Outsourcing Forum Indicates Bulgaria Can Be ‘Silicon Valley’ of Black Sea Region

Bulgaria has the potential to become a sort of a “Silicon Valley” of the Black Sea, according to participants in a conference on outsourcing and off-shoring, organized by AmCham, the InvestBulgaria Agency, and Colliers International. More than 300 international and local delegates attended the first “Realizing the Potential – Bulgaria on the Outsourcing and Off-shoring Map” conference in Sofia on Nov. 11, 2010, an initiative of the American Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria (AmCham) and the governmental InvestBulgaria Agency, in cooperation with Colliers International.

“The Conference turned into a truly engaging and successful industry exchange. The one-day event gathered more than 300 international and local delegates – high ranking governmental officials, prominent experts and senior executives, who shared valuable experience and engaged in a forward-looking discussion about Bulgaria’s potential as an outsourcing and off-shoring location,” AmCham said in a follow-up statement Monday.

“One of the key objectives of AmCham is to support the government in positioning Bulgaria as an attractive investment destination. The event was an excellent opportunity for international companies to meet and network with Bulgarian companies and to explore the potential of Bulgaria as an outsourcing and off-shoring location”, commented Valentin Georgiev, Executive Director, American Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria.

Keynote speakers and attendants of the event included Traycho Traykov, Minister of Economy, Energy and Tourism; Rossen Plevneliev, Minister of the Regional Development and Public Works; Krassimir Popov, deputy-minister of Labor and Social Policy. Amongst the prominent speakers were senior representatives from McKinsey & Company, AES, Hewlett-Packard, TMF, Johnson Controls, OPI, Adecco, SAP Labs and Colliers International.

According to Borislav Stefanov, head of the InvestBulgaria Agency, Bulgaria has three major advantages as an outsourcing destination: the location and cultural proximity to key markets, its political and macroeconomic stability and the qualified human resources and talent. He believes it is the government’s job to make sure that the perception of Bulgaria by investors reflects the benefits that it offers.

“Bulgaria has a great opportunity to become a niche player in Eastern Europe and to be known for specialized skills adding value to business operations and development”, said Atanas S. Garov, Managing Director of Colliers International, Bulgaria, as quoted in the AmCham statement.

According to him, services with highest development potential include IT, engineering, research and development (R&D). He noted that employees in the outsourcing and off-shoring industry in Bulgaria which at present are some 10 000-15 000, could potentially reach 100 000 within five years if there are concentrated efforts to attract investors and major service users.

“The incremental growth for outsourcing companies from Eastern Europe within the next 10 years could increase 4 times up to USD 440 B… Bulgaria can become the Silicon Valley of the Black Sea with the united efforts of the business, the government and the academia. In order to become a leading outsourcing/off shoring (O&O) destination by 2020, the country needs targeted demand and talent development/attraction initiatives, such as raising funding from public and private sponsors; improving suitable talent availability; identification of focus areas for the local O&O players; structural changes to the educational system, setting up a Bulgarian expats regain program and assuring a highly reliable, cost-effective enabling infrastructure,” believes Detlev Hoch, Senior Partner at McKinsey and Company.

“When choosing an outsouring/off-shoring provider, the financial offer is not always the most important decision factor but also the quality of the services, the infrastructure and communications, and the business environment. Local government’s support is also crucial: developing university programs focused on outsourcing, providing incentives to business, sponsoring educational programs and helping local companies define the opportunities to leverage language skills and cost optimization,” said in turn Elizabeth Hackenson, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, AES Corporation, USA.

“In order to be a country of preference for the outsourcing and off-shoring industry, Bulgaria needs to invest not only in infrastructure, quality of service and education but also to encourage innovative business projects and entrepreneurial skills, as well as ensure that there is a strong government commitment to this cause,” believes Sasha Bezuhanova, Director, Public Sector CEE, Hewlett Packard.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria, founded in 1994, unites over 300 American, Bulgarian and international companies operating in the country, collectively producing over half of the GDP in the country.

The Bulgarian Investment Agency (InvestBugaria) is a government organization under the supervision of the Ministry of Economy, Energy and Tourism, whose mission is to promote Bulgaria as an investment destination and to assist companies with the successful implementation of their investment projects.

Colliers International is one of the largest commercial real estate services companies in the world with over 15 000 professionals operating out of more than 480 offices in 61 countries. The company has been active in Bulgaria since 1991.

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