Doing Business in the Philippines - Call Centers Come to Life at Night

Outsourcing is the fastest growing industry in the Philippines, ranks second to India worldwide on the strength of its excellent reputation for voice based communications and expertise in back office processes like accounting, bookkeeping and web development. It helps that the country has embraced the social network revolution in a big way, first with Friendster (largest demographic) and now Facebook where 1 in 4 online Filipinos maintain an account. A growing cadre of Virtual Assistants, SEO experts and Customer Service agents crowd the streets of Philippine business centers of Makati, Ortigas, the Fort and Cebu. Companies looking to harness this valuable resource must consider how the country's labor pool function when confronted by changing political and socioeconomic realities. A quick visit to gave me a good sample of available knowledge workers in Metro Manila alone.
The corner of Legazpi St. and Rada St. was your typical big city street scene - bustling traffic, swarming lunch traffic, daily urban noise. Who would have imagined this scene at midnight? Starbucks compete with 7-11s in every corner. While McDo and KFC serve it hot at 2am. Welcome to Makati City's new night life. This is the new business environment.
We see the dynamics of this industry 4 months later, when the same call centers around Makati are buzzing with animated chatter about the latest political scandals rocking the Philippines. New witnesses give more weight to recent allegations of extreme corruption in high places, senate hearings fill the airwaves and make daily news headlines. Its impossible to ignore but what do our new heroes have to say about it all?
" Its sad about the state of our nation, but I have a quota to fill otherwise I'll never be a permanent employee...", says Jules Young, longtime Assistforce Virtual Assistant, underscoring the importance of business as usual over politics.
"Sana binigay na lang nila ang perang kikitain sa tao, e di may pambili na sila nang calling card na benta naming sa trabaho!" (I'd much prefer getting the money back from all the corruption, then the people can use the money to buy phone calling cards - more business for us!) - Joanna Enerlan, Assistforce web designer.
When asked about the rallies scheduled in Makati that afternoon and if they are joining, most begged off, citing the need to sleep and prepare for the night shift.
This month's topic of interest: GMA announces her bid for Congress in 2010. Predictably, there are no protests, strikes, nothing. People are in the business of making a living working at night servicing businesses in New York and Los Angeles - can't spend too much time in politics when there's only so much hours in a day to sleep.

Asian Models All The Rage In Luxury World

China’s Liu Wen may not yet have the sizzling star power of Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen, but she is leading a bevy of Asian beauties down the world’s top catwalks – and onto global billboards.

The scramble by Western brands to feature Asian faces in ad campaigns and eye-catching runway shows from New York to Paris – where fashion week began on Tuesday – parallels Asia’s rising clout in the world of luxury goods.

Experts say while foreign labels are hoping to connect with new customers across the region – especially in China – by offering them models with a more familiar look, the Asian craze also reflects the globalisation of the sector.

“Savvier companies are using Asian models to penetrate the China market and try to create an emotional bond with consumers, and to give an aspiration that Chinese can look up to,” Shaun Rein, the Shanghai-based managing director of China Market Research Group, told AFP.

The 23-year-old Liu last year became the first Asian face of beauty brand Estee Lauder, and her runway calendar has been booked solid since her debut in 2008.

In late 2010, she strutted her stuff for US lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret for the second year running – the only Chinese woman to have done so.

Her compatriot Shu Pei, 21, is one of the faces of Maybelline cosmetics – a role also filled by Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” fame – and also stars in print ads for the Gap brand.

And teenager Danica Magpantay of the Philippines was in January selected as Supermodel of the World by the prestigious Ford modeling agency – and promptly marched straight onto the catwalks in New York last month.

But Asian women are not the only ones making waves in the fashion world.

In January, Taiwanese-Canadian actor Godfrey Gao was named the first Asian face of Louis Vuitton, striking a pose in the French house’s ads with a sleek checkered messenger bag – the new staple of the upwardly mobile Chinese man.

“When you look at some of these brands like Louis Vuitton, they are generating a significant portion of their global revenue in China, so it makes sense to have Asian models,” Rein says.

