DURBAN BECOMES BPO HOTSPOT SAYS WEBHELP
Starting with just one client and a workforce of 100 people across two floors of Webhelp’s Umhlanga Ridgeside office in October last year, this global consultancy and customer experience organisation has quickly shown the demand for Durban as a business hub.
In just a year, the Durban location has brought in further clients and will employ 674 young individuals across the entire office of four floors – with big plans for further growth.
“BPO [business process outsourcing] is one of the fastest-growing sectors in South Africa with significant year-on-year growth,” commented Tammy Chetty, Managing Director of Webhelp South Africa. “We’ve had significant government and stakeholder support leaning into the incredible job opportunities this sector creates for young, unemployed individuals with little or no work experience.”
Chetty said the quality of skills found in South Africa and the high level of English-speaking employees have seen it become a ‘hotspot for BPO’, with organisations across the world looking to South Africa to offshore non-core work packages and capitalize on the value proposition South Africa has to offer.
Beyond the skill level demonstrated by the young South African workforce, Chetty said the country had set itself apart in the BPO sector through the sheer resilience demonstrated during the pandemic. At a time when so many companies were forced to shut down and retrench, Webhelp was doing the unthinkable by opening up a new branch in Umhlanga Ridge – providing jobs at a crucial time in the country’s economic history.
“Moreover, I feel that the industry showed great resilience by coming together and working in partnership to lobby the role-players in the sector to secure essential service status during lockdown. this is one of the sectors that employs the youth. Shutting our doors would have left a large number of young unemployed individuals resulting in greater risk for families and society as a whole,” continued Chetty.
She said many competing countries were not able to sustain operations during this time, forcing them to shut doors. However, Webhelp was able to remain open with an essential service status and transition by adhering to COVID protocols in the workplace and through employing flexible work operations.
Webhelp has increased its headcount in South Africa from around 4 200 last years (at its six operational sites across the country) to 5 350 to date – with significant growth at its newest site in Durban. The branch has more than doubled in size, something Chetty attributes to the resilience and particular sales ability of Durban employees.
“The local partnerships with BPESA [Business Process Enabling South Africa] and TIKZN (Trade & Investment KZN) are also incredibly impactful to our operations. We’ve also strengthened the operations management team with the appointment of Bradley Pillay as Director of Operations who joins Mustapha Baker, Michael Deftereos, Kim Woodgate, Morne Amos and Diana Costelha. We are already in discussions with multiple new clients and anticipate our Durban site doubling again within the next year,” said Chetty.
Central to Webhelp’s operations is community engagement, evidenced during the devastating floods that hit KZN in April, killing around 450 and displacing thousands more. In response, Webhelp’s Task Force Team from its Operations, Business Resilience, Facilities and People Functions came together to provide support for the community including transport, fresh water, food parcels and accommodation.
Further to this, Webhelp’s Durban office is involved in the national Columba Leadership, a South African social enterprise that offers values-based leadership programmes for Grade 10 to 12 pupils, principals and teachers in economically disadvantaged communities. Columba Leadership aims to ensure hundreds of thousands of young people live up to their potential and recognise their ability to lead change in their own lives, their schools and their communities.