players are also expecting a rise in real estate demand in tier-2/3 cities, and planning to expand to these locations. In India, in particular, a leading global services delivery location, companies that deliver Global Business Services (GBS) and have leveraged tier-2/3 locations as part of their location strategies (such as IBM and Tata Consultancy Services) have benefited significantly from a BCP standpoint by successfully diversifying their:
Concentration risk: Multi-city location strategies, coupled with workload flexibility across delivery centers, have helped minimize prolonged disruption during the pandemic.
Delivery locations risk: Tier-2/3 cities help diversify the location risk and also face lower macro-economic and political risk than tier-1 locations, which adds to their viability.
Functional risk: Many firms, such as Capgemini, leverage tier-2/3 locations as spoke or support centers in a hub-and-spoke delivery model network. In fact, they don’t shy away from distributing highly critical services and processes across tier-1 and -2/3 locations to reduce the functional risk.
And it’s not just the risk diversification advantage – our client interactions have revealed that leveraging tier-2/3 locations across India can help facilitate business continuity during the pandemic in the following ways:
The spread and impact of the virus is concentrated in major tier-1 locations, which account for ~40 percent of the total cases in India. In contrast, most tier-2/3 locations are largely unaffected, and only about 15 percent of them are classified as red zones, or areas with high active cases of COVID-19 and a high doubling rate. Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi in Kerala, Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, Bhubaneshwar in Odisha, and Trichy and Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu are some of the tier-2/3 locations designated as orange/green zones. Thus, restrictions are likely to be relaxed or lifted earlier in those areas, with a faster return to business as usual.
The resilience and back-to-work rate for tier-2/3 locations are higher, as they’re easier to traverse, and employees typically live near offices, unlike in most tier-1 cities, where employees typically rely on public transport to go to work
Most firms that operate in tier-1 locations have a considerably large pool of migrant employees who have returned to their native towns/cities in the light of the lockdown and might not be willing to return to work immediately, given the risks.
At the same time, to unlock the full scale of BCP benefits from tier-2/3 cities, firms need to ensure certain baseline factors to facilitate business delivery:
They need to make sure they have ready, skilled, and trained staff for all critical processes in secondary locations, as it’s difficult to transfer employees from one city to another in the event of an emergency.
They need to establish leadership representation in these locations to better govern and manage the increasing workload.
They need a seamless communication system to facilitate data accessibility and transfer.
They should simplify and redesign their processes to reduce handoffs, decision points of contact, and people dependence.
Numerous locations in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) are emerging as upcoming destinations for global services delivery. Several multinational companies have set up their centers in the MEA region to deliver services to Europe and North America, and tech giants including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Uber are leveraging it for global services delivery. What’s the appeal?
Availability and quality of talent pool
There’s been a consistent increase in the pool of entry-level talent and experienced professionals with domain-specific skills. Egypt is the leader in the region; due to various government measures to improve education quality and a significant rise in contact center operations in multiple languages, including English, French, and Arabic, the country posted an enormous 35 percent increase in the headcount for global services exports in 2018. There’s also been a considerable rise in R&D centers and Centers of Excellence (COEs), where talented professionals with relevant and often advanced technological skill sets work to develop state-of-the-art solutions.
Less competition for talent
Because there’s a relatively large population base, limited jobs, and high unemployment rates throughout much of the region – for example, South Africa is at 27 percent and Nigeria is at 23 percent – organizations can procure talent easily and train the workers as per their specific business needs.
Some of the countries in the MEA region offer highly attractive cost arbitrage compared to source geographies. For example, Egypt, Nigeria, and Kenya come in at 70-80 percent less (although Nigeria and Kenya are primarily leveraged to serve domestic markets), and South Africa (for non-voice F&A) and Morocco (for voice-based services) offer cost savings of 40-60 percent over source geographies.
Proximity to Europe
Proximity with various European countries is a big selling point of many African locations. For example, because Morocco offers both cultural and geographical proximity to France and Spain, companies are increasingly leveraging it for French and Spanish voice-based business process services. Because the English language was introduced by British colonists, and because there’s shared cultural affinity, South Africa is becoming a popular destination for voice-based services delivery for U.K. companies. Additionally, because most African countries share similar time zones with Europe, delivery and client teams are able to collaborate in real time, thereby, optimizing work in both the geographies.
The leading locations in the MEA region
The map below highlights key locations leveraged by global enterprises and service providers for global services delivery. While the emerging locations house 20,000 to 100,000 FTEs across global services, nascent locations employ less than 20,000 FTEs in this space.
A snapshot view of the top five global services delivery locations in MEA
Egypt: Offers the most attractive cost-talent proposition, with strong multilingual skills, especially in English, French, and Arabic languages. However, relatively higher operating environment risk with concerns around high inflation rates and repressive government policies
Morocco: Primarily leveraged for French and Arabic language voice-based BPS and IT services. Morocco offers moderate-high competitive intensity and strong government support (especially for the IT-BPS sector through financial, tax, and customs advantages)
South Africa: Characterized with large, high-quality talent pools and the highest maturity across functions, South Africa houses multiple organizations delivering voice and non-voice BPS, including complex processes. It has a stable geopolitical environment, well-developed infrastructure, high ease of doing business, strong government incentives for the IT-BPS sector, and limited safety and security concerns
Mauritius: It is leveraged for IT (both ADM and infrastructure), non-voice business process services, and R&D services to serve French and Canadian markets. It offers a favorable business environment, with government incentives for the IT-BPS sector, such as tax-free dividends and foreign tax credits
Israel: Leveraged for delivery of advanced IT (including IoT, ML, and AI) and R&D services, primarily to support the U.S. and Europe. Israel offers a highly favorable business environment with lower tax rates and conducive government incentives, such as low corporate tax and grants up to 20 percent of the amount of the investment.
For a detailed view of each of these locations, please read our latest Location Spotlight reports. Each report analyzes the individual country’s global sourcing profile, key opportunities, drivers, challenges, talent and skills availability, financial attractiveness, and environment risks.