Why international companies move some of their activities to Bulgaria
In 2015, a survey of the American real estate company Cushman & Wakefield ranked Bulgaria 3rd in the world for outsourcing of business processes (BPO) and shared services. The outsourcing sector in Bulgaria is growing with impressive speed. The estimated number of employees in the field is estimated at 40,000, with projections of increasement for up to 60,000 by 2020. Most of the companies are in Sofia, but additional centres are appearing in Plovdiv, Varna, Burgas. The main outsourcing businesses in Bulgaria are in informational and communicational technologies, support of clients and callcentres, and others.
What makes Bulgaria attractive for outsourcing?
The state's stability as an EU and NATO member is crucial. The GDP is increasing steadily, with about 3 percent increase for the second trimester of 2016. The infrastructure of Sofia and the large cities is developing in order to meet the investors' needs, including with the construction of new office and business spaces that are fit to modern requirements. The rents of offices are among the lowest in the region, keeping average levels of 11-14 euro/sq.m.
Employees are probably Bulgaria's strongest point as an outsourcing destination. The country has long traditions in IT industry, and local education provides good basis in foreign languages, finance, and other qualifications that make Bulgarian employees adequate in their contacts with clients from all over the world.
"Bulgaria has significant advantages as a place for hiring of IT specialists," says Snezhana Raykinska, CEO of Bulwork (Sofia, 15 Tsvetna Gradina St, floor 1, www.bulwork.com), the first company in Bulgaria for recruitment of IT and ВРО specialists. "On one hand, we have the traditions in the IT sector: Bulgaria has more than 30 years of experience in hardware, system integration, software development. On the other hand are the highly-qualified labor force and the interest among the young to learn and to develop in this field, which, in spite of the small size of the country, creates significant number of specialists in this field. We don't have to underestimate and the relatively low social security costs, that compensate, at least for now, the increase of the net salaries and keep Bulgaria attractive from the point of view of low labor costs. These are still the lowest in the countries of Southeast Europe. Last but not least, is the membership in the EU, that provides security and stability to the investment in the field. As a result, we are experiencing a nice trend: Bulgaria is globally recognised as an excellent outsourcing destination," says Snezhana Raykinska.
For Assia Pavlova, Client Service Director at the BPO services provider CXG Ltd. (Sofia, 25 Professor Dr Petar Dertliev St, phone: +359 2 810 0176, www.cx-g.com), people are Bulgaria's strongest attribute. "The lower costs are not enough when a company is looking for a place to outsource a part of its business. Trust and quality are important, as such companies delegate to their outsourcing partner their customers’ service. That is why companies are increasingly paying attention to the quality of the service that they themselves receive from the outsourcing partner. Bulgaria stands out. According to the Bulgarian Outsourcing Association, 28 percent of the population in the country has a university degree, 80 percent of these people speak English, and 52.4 percent of the workforce aged 18-35 speak at least one foreign language. Each year about 15,000 out of 60,000 university students study in a foreign language specialisation, including Chinese, Japanese, Hindi, Scandinavian and Slavic languages. Bulgaria ranks first in Europe in IT specialists per capita, and third in the world in number of certified IT specialists; 50 percent of Bulgarian graduates have a degree in a specialisation suitable for the outsourcing industry," says Assia Pavlova.
The companies have high requirements to their Bulgarian employees.
"In Unify Bulgaria work IT specialists in telecommunications, corporate culture and BPO, accountants, finance specialists and analysts, business analysts, SAP specialists and experts, and in the other GO profiles, such as network specialists, specialists in project management, and others," says Petеr Bankov, Vice President Global Operations of Unify Bulgaria (phone: +359 2 911 5657, www.unify.com/bg). "The qualities our employees should possess are qualifications and experience in IT for Global Operations, Shared Service Center (SSC) finances, accounting and banking, economics as well fluency in languages like English, German, French, Italian." To what extent Bulgarian labor market is adequate to the requirements and needs of outsourcing sector? "In regard of IT specialists, is needed an adequate change of the extent and the curriculum of universities to fit the needs of the business in order to meet the significant demand for IT specialists," says Petеr Bankov. "As for the SSC part, the Bulgarian market is still adequate and the educational system creates qualified specialists in the finance field. It is the quality people on the market who helped the development of Unify Bulgaria's the finance structure from 150 to 350 employees," shares Stanimir Komitov, the company’s CEO for Bulgaria.
The San Francisco-founded company for financial services Taulia, that counts as clients companies like Coca-Cola and Pfizer, opened a development office in Bulgaria in 2014. "The Sofia office plays very important role for the business, not only because of the cost saving factor, but mainly for the specialists we have on site in the IT department. The variety of languages we find in Bulgaria is another big factor, as we have customers not only in the US but as well over the European market, Asia and Africa," explains Stilyana Kolarova, Operations Manager, Taulia Bulgaria (Sofia, 115G Tsarigradsko Shose Blvd, 8E, Megapark Building, www.taulia.com). "We have found great minds in Bulgaria, helping to improve the product and fully contributing for the growth of Taulia. We are not looking to grow big – we are not a call centre or a back office to our other office. So we look and search carefully for the right people to join our Taulian family and be part of an innovative world in the Financial Supply chain."
"We chose Sofia, because we needed a strong nearshore technological centre in the EU," says Nikola Mishev, manager of the Bulgarian branch of Catenate (Sofia, 63 Kazbek St, www.catenate.com). "Thanks to our team in Sofia, we have the opportunity to offer top-quality service to our clients and simultaneously to preserve our competitiveness," he adds. The company offers business integration and technological solutions, and has offices as well in Germany, Switzerland, Italy and The Netherlands.