What is your assessment for the investment in Bulgaria, one year after the deal was made?
- We’ve had the intentions of setting foot in Central and Eastern Europe, but we couldn’t find the right targets for acquisition. After we chose Bulgaria, the management here proved our decision right, by fulfilling all of our plans for growth and profit. Now we intend to provide them with significant financial capital, which they can invest in growth, including through acquisitions. As you most probably know, we are present in 83 countries, and Europe is a market, which until recently we didn’t serve with full value. Therefore, we need larger scale, language capabilities and capacity, and our subsidiary in Bulgaria presents us with such big opportunities. Now we consider that we have to continue developing our presence outside of Sofia. One of the main questions concerning a potential expansion is the government’s plans – whether they are pro-business, or not, and if they think that outsourcing is a priority and they plan to develop it.
What do you expect from your conversation with the government?
-The more the government demonstrates they’re serious about their intentions to help us with opening new jobs, the more secure we can feel about pouring tens of millions of dollars into the country. Every country we get into offers us great discounts and makes significant concessions. Here we’re not looking for anything doled, apart from assistance in hiring new employees. The help can come in many forms – for example by providing additional education in universities. We are already extending our activities in Bulgaria in new areas that we’ve been developing in other countries, such as data analysis and high-quality services for our Cisco Platform. Hence, we are planning on hiring another 100 engineers. We’re also looking at other areas – mainly in our back-office operations – accounting, legal department and others. Therefore at the moment, apart from our main business, our efforts are aimed in that direction, as well. In the whole of Europe, we are betting on strengthening our marketing and sales divisions that provide us with new clients for Bulgaria. Ever since Sofica Group became part of TeleTech, we have brought three new big clients. Our goal this year is to bring at least six more. I am very happy with the work of the management here, as they fully understand the destination our business is headed to on the technical level.
TeleTech has four separate activities – one of them is the strategic consulting service. We hope to find experts in this area here as well, that we can use for our European business.
You mentioned new acquisitions – can you please share what exactly they would be?
-We are interested in acquiring businesses with area of activities similar to Sofica’s, as well as businesses in the digital sector, especially in mobile communications. For us, companies specializing in data analysis are of an interest, too. So, we’re looking at the whole region for existing opportunities. We found out that in Bulgaria, firms working in these areas are relatively small according to US standards. Therefore, we have to decide whether it’s worth acquiring such a company, or to simply build one from scratch.
The outsourcing sector in Bulgaria has a certain growth limit. What do you think that limit is?
-The Customer Service Industry has different segments. We are involved in the area of Overall Solutions. And this type of activity requires a very good strategy, technologies, digital, social and mobile solutions. I don’t think that such an integral business exists in Bulgaria at the moment. We’re trying to establish such a business here. We don’t want to compete with Indian providers for instance, as for them the key indicator is low employee expense. That does not add any value for the client. We would like to stay focused on our work with the world’s largest banks, telecoms, utility service companies and governments.
So you are optimistic about the growth of this market here?
-Yes, I am optimistic. But I also won’t exaggerate. I am concerned about what’s happening in the Euro zone, where instability can still be felt. I do not own a magic ball, so I am not aware of what the future holds. The question is - have we hit rock bottom, or we’re still falling down. I think that if the Bulgarian government chooses to be transparent, effective and honest, the economy will start moving, and vice versa.
I have no doubts about that. In the end of the day, the government possesses two very important things – human capital and infrastructure. And your country has got a very good technological infrastructure – take the internet speed for example, and electricity supply is also stable. For instance, in India these factors are in a much worse condition. In the same time, people here are highly educated and qualified. All that’s left is for the government to conduct good politics, so that the people have trust in it. I will give you an example with Ruanda: President Paul Kagame is a good friend of mine. His country prospers, because he is completely transparent in what things he does and how he does them, there is no corruption, and the infrastructure is developing with a very quick pace. And investors choose his country, although it is located in an unstable region.
The interview was conducted by Konstantin Nikolov