China is the world’s fastest-growing market for luxury goods and is forecast to be the world’s top buyer of such products as cosmetics, handbags, watches, shoes and clothes by 2015, according to consultancy PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

Industry heavyweights such as Chanel, Vuitton and Versace are well-established in China, but others like Chloe – a French label with a reputation for ultra-feminine casual chic – are looking to make a mark.

Chloe chief executive Geoffroy de la Bourdonnaye, who was in Shanghai last week for a special runway show celebrating the label’s fifth anniversary in China, said brands would use Asian models, but only when it suits their image.

“Chloe is a brand of the world and the world is now fully mixed – races and cultures. It’s only natural that Asian models are becoming more and more important,” De La Bourdonnaye said during a group interview.

“We’ve had some Asian models. We will continue to have Asian models. But the majority of our models are Caucasian,” he said.

“Whether they are Asian or not is not the number one criteria. It’s more personality and the type.”

Frederic Godart, a France-based professor at international business school INSEAD whose research focuses on fashion, says while the luxury industry is “seeing a Chinese moment”, labels still need to appeal to customers worldwide.

“The use of Asian models by Western brands is a way to look more global,” Godart told AFP. “Everyone in the fashion and luxury industries wants to look global and trendy by using models from elsewhere.”

Liu – who is wrapping up the month-long autumn/winter 2011 ready-to-wear catwalk marathon in Paris after stops in New York, London and Milan – knows that Asian models still have a long way to go before they become mainstream.

“The challenge for me, and for Asian models in general, has been convincing editors, stylists and photographers that we can have mass appeal,” she told US Vogue for a December spread on Asia’s rising stars.

Why Scuba Diving in the Philippines Is Very Popular

With all the news we heard about our marine life destruction, it is still a fascination to know that Philippines has maintained some places untouched making it one of the most preferred scuba diving spots in the world. That is why scuba diving in the Philippines is well known and many tourists are drawn to coming back here most of the time.
What makes Philippines a more appealing spot for scuba diving is its abundance in seas and beaches where you can do this. With a coastline of 36,289 kilometers, you will never run out of choices to enjoy your diving experience. With varieties on the mode of transportations, divers find it easier and quicker to go to their preferred diving spots. From the three main islands in the Philippines, Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, you can always find a place to dive. Accessibility has become one of the reasons why divers chose to do it here in the Philippines. From its main international airport, you can go to Batangas or Puerto Galera to go scuba diving within just a few hours. One example is Anilao in Batangas. This place boasts that they have a clear visibility of sea all year round. In Puerto Galera, it has many diving spots that you can choose from and has many places to stay to during your vacation.
If you are going to the Visayan region of the Philippines, the most popular diving spot among tourists is Malapascua. This place is also known for shark sightings.
On the southern part of the country, you have Mindanao where a couple of beaches are perfect for scuba diving like Dakak and Pearl Farm.
In Palawan, you will find the most well known Tubbataha reef, which is declared as a world heritage site and one of the wonders of the world. With the highly guarded place, reservations are made a year ahead or years ahead before you can do your diving here. However, for anyone who has gone here already, divers said that waiting is worth the wait and declaring it as such is just a deserving reward for Tubbataha.
Climate is also one of the reasons why scuba diving has become so popular in the Philippines. There are only two seasons here: wet and dry. Dry seasons starts from March until early part of June. This is the best time to do scuba diving. You will find many scuba divers with you, which will make it more fun and enjoying. You may choose to do it with your friend or you can always have a professional diver with you for your own safety.
Cold months are from November to February. You may still do your scuba diving during these months though there will still be some unexpected rain showers that may become a nuisance during diving. Wet season is a big NO for divers, definitely. Storms, strong rains and winds can be very harmful. It is at your own risk if you choose to continue.
Since it has become one of the leading activities, you will find that each diving spots has ready equipment for you to rent or buy for your own. In cases, you forgot one of your gears or it got broken, you will it handy that these stores exist when you need them most. Places to stay is not a problem since there are cottages or little cabanas, more like an apartment, that you can rent during your stay. Rental prices are fair enough compared to other diving spots outside the country, which makes it more appealing to do your scuba diving in the Philippines.

