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Georgia BPO: Talent, Ambition, and Fertile Ground for CX Delivery

landscape shot of tbilisi georgia at dusk
Tbilisi: a vibrant, historical capital and the heart and soul of Georgia BPO.

When you think of robust digital connectivity, hyper-efficient public services, and a young, talented, multilingual workforce, what’s the first European country that springs to mind?

For me, it’s Georgia, and if the country continues on its current trajectory, it will be my go-to answer for a long time.

Last year, Invest in Georgia invited me to join a familiarization tour as part of a group of international analysts, investors, and business consultants. Initially, my expectations were low, and I had zero knowledge of the country besides an outdated perception that organized crime was an issue there.

Let me address that immediately: Georgia completely solved its mafia problem in 2003 following the Rose Revolution, a nonviolent shift in power that led to significant reforms and the criminalization of mafia involvement. Since then, crime rates have dropped significantly, and it’s one of the safest places to visit in Eastern Europe.

During my tour, I quickly discovered that Georgia is a fascinating, welcoming country with incredible potential as a business process outsourcing (BPO) and customer experience (CX) delivery hub, especially for work-at-home, remote operations.

Here’s a breakdown of my trip and why Georgia is so appealing.

First Impressions

It’s not often that border control guards greet you with a smile, a friendly conversation, and a hearty “enjoy your trip”, so it was refreshing to experience that when I landed, setting a positive tone for the entire visit.

During the cab ride to the hotel, the local architecture and mountainous landscape immediately stood out, although it quickly became apparent that traffic would put a mild dampener on my stay in Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi—nothing I wasn’t used to, having lived in Mexico City and Barcelona, but the slow progress on the road could be potentially off-putting for some visitors.

Upon arrival in the business district, it was clear that I was visiting a modern European city with a young population and a unique identity, immediately piquing my interest. I soon discovered that Georgia has an attractive business environment, with no visa requirements, easy access to mortgages and bank accounts, and a low income tax rate of just 9.9%. The country also has a well-developed communications infrastructure, with 4G available everywhere and plans to bring fiber broadband to the whole country before the end of 2025.

But the true heart of Georgia's potential is its approximately 4 million people—an agile, young, dynamic, well-educated, multilingual workforce ready and motivated to drive the BPO and CX industry forward.

People Power

English language skills are a huge advantage. After Georgia’s exit from the Soviet Union, the government introduced mandatory English education from the second grade, meaning that most citizens under 45 speak some English, even in non-metropolitan areas. In this sense, Georgia is comparable to the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, and other high-ranking English-speaking EU nations.

This strategy has resulted in a diverse linguistic landscape, with English, Russian, and German being the most prevalent languages, in that order, alongside the native—and unique—Georgian language, offering the potential for a multilingual BPO/CX hub catering to a variety of markets in Eurasia.

Georgia’s unemployment rate hovers around 18% — 54% of those aged 20 to 40 — and the country outputs approximately 23,000 graduates from its 34 universities annually. A growing number of immigrants is entering Georgia, with as many as 150,000 new residents in 2022.

From a personal perspective, every interaction I had with people in Georgia was incredibly positive. Everybody is warm, welcoming, and keen to please, with an excellent ethic towards service, adding yet another string to the country’s CX delivery bow.

Georgia BPO Employment Landscape

Georgia's BPO industry is popular among young workers and employs between 15,000 and 20,000 people, with names like Majorel and Concentrix attracting several thousand.

The average salary for BPO workers stands at €335 (US$370) per month, but local BPOs don’t pay as much as global players (see Majorel case study below), and there are no regulations on minimum wage, meaning that compensation is a matter of agreement between the employer and employee.

Georgia's labor code stipulates that overtime pay should be higher than regular working hours. Employees also have a generous allowance for time off and can take 24 working days as paid holidays. In addition, Georgia recognizes 15 official days off for religious holidays, national events, and New Year celebrations. Regarding employment termination, employers must send a written notice to an employee at least one month in advance, along with a payment equivalent to at least one month's salary.

Finally, for remote workers, employers are legally entitled to provide a working environment and everything required to do the job, such as a laptop and office furniture. According to our hosts, Concentrix started operations in Georgia exclusively with work-at-home employees and a small co-working office. However, it grew so quickly that it eventually established an entire contact center facility, presumably enabling it to retain its initial spend on work-at-home equipment.

BPO Case Study: Majorel

Majorel entered Georgia in 2016 and grew to over 3,000 employees and around 1,600 seats between the capital Tbilisi and second-tier cities Kutaisi and Batumi. It provides IT, HR, finance, and traditional BPO services for prominent Fortune 500 brands in the e-commerce, social media, technology, airline, automotive, fashion, and transportation sectors.

