• By The Financial District


Updated: Sep 27, 2020

Amid the business landscape that has been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, an oasis can be seen beyond countless mirages in the desert sand: the BPO or business process outsourcing industry that may help in the country’s deliverance from economic ruin.

The BPO industry, which now employs 1.3 million, can be transformed into the kind of business that the government can develop to save the Philippine economy, now about to be intubated, what with the banking system seeing a surge in non-performing loans as businesses and households gasp for air on liquidity crunches.

And from out of this BPO economic sphere, there is one man that The Financial District (TFD) believes is a cut above the rest. And what he revealed in an interview shows the great promise and the great future that a great idea could bring to ignite the hoped-for economic revival of the country.

Alfredo (Aly) Antonio Jr., now Senior Vice President of Strategic Alliances and Synergy of Inspiro, a BPO, has unwrapped a wealth of ideas in a wide-ranging talk with TFD that shows a roadmap to what the Philippines can become in the BPO world.

And with it spark a host of economic activities that would take out the sting  from the COVID-19 pandemic just by latching onto what he is now doing in the almost two decades of his professional work in what used to be ePLDT Ventus and later renamed SPi CRM and now Inspiro.

Aly started in what he thought then was PLDT as he narrowed down his choice between the telephone firm and an international bank right after college. He was part of the pioneer batch and he saw himself transition from being a Customer Service Representative to having leadership roles in operations, quality and business development.

Having breathed the BPO environment for more than 19 years, where he met his wife of 12 years, Aly is now in an enviable role that could provide the government the needed push to employ the thousands of OFWs and seafarers who have been cast aside in the wake of the devastation the pandemic has inflicted on the world.

“I am championing the Philippines as a BPO destination, “he thunders, “and the Filipino BPO employees as the best in the world.” To him, the Filipino BPO employee is the global benchmark.

He is in the thick of activities in working with stakeholders and existing clients in Japan in the hopes of bringing business to the company’s other global locations. And to add zing to his work with would-be clients in Japan, he has assiduously studied its culture as well as the nuances of the language “to meaningfully connect with our Japanese clients.”

Ingrained in his persona is learning a language or nurturing a new hobby or just cultivating something new, which he tries to impart to his colleagues in the workforce. Aly looks up to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s “learn-it-all” vs a “know-it-all”

And that is why while not a requirement in his job, he continues to study Nippongo.

What he shared with The Financial District in a wide-ranging talk on the BPO industry and his views on a “pandemic-resilient” business environment could provide the kind of gentle push for the economy to recoup part of its losses in the downturn in gross domestic product (GDP) due to the pandemic’s virulence.

Aly shared that the BPO revenues this year could reach $40 billion, about 11 percent of the GDP before the pandemic and as he unwrapped what Inspiro had done five days after the first lockdown, marketing guru Ardee Urbina, the brain trust of the TFD, chimed in that the BPO may yet allow the country to develop this “oasis” of an opportunity.

“Inspiro successfully converted 1,000 onsite employees to a work-from-home set up in five days to mitigate the negative impact to our clients. This had to be done seamlessly without any impact to quality and service levels,” Aly said.

As a result, “we not only exceeded client’s expectations, but we even won new business through positive word of mouth, because of our response to this pandemic.”

And here, Ardee talked of possibilities of adapting Aly’s “learn-it-all” mindset on how best to come up not just with a pandemic-resilient BPO but an industry that could withstand the threat from the looming chatbots and Artificial Intelligence.

After all, Aly said that “even with the use of technology, what we have proven during this pandemic is the importance of the human element. And here he waxed poetically: “one has to balance the use of technology to optimize work conditions and training staff to do more high-value transactions.”

This crisis like no other has put a spotlight on what kind of a meaningful person Aly is. “In this time of pandemic, one must be creative to cope with the new normal, compassionate to those in need and resilient in light of today’s challenges.”

There were other points that Aly discussed with that passionate air of someone steeped in compassion for his workmates and colleagues and TFD believes that the government can have the answer to the loss of income from the repatriated OFWs and seafarers.

The government needs not look far. The BPO industry beckons and it could be marshalled to even double its 1.3 million employee complement now by linking up with Aly and his wonderful insights on the industry that he has worked with almost two decades after getting his college diploma.

And here we harken to his answer to TFD’s Ardee Urbina's question: How do you wish to be remembered?

“A Filipino who made a meaningful contribution. More importantly someone who cared.” [Lito. U. Gagni | Mike N. Olalia]

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