CITY PROFILE: Barranquilla Thrives as a “Disruptor” Location Loaded with Upside

Not so a few years in the past, Colombia’s standing as a Nearshore vacation spot was on rocky floor. Despite its inhabitants – now round 50 million – the nation’s bilingual expertise was sorely missing, Nearshore Americas found.

Since then, the Nearshore world has modified. Colombia, which enjoys a strategic location on the northerly-most level of South America, and so connecting to Central and North America, stands as a poster boy for the Nearshore trade. 

Barranquilla, the nation’s fourth main metropolis and positioned on the Caribbean coast and flanked by the Magdalena River which supplied the idea for town’s industrial heritage, is on the coronary heart of Colombia’s BPO-specific efforts, and is consultant of Colombia’s latest progress.  Starting with the launch of the Sykes operation (almost exactly ten years ago), Barranquilla has grown at a torrid tempo — racing to changing into probably the most outstanding ‘disruptor’ places in your complete Nearshore area. 

The financial system of Atlantico division, by which town is situated, grew quicker than the nationwide common in 2019 and Barranquilla has the bottom unemployment fee of any Colombian metropolis: 11.5% in comparison with the 15% nationwide common. Atlantico’s ahead progress remains to be comparatively younger, by between 2003 and 2018, financial poverty amongst its inhabitants decreased from 49.5% in 2003 to 21.3%. 

Atlantico has claimed many financial prizes lately. The largest renewable power web site in Colombia might be constructed within the Atlantico division whereas the Arena Del Rio, a multi-use stadium and leisure hub, is among the many largest city improvement initiatives in Latin America and might be situated adjoining to the Magdalena River. The area, to be constructed by Two Way Stadiums in conjunction with Universal Music Group which can carry its artists to carry out on the web site, is predicted to generate over 260,000 jobs, immediately and not directly, throughout construct and operation.

Business Friendliness and Connectivity

Atlantico and Barranquilla have finished a lot to make sure a pleasant entrance into the native marketplace for worldwide enterprise. The 4 everlasting free commerce zones situated in or close to to town provide tax incentives whereas actual property costs stay considerably decrease than competitor cities. Barranquilla has over 20 enterprise facilities with A+ class workplaces that price a median of US$11.6 per m2 to lease, in contrast in opposition to US$12.9 per m2 in Medellin or US$16.8 per m2 in Bogotá. 

Internet providers are a actual power of the area as a result of 4 of the 13 web submarine cables that join Colombia to the remainder of the world arriving to Atlantico. There can also be a direct connection with the Network Access Point of Miami, giving corporations the chance to attach extra carefully with the Floridian metropolis.

Four of the 13 web submarine cables that join Colombia to the remainder of the world arrive to Atlantico

Colombia’s Departmental Competitiveness Report, which ranks departments by indicators together with web bandwidth, the variety of residential houses with laptop entry, houses with mobile phone entry and glued broadband penetration, positioned Atlantico in third nationally behind the Bogota and Bolívar departments.

Barranquilla: Educational PowerHouse

A serious a part of Barranquilla’s efforts to attract in additional BPO corporations and generate alternatives for the native financial system has been pushed by schooling efforts. In 2019, Atlantico was rated as the highest division in Colombia and Barranquilla the highest metropolis in Education First’s English Proficiency Index.

Miguel Vergara, Minister of Economic Development for Atlantico authorities

“By partnering with main BPOs and adapting new schooling methods, we’re making a actual drive to enhance English skills right here,” Miguel Vergara, the Minister of Economic Development for the Atlantico authorities, informed Nearshore Americas. 

Atlantico produced over 240,000 graduates between 2001 and 2019 by its 17 licensed larger studying institutes. According to ProfessionalBarranquilla stats, 84% of college graduates within the division go away college with B2 degree of English. Yet not all graduates need to go into name middle operations, and for the roughly 18,000 BPO job alternatives accessible within the metropolis, extra new English talking expertise is required.

“There’s a nice affinity between native individuals and the US, so English is discovered rapidly. Companies could not all the time be capable to discover giant numbers of bilingual after they initially arrive however inside six months there are the individuals they want, certified,” mentioned Vergara.

