There are a number of what are known as hub cities in Europe where it is relatively straight-forward to service customers from multiple countries in multiple languages but as the centre of economic activity moves East around the globe, companies are increasingly looking to do something similar in Asia. However, it's far harder to this in Asia. This article looks at what you should do if you want to service customers from as few locations as possible.
Asia is different to Europe. In Europe, it's fairly common for people to speak the language of their neighbouring countries. However, in Asia, a graduate is far more likely to be fluent in English than another Asian language. It's also true that when you cross a national border (or even a state border), you encounter a new language or dialect often from a completely different family of languages.
When you find pockets of people who speak foreign languages in Asia, it is normally due to migration. Here are some examples:
- In Malaysia, about 30% of the population is of Chinese descent and 10% of Indian descent many of whom speak Indian & Chinese languages
- A large number of Filipinos go to work in other countries in Asia such as Korea & Japanese and return home with new-found language skills. The large number of Korean & Japanese businesses in The Philippines also means there is a sizeable amount of native speakers for these languages
- As the most prosperous of the countries in the region, Thailand (and particularly Bangkok) has become a hub for Vietnamese, Cambodians and Burmese people. However, these tend to be predominantly poorly educated people
There are many other examples of this but the best example of a home for immigrants from across Asia is in Australia (particularly in Sydney). Sydney is home to large Korean, Vietnamese, Filipino & Indonesian communities but Sydney is so expensive that many of its own call centres have left for The Philippines. The other consideration is that many migrants are low-skilled and poorly educated so you need to look at the figures of total migrants as part of the bigger picture.
My view on servicing Asia is slightly more complex. Firstly, it's worth considering whether a country requires its own call centre for its own language. I also believe that the Chinese & Indian markets are so large and so complex, that it makes sense to have call centres in both of these countries. India can also be used to service Pakistan or if Pakistan is a large market for you, it can have its own call centre. Hong Kong, Taiwan & Macau can also be serviced fairly easily from mainland China particularly in its southern cities. You should then consider the other countries in groups:
- Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, East Timor & Brunei are one group which is fairly easy to combine normally with a call centre in either Kuala Lumpar or Jakarta. Jakarta is cheaper but Kuala Lumpar offers higher quality.
- The northern-part of French Indochina can be combined into 1 call centre probably based in Bangkok. From here, you can service Vietnamese, Thai and possibly Cambodia, Loas and Myanmar.
- The Philippines is an unusual one. Its call centre industry is predominantly made up of those servicing the US market. Many companies tag The Philippines onto the end of one of these agreements but if you don't outsource English speaking work to The Philippines already, it's still fairly easy to find a good quality call centre at affordable rates for Tagalog work.
So based on this, you can service 3 billion people with 6 call centres. Of course, this particular strategy may not work for you but hopefully, I have given you some thought as to how to go about this.