Since fDi Markets records began in January 2003, the number of customer contact, shared services and technical support centres (collectively known as business process outsourcing [BPO]) rose year on year to a peak of 352 FDI projects globally in 2006, but since then, figures have declined by 28% in 2007 and a further 5% in 2008, indicating a retraction of the BPO boom.

According to fDi Markets, BPO activities accounted for some 315 FDI projects between January 2008 and January 2009. These projects were responsible for a combined capital investment of $4.58bn and the creation of more than 120,000 jobs.

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The largest project of the period dates back to May 2008, when Oracle Corporation announced plans to build a $285m global information technology facility in West Jordan, Utah. The site is expected to house about 100 employees.

However, the largest investment per project was recorded in June 2008, when there was an average investment per project of $32.5m compared to an average annual investment per project of $14m.

Initial results for January 2009 show that the number of FDI projects involved in call-centre activities is down in comparison with January 2008. Amid press articles referring to the low satisfaction of customers contacting call centres in foreign countries, some companies are ‘bringing back home’ call centres, indicating a slowdown in the BPO boom.

By the numbers

Between January 2003 and January 2009, fDi Markets tracked a total of 1909 greenfield FDI projects involved in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, which includes customer contact, shared services and technical support centres.

These projects accounted for more than $26bn-worth of capital investment and resulted in the creation of almost 700,000 jobs.

The lion’s share of these FDI projects serves the business services and software and information technology sectors.

From 2003 to 2007, India was the top destination country for FDI in BPO activities. Between 2003 and 2006, India attracted an annual average of 70 FDI projects but in 2007 this figure fell to only 27 projects with India remaining the top global destination.

In 2008, this all changed as Philippines became the top destination for BPO projects with 31 FDI projects, while India only had 30. It is important to note that when US intrastate projects are included, the US becomes the top destination country for BPO FDI projects from January 2008 to January 2009, with 62 of the 69 FDI projects in the US comprising of intrastate projects.

The primary source country for BPO FDI projects between January 2008 and January 2009 is the US accounting for 58% (184 projects) of global FDI projects in this activity.

Of these 184 projects, 34% of BPO projects have been undertaken by American companies, setting up in other US states.

In conjunction with this, the top investor in this area for FDI is Hewlett-Packard (US) with 15 projects, followed by IBM (US) with nine projects. In fact, of the top 10 companies investing in call-centre FDI projects in 2008, half of them were US companies.

Henry Loewendahl is product director for fDi Intelligence.

E-mail: henry.lowendahl@ft.com

FDI in Call-Centre activities by project numbers and capital investment

(Jan 2008 – Jan 2009)

FDI in Call-Centre activities by top source countries

(Jan 08 – Jan 09)

FDI in Call-Centre activities by top destination countries

(Jan 08 – Jan 09)

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