A big a part of that effort is the National Training Service (SENA), a nationally funded public establishment that gives vocational coaching. In Atlantico, SENA has 19 establishments to assist develop English-speaking skills for native individuals who need to go on to work within the BPO sector.

SENA Atlantico Director Jacqueline Rojas and her crew are pushing forward with a new English-language studying technique, English for Work, that they hope to enhance on SENA’s meagre latest output.

SENA Atlantico Director Jacqueline Rojas

“We noticed there was a big alternative to do higher with English coaching and meet the wants that corporations have been telling us that they had,” mentioned Rojas.

In 2019, simply 0.003% of scholars that enrolled in SENA’s bilingual applications went on to coach with BPO corporations. After forging stronger strategic alliances with corporations together with Teleperformance and Sitel, SENA has elevated its retention charges to 79% in Atlantico. This robust academic efficiency is increasing Barranquilla’s expertise pool.

“Relations between the private and non-private sectors are shut,” mentioned Vergara. “This and the colleges present a robust ecosystem to attract corporations right here.”

Continued Cultural Fit

Despite the robust Spanish accent of native individuals, Barranquilla is well-known for its flat English accent, that means few corporations have the necessity to practice for accent neutralization coaching. 

This may very well be attributed to town’s proximity to US hubs like Miami, which is reached from Barranquilla on a flight lasting lower than 3 hours. Locals declare a robust cultural affinity with the United States. Though that is actually not a distinctive characteristic within the Nearshore market, US tradition feels shut in Barranquilla. That a main US vacationer vacation spot – Cartagena – is simply up the street, means the tourism trade offers many roles for locals and folks can lay declare to having a stronger sense of US subtleties than in different cities like Bogotá or Cali. 

“Barranquilla may be very Americanized. CEOs and VPs really feel very comfy right here,” Sebastian Calvo, Site Director at Nearshore Call Center (NCC), a Colombian subsidiary of US BPO, AGR Group. 

“Barranquilla may be very Americanized. CEOs and VPs really feel very comfy right here.” — Sebastian Calvo

NCC offers inbound and outbound providers to purchasers from a variety of sectors together with power and utilities, house insurance coverage and telecommunications. AT&T is counted amongst its purchasers. Four years in enterprise, NCC considers itself a boutique name middle that scales with its purchasers’ calls for. According to Calvo, curiosity in Barranquilla is rising by the day and NCC is forecast to duplicate its workforce by the tip of 2022. The firm averages round 400 lodge nights a 12 months for events.

“Our beginnings in Colombia have been humble. We had a 10 seater area. But now, we’ve acquired over 300 workers, are transferring into our second facility in December and purpose to double our headcount by subsequent 12 months. With what is occurring in Mexico, we’re getting a lot of enterprise,” mentioned Calvo.

Javier Chia, Business Unit Director at Sitel

Sitel will develop into the realm’s largest BPO employer, overtaking HGS which employs 2,000 individuals throughout its three CX facilities within the metropolis, as soon as its workforce is mixed with that of Sykes following the recent US$2.2 billion acquisition. Sitel’s MAXHub model, which locations a concentrate on flexibility of workspaces and a extra holistic method to work and life (the inclusion of a free health club with on-premise trainers and psychical therapists is one such instance) is meant to rid the corporate of the normal brick-and-mortar contact middle ideology.

“Barranquilla has a nice younger expertise pool and we need to provide alternatives that enhance lives,” mentioned Javier Chia, Business Unit Director at Sitel in Barranquilla.

The Facts: 

  • Population: 1.2 million (2.6 million in Atlantico Department)
  • Mayor’s Office: Goal to coach 1,500 bilingual professionals per thirty days
  • Bilingualism: 84% of graduates in Atlantico go away college with B2 English 
  • Universities: 17 licensed larger studying institutes
  • Connectivity: Four submarine cables join Atlantico to the surface world
  • Real Estate: US$11.6 per m2 for business workplace area

Photo credit score: Dawin Rizzo

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