Within Majorel's Georgian operations, agents typically have a life cycle of 18 to 24 months, with a voluntary attrition rate of around 20% annually for the company. Even so, the company's site director told me it has no trouble finding talent to fill its growing contact centers.

The company’s minimum gross salary, including bonuses and health insurance, starts at €529 per month but offers as high as €2,400 plus performance bonuses for some positions — considerably higher than the national BPO average.

Majorel chose Georgia due to the lack of bureaucratic obstacles and the country's flat income tax, with its most prominent clients viewing it as a viable hub to support their German-speaking customer base. The company particularly lauded Enterprise Georgia's supportive role, which was “instrumental in swiftly opening doors” for the BPO.

Political Snapshot

Georgia's political landscape over the past 15 years has been consistently oriented towards the West. The country’s citizens enjoy visa-free travel to the EU, and it’s expecting to attain EU candidacy by the end of 2023. This aspiration is deeply ingrained in Georgia's political fabric, and it's worth noting that this commitment is constitutional, obliging anyone who comes to power to pursue EU membership.

This orientation has fostered a business-friendly environment where high-level government interactions are accessible and straightforward. Our hosts mentioned that businesses can schedule meetings with high-ranking government officials, including the Prime Minister, with just a week's notice. This open-door policy indicates the government's readiness to foster a collaborative and supportive business climate.

Despite the occasional geopolitical tension that has been the norm since the 1990s, Georgia has managed to maintain an atmosphere of stability and confidence for investors. Georgia's government adopted a neutral stance to the Ukraine-Russia conflict, which helped to stabilize its domestic situation. As a result, investments continue to flow in from international institutions like the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and American and European companies looking to relocate from Russia to Georgia.

Georgia benefits from favorable World Bank loans to develop its infrastructure, leading to many new modern highways linking up cities around the country. The country also has free trade agreements with the EU and China and offers various business support programs, including Invest in Georgia, Produce in Georgia, Film in Georgia, and Export from Georgia.

The country's economy shows promising stability and growth across various sectors, including financial services, manufacturing, energy, and real estate. These sectors have drawn in the most significant investments over the last five years and have given Georgia the resilience to weather global economic shocks while maintaining an upward trajectory.

Potential Challenges

While Georgia provides several appealing factors for BPO operations, it is also essential to recognize the existing challenges.

As I initially noted, the country's traffic and driving culture can be challenging, especially for newcomers. Political demonstrations are also common, potentially disrupting daily operations and affecting business continuity.

The country's governmental structure might also pose an obstacle, as elements of government are compartmentalized or 'siloed', which can cause complications when interacting with different departments, such as law enforcement agencies and the economy ministry.

Adjusting to the unique Georgian culture can be challenging for outsiders, as it is incomparable with other cultures. Successful integration into the business ecosystem often relies on understanding the importance of loyalty and respect in the workplace, which for Georgians is closely tied to their beliefs, how they are treated, and their overall job satisfaction.

Although power outages are decreasing in frequency, they still require businesses to invest in Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPSs) or generators to ensure continuous operation. Plus, the internet service market is dominated by a single player, Opticom, essentially creating a monopoly. This lack of competition could potentially affect service quality and pricing.

While there's a notable absence of BPO-specific regulations, this isn't a sign of regulatory laxity. On the contrary, Georgia was the first country in the world to incorporate blockchain technology into property registrations, signaling its readiness to embrace and regulate advanced technologies.

This forward-looking attitude speaks volumes about the country's commitment to creating a conducive, progressive environment for BPO and CX operations. Plus, new entrants have a unique opportunity to shape the future of BPO regulation in Georgia.

Georgia BPO: What Next?

Georgia’s young, multilingual citizens and expanding digital infrastructure present a unique opportunity for BPOs and CX brands to establish a flexible remote work model that taps into cost-effective talent to serve European customers.

Georgia’s government is also uniquely welcoming, accessible, and keen to foster business success, opening the door for meaningful collaborations. So, investors might consider partnering on initiatives that advance Georgia's digital transformation, perhaps through investing in local digital infrastructure or supporting educational programs to enhance the workforce's digital skills. Such ventures would solidify a vanguard position in Georgia's evolving economic landscape.

If new entrants take the time to understand the local culture and dynamics, adopting a localized management style that resonates with the Georgian workforce, they will significantly enhance their operations' success. Still, they must consider the occasional logistical challenges like traffic and power outages, preparing contingency plans to ensure service continues to run smoothly.

Overall, Georgia's unique blend of offerings makes it a compelling destination for BPO operations. But to unlock its full potential, a tailored approach that embraces Georgia's distinct features and invests in its digital future is vital.

…I almost forgot. Did you know that Georgia was the birthplace of wine? As early as 6,000 BC, people in Georgia discovered that if they buried grape juice underground during the winter, it would turn into wine.

If that’s not an excuse to invest in Georgia, I don’t know what is.


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