Philippines Home-based Call Centers

Experts urged Philippines call centers to try home-based operations with home based agents. One of those is William Dieu, senior research analyst from callcentres dot net. However, Benedict Hernandez, senior vice president and general manager for Philippines of eTelecare, said technological factors hinder the development of this kind of job. Also, John Langford, executive vice president of ICT group, said it will take time before this system is adapted. Lots of news about home-based operations of call center has been discussed. US is surviving this kind of set up, the industry has been in the United States but this set-up has been used only in the last five years. And according to some news this is effective in US. Philippines as one of the most famous countries leading of having a successful call center industry is now opening its perspective about operating the home-based call center industry. Furthermore, It is expected that Philippines could be able to operate this kind of work since Philippines is a competitive country in dealing with call center industry like US.

The Philippines call center industry, is now being feared as possibly a bubble industry as well. With analysts predicting the downfall of the call center industry possibly sooner than the later due to stiff global competition. but the latest trend of home based call center startups will alter this fate. As to what kind of individual is best suited for this job opportunity, one may base this on the job specifications. As of now, little statistics or news is available to gauge the success rate of home based call centers. Considering, however, that these call centers will still earn in dollars, profitably may probably better than the other locally sourced home-based opportunities, Interested individuals must beware, however, of business offers that are not backed up with proper licensing as these may simply yet another strategy of con artists to embezzle their hard-earned money.

LDP Business reported that British workers will be laid off because Shop Direct had planned to close a call center in Crosby. A company’s support has been frightened by a business who finds for work-at-home call center personnel who’ll be hired in Philippines. One of Shop Direct's partners, Arise Virtual Solutions stated that before the year ends, they expected to have 5 or 6 clients in UK. They need to recruit 1,000 clients in which 300 of them will work for the so called home-based business to be located in the North-eastern part of United States. But the uncertain part of it is that the staff needs to pay for their own setup expenses. By the end of April, Online and catalog retailer Shop Direct will close its Crosby call center which will result to the lay-off of 1,000 jobs.

Philippine call centers are urged to try home-based operations to curb high attrition rate and increase employee satisfaction. Based from the present data of Contact Center Association of the Philippines (CCAP), the hire rate in the contact center industry was only about 5 to 10 from 100 applicants. Doctolero said that he will be proposing the work-from-home agents in a meeting with call center companies. When an agent works from home, the one-X Agent will provide easy access to both agent and contact Centre Company. It will run using Microsoft Windows. It has a pop-up information screen that will provide basic information that is essential to the caller. The agent can pre-record a welcome message for the callers. By means of the wizard and tutorials, agents can simply run the software at home. 

