Business

Rewardsco’s R700m Umhlanga campus to accelerate footprint in global BPO sector

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Telecommunications service provider Rewardsco says its R300 million investment into a third business process outsourcing (BPO) operations centre in Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal, will kickstart its move to branch out into international markets starting with the United Kingdom, North America and Australia.

This comes after the new facility officially opened its doors on Tuesday (1 November), expanding the company’s main operational campus to 20 000m2 in three buildings valued at around R700 million.

Speaking to Moneyweb, group commercial director at Rewardsco Dylan Koen says the Covid-19 pandemic enabled the company to focus on key performance areas thereby furthering expansion opportunities.

“It makes sense to pursue business growth opportunities within the global business services space. We’d be remiss not to capitalise on these because [it] presents new business lines that offer greater volumes than those that are likely to emerge domestically,” he adds.

Read: South Africa’s service industry looks to cash-in on Brexit uncertainty

Koen says despite the volatile macro environment in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, Rewardsco doubled in size over the course of the pandemic.

He forecasts that the group will have a growth trajectory of around 25% per annum over the next five years.

Job opportunities

“Our complement is 2 000 employees, and we currently have 600 vacancies for the right kind of people. We intend to grow that to 1 200… Once the balance of the new facility is finished, it will bring the total number of employees to 3 200. And that’s just for the daytime shift,” Koen points out.

He says the new international markets are key to enabling more job creation opportunities with shifts, anticipated to be implemented in the first quarter of 2023, being split into five-and-a-half-hours each.

“We talk about the BPO sector in KZN, and the reality is that we compete nationally because we have significant consortiums and operators in Gauteng and Cape Town. Even the Eastern Cape is growing. What we have in KZN is very mature transport infrastructure and that allows our people to access their nightshift [jobs], in comparison to Gauteng and the Cape which is more dangerous,” he adds.

Koen says the Rewardsco campus, with its three operations centres joined by sky bridges, is a contribution towards making the KZN more competitive in the BPO sector on a national scale.

“So, in the context of offering services to international customers, KZN has a unique advantage which we want to capitalise on, and we already have a dominant workforce that works in the evening,” he notes.

Koen says the company currently has partnering opportunities with domestic customers and a few interested parties from North American businesses looking to outsource services to South Africa.

Reflecting on the group’s journey to finding a new suitable location for the business, founder and executive chair at Rewardsco Investments Michael Steenfeldt-Kristensen says the vision for the development has followed the vision for building the business.

“We were always ambitious about growing exponentially. But to accommodate this we had to have the right premises. We did not want to compromise and develop sweat shops like others have done,” he adds.

“We have built three buildings that are all P-Grade and 5-star [green building] rated. We have created a beautiful campus for our employees to enjoy,” says Steenfeldt-Kristensen.

The office features five levels of floor space with a dispensary, clinic, café and restaurant facility.

Koen says the operational facility will boost the investment in skills development and staff retention while also offering long-term career development prospects as opposed to just entry-level jobs.

Meanwhile, in a statement, industry body and trade association for global business services (GBS), BPESA says GBS, which fall under the BPO sector, are not only solving the unemployment crisis but also bringing digital innovation to the country.

“In fact, [the McKinsey’s Driving Economic Recovery in South Africa’s BPO Industry] report notes that between 2018 and March 2022, the international GBS sector in South Africa added an impressive 65 385 jobs to the economy with $1 068 billion generated in export revenue.”

It further indicates that South Africa was voted the second most favourable location for BPO for three consecutive years from 2018 to 2020 in the same report.

“The reason is that the country has developed a reputation as a reliable, cost effective, and high-quality destination for outsourced business services. Even during Covid-19 and lockdown, South Africa migrated to remote working models to remain operational with minimal disruption to clients.”

Steenfeldt-Kristensen says Rewardsco remains a good destination for foreign businesses to outsource operations. “Right now, our business is on an exponential growth curve and this will continue over the next few years,” he adds.

“We are not only expanding our local footprint but also our footprint overseas. So, in five years’ time, we expect to have a very active proprietary business and BPO business.”

* Nondumiso Lehutso is a Moneyweb intern and was hosted by Rewardsco at the launch event in KZN.

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