Philip Ugrinov, Vice President of TELUS International Europe, for Economy.bg
The outsourcing company TELUS International Europe plans to open another 500 jobs in Bulgaria by the end of the year. The vast majority of them will be in Plovdiv, where the company moves to a new office. In addition to Plovdiv, the outsourcing provider plans to expand its team in Romania, where another 400 employees will be recruited. Thus, by the end of the year, the company will have a total of 3,500 employees in Europe. “Plovdiv is in a more immature stage in its development of the industry and will provide opportunities for companies like us, which are looking for growth of at least 50% a year, to be able to hire the appropriate people,” Philip Ugrinov, vice president of the company.
Why TELUS International Europe expands its presence in Plovdiv, what is the potential of the Romanian labor market and which other countries the company is looking for a new acquisitions – see what shared Philip Ugrinov, Vice President of the company, for Economy.bg.
Mr. Ugrinov, how has TELUS International Europe changed in recent years?
In 2012, we became part of the TELUS family. Then we had about 850 employees and now we have 2,600 in Bulgaria, Romania and the UK. We report revenue growth of over 70% last year. We introduced a lot of trainings for our employees with the help of the parent company. The last five years can be defined as constant development forward and upward.
What are the main factors for the growth that you take into account?
One is the macroeconomic factor. Bulgaria managed to rank third in Cushman & Wakefield’s world ranking for best outsourcing destination last year. This gives signals to international investors that there is a potential for the industry development in Bulgaria.
Did this lead to greater customer confidence in you?
I would say that this has led to greater customer interest in us. Such surveys help when customers make an initial analysis, whether Bulgaria is the place where they would like to carry out some of their work.
New clients from which sectors have you added?
Last year, the total number of new customers we added was seven. The main were from tourism sector, among them an airline, the others were from the gaming sector and several from the e-commerce.
What are your plans to increase the investment and the team?
We are planning a significant expansion this year. The staff growth we have had over the last four years is an average of 50% per year. We think we will keep the average growth. We believe that we will also improve the growth of nearly 50% of the revenue we have had over the last four years. The Bulgarian Outsourcing Association reports that the industry is growing by about 20-22% per year, while last year we recorded revenue growth of 73%. Thus, we are growing at a much faster pace than the market.
How many new jobs will you create?
This year our team will grow with a total of 900 people in the region. The main focus will be on Bulgaria and Romania. In our country by the end of the year, we plan to attract another 500 people, and in Romania – about 400. Thus, out of a total of 2,600 current employees, our team will reach 3,500 by the end of the year.
What is the amount of investment that will allow you such a grow?
The amount of capital investment in equipment in Europe is about 5.5 million euro this year.
Your plans for 2020 are quite ambitious. What will you rely on for their realization?
Our plans for 2020 are really very ambitious. We believe that in the coming years in the industry we will see consolidation, acquisition and merger processes.
Do you have such plans?
Our company is part of the TELUS International Corporation, which has a team of 20,000 people worldwide. First of all, we will grow organically. However, mergers and acquisitions are not excluded in the coming years.
We are confident that by 2020 we can reach 10,000 employees in Europe and 200 million euro turnover through these two strategies – organic growth plus mergers and acquisitions.
We will look for partners whom we are interested in because of the sector and the services they provide. Whether they will be based in a Balkans or in Europe, it will not matter much.
You have an office in Manchester. What business do you do there?
We have a small office in Manchester where we currently have technical support with a team of about 20 people. They are Englishmen who provide technical support for two major global clients.
You plan to hire 500 people in Bulgaria this year. How will you attract them?
The main focus of this year’s development will be on our new office in Plovdiv. We already have an office there, and next month we will find a new one with about 500 jobs. Thus, much of the growth will happen in Plovdiv.
Why did you choose Plovdiv?
We chose Plovdiv more than six years ago after studying several cities. Plovdiv was the most suitable choice for us due to the presence of universities and over 30 thousand students at that time.
Why did you prefer Plovdiv over Sofia for the expansion this year? Do you think there is greater potential for growth there?
Plovdiv currently offers greater potential for development. The official data of the Bulgarian Outsourcing Association shows that there are about 5,000 people employed in the industry. We believe that Plovdiv is in a more immature stage in the development of the industry and will enable companies like us, who are looking for growth of at least 50% per year, to hire the correspondent people.
Apart from Plovdiv and Sofia, do you have any plans to open offices in other cities in Bulgaria?
This year we do not plan to open other offices in Bulgaria or Romania. It is important for us to make our investment and use it in the most appropriate way.
The goal of your team to reach 10,000 employees by 2020 does not mean opening new offices in other cities?
In Romania we have offices where we believe there is huge potential for development. We currently have about 500 employees there. If by the end of the year we are able to implement our plan to hire another 400, the total number will be 900. Romania is three times bigger than Bulgaria, so we should be able to develop our business at levels at least twice over those in Bulgaria.
What is the situation with the labor market in Romania? Do they have similar problems and how are they resolved?
In many ways, the labor market situation is very similar to that in Bulgaria. The only difference is that Romania is a much larger market. Nearly 22 million people live there. The country manages in its policy of detaining people. In addition, Romania has a stronger focus on the regional development. We have done research in different cities in Romania and almost all have international routes to European cities. For example, our office in Craiova has direct lines to Italy every day, which contributes to the business relations. Romania provides much more potential in terms of people we can hire than Bulgaria.
How do you evaluate the potential of the outsourcing industry in Bulgaria? Does it become uncompetitive? A recent ranking has shown that we are losing attractiveness as an outsourcing destination.
Within 2-3 years, Bulgaria will likely continue to experience hiring difficulties. Everyone in the industry says they have difficulty with that. The IT industry has jobs for 10,000 people. We also have the potential to hire about 200 people a month, so we are constantly looking for between 150-200 people. Therefore, the development of the Bulgarian outsourcing industry will surely lead to the search for opportunities in new cities.
However, a serious state policy on infrastructure and education is required. The companies in the industry rely mainly on people who have graduated with foreign languages schools. If Bulgaria really has a serious intention to develop this industry, the number of these high schools should increase. In addition, Bulgaria must open its universities to the world. I want to see in our country in the coming years an international university from Germany or from France to open a branch here.
There must be masters programs to prepare staff for our industry – to have master programs for management of the outsourcing industry and project management in the ITO industry. This will be clear signal to foreign investors.
We can stay in the rankings only if there are clear signs of improvements in the infrastructure and the education system. If these reforms do not happen, Bulgaria will probably lose its positions gradually.