Saving the Best For Last

December of 2006 when my wife's relatives from Australia came to the Philippines to spend their Christmas holiday. We were ecstatic in our preparation to delight these balikbayan relatives at the very least, letting them experience once again how is to be Christmas in the Philippines. We decided to have our dinner in a sea food restaurant along Macapagal Boulevard, known for its festive ambiance come night time. At the dinner, I remained timid as always though bit observant of almost everything that is going on around the dinner table. As everybody is having their meal, I noticed my sister in-law painstakingly peeling of the shells of a large size sugpo (shrimp), and carefully set it aside her plate. When the dinner was about to end and it was time to foot the bill, my son saw the peeled off shrimp near her aunt's plate. Thinking that her aunt no longer wanted to eat those, he tweaked it from his aunt's plate and PRESTO! It was all gone in seconds. My sister-in law was so furious and berated her nephew by saying, "di mo ba alam itinitira ko yun para sa huling subo? (Don't you know I reserved it for my last bite?). Everybody was laughing at my sister-in law for how the best that she had saved ended as the last bite of my son.
The Test of Life
It was also that same year when we experienced life's most difficult test. I left my lucrative job in the semiconductor industry because of personal differences with my boss and settled for another job that pays relatively lesser than what I used to receive. With the kind of lifestyle, we found ourselves in the difficult situation of transition. Gone were the days of family's usual weekend get-away outside Manila. The countless Friday dinner dates with my wife and the Sunday treats for the entire family were all vanished in an instant, together with my pride and self-esteem.
My new job as a Manager in a fashion retail company demands time more than what I can give to myself and family. My health succumbed to the pressure of stressful work and so as the intimacy in the family. After consulting my wife, I decided to leave the company and settled for small business at home. The business though profitable didn't provide enough for the family's needs and we were facing then the toughest question; can we still afford our children's high cost of education? That time, I was considering to downgrade my children's school; - from private to public, an option that my wife doesn't agreed. With no other options left but abroad, for me is a bitter pill to swallow.
Gone for abroad
August of 2007, I packed my things for abroad armed with hope of giving better future for my family. There I left my wife, a son and three daughters. While I was toiling away in a foreign soil, I managed to exchange communications with my family and she makes sure to update me every time even the smallest and trivial things that are happening back home. Our life improves a bit and we were slowly picking up fragments of our broken dreams. "This is the kind of break I need", I quipped.
The Tragedy
A month before Christmas, I was busy filling up and checking the list of my pasalubong inside the balik-bayan box and making sure that everything is complete and that nobody will be missed out. Canned goods, chocolates, toys, shoes, perfumes and clothes were all perfectly selected based on my kid's preference. While packing the boxes, I remember my daughter's constant prodding, "Daddy, kailan mo papadala yung yung gift mo sa akin?" (Daddy when will you send your gift for me?) "Malapit na, basta bago mag Pasko" (In due time, I will send it before Christmas) was my reply. "This time I'm sure they all going to' like it because these are nothing but the best" I remember telling myself.
Days had past and Christmas is just around the corner and it was Sunday, just a typical working day for me in the office. It's almost past 12 noon and still never received any text messages from my wife or my children. Though quite unusual but I thought they are just busy. I sent a text message to my wife to check if everything is okay but still haven't got a reply from her. That Sunday proved to be the most difficult test of my life. I received news that my wife and three daughters ages 2, 7 and 12 got involved in a vehicular accident while inside a jeepney on their way to the church. The vehicle they were riding was rammed by a wayward truck while it is crossing the intersection of San Andres Street and Osmena highway. My two younger daughters were slightly injured for they were cushioned by the bodies of other passengers that filed on top of them.
My eldest daughter was thrown out of the vehicle because of the impact of the collision and escaped death only by a hairline; thank God that there were no oncoming vehicles to the spot where she landed. The young lady sitting beside her was badly hurt and her leg was later amputated due to the severity of the injury. The old lady; a 'balikbayan' (returnee) sitting next to my wife didn't have the luck; she died on her way to the hospital. My wife who happens to be sitting in the last row near the vehicle egress absorbed most of the injury that could have been for my children. After having been thrown outside the jeep, though conscious but her vision was too blurred caused by the impact of her head hitting the pavement. With her remaining strength, she struggled to reach for my daughter who was crying in pain while being lifted by a bystander to safety. She cried for help from other bystanders to remove my two younger daughters still pinned inside the jeep with files of bleeding and unconscious passengers.
Saving the Best for Last
When that news was relayed to me, I was in the office and I couldn't remember if I cried. All I know is that I was dumb-founded, motion less and I don't even know how I would react. At that instance, I realized that everything I saved, the people I cared about and good future that I hope for can render futile in just an instant. When I came back to my room that Sunday evening, I saw the balikbayan (returnee) boxes sitting in one corner of the room. I opened the boxes and saw how the stuffs were carefully and neatly arranged inside but almost could be rendered nearly worthless by that accident.
Learning Curve
That accident had opened my eyes on the deeper understanding of life. My desire to achieve the best of everything out of this world defines the kind of life that most of us is creating in the process, hence neglecting the very purpose of our life. We often enslaved ourselves to work limiting our role as a parent to just a provider. How often we failed to visit our mother on her birthday because we are busy with our work? How many times did I forget to greet my wife on our wedding anniversary because I was preoccupied by my thoughts of work? Life is short and we have to make the most out of it every single day. The love that we keep inside should be expressed for no one knows what will happen tomorrow.