Opportunity is Calling – from Asia to Latin America

May 14, 2023
  • Everise’s move to expand its customer service call centers from South Asia to Central America is an example of “South-South” investments within low- and middle-income countries.
  • Supported by IFC-backed Everstone Capital, Everise has created nearly 4,000 call center jobs in Guatemala and Colombia, demonstrating the impact of IFC’s private equity investments.
  • IFC invests in private equity to give growing companies access to scarce equity across emerging markets. IFC investments boost job creation and help expand access to health, banking, education, and other services in a sustainable way.

When Nelly Samayoa started to train for her new job at a customer service call center in Guatemala City five years ago, she was excited to be part of a relatively new industry in the country. Her position as an outsourced representative for a major U.S.-based shipping company provides competitive pay and the ability to work from home.

“My goals are to grow with my employer Everise and save enough money to buy my apartment,” she says. “It’s a great company for women because we can work from home with our families and still be promoted.”

Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies such as Everise provide customer call centers and other outsourced business services, often offering higher-paying, value-added jobs in lower- and middle-income countries. The BPO industry blazed a trail in India, the Philippines and other countries in Asia over the past three decades. But Everise was drawn across the globe to Latin America because of the region’s growing, educated workforce that speaks multiple languages and lives in the same or similar time zones as North America. Samayoa, for example, started learning English in kindergarten and is completely bilingual.

Founded in Singapore, Everise expanded into Guatemala City in 2012 and launched its first call center in Bogota, Colombia in September 2022. The company now employs more than 3,800 workers in the region. Overall, Everise employs some 16,000 people across eight countries, who collectively speak more than 32 languages and handle more than 200 million customer cases every year. The company says women hold 46 percent of its leadership positions, which includes team leaders of call center representatives.

“Everise started in Asia but is increasingly looking at Central and South American opportunities, as the region stabilizes and becomes a robust environment with a young, English-speaking workforce,” says Avnish Mehra, Senior Managing Director of the Everstone Group.

Everstone, a private equity investor also headquartered in Singapore, acquired a majority stake in Everise in 2016 and helped the BPO manage its expansion into Latin America. Everstone is now a minority stakeholder in the company.

Everstone in turn is supported by IFC, a part of the World Bank Group that provides direct investments and advisory services to private sector companies to promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth. One of IFC’s investment strategies is to mobilize financing indirectly through investment in Private Equity (PE) and Venture Capital (VC) funds, such as Everstone, that focus on supporting companies with significant development impact across emerging markets.

IFC investment helps these private funds catalyze private capital for their portfolio companies. After Everstone acquired Everise in 2016 with IFC’s support, private investments in Everise increased from $10 million that year to $100 million in 2021.

“We amplify the impact of investments,” says Carlos Mayorga, Senior Manager and Global Head of Portfolio in the private equity team at IFC. “The success of Everise goes beyond a call center. It’s a modern work environment that provides not only jobs but also critical training opportunities to build the skills needed for the growing digital economy, and keep evolving alongside future technological advances.”

Mayorga says IFC’s investment in Everstone supported a rare and welcome example of a “South-South” investment — from South and South-East Asia to Central America and the rest of Latin America. Such investment is becoming a key source of financing for emerging markets, as well as a means to transfer standards, knowledge, and successful business models. When companies expand beyond their traditional geographies, they often introduce business models and technologies that are more attuned to the needs of developing countries.

Everstone’s mission is to invest in and help manage companies across the globe that make a positive and substantiable development impact. It currently deploys more than US $2 billion in private equity and has acquired some 27 companies with a focus on tech-enhanced services that support developmental goals. In 2021, for example, the companies in its portfolio made affordable loans to 41,000 small businesses and collectively hired more than 72,000 workers in developing countries.

“The company’s investment approach aligns with IFC’s strategy of supporting tech-enabled companies that make a difference,” says Neha Grover, South Asia lead in IFC’s private equity team. “This strategy helps create good jobs while often providing needed services to the underserved in health, banking, education, commerce, energy, and other sectors. It also promotes sustainability and reduces climate impact.”

BPO services are expected to expand by an annual rate of more than 6 percent by 2027, but there are concerns about the potential loss of traditional call center jobs in developing countries, especially with advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) to answer questions frequently answered by human representatives. However, IFC’s recent report on AI-enabled Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) — which is changing how many call centers operate — estimates AI will create new opportunities in emerging markets even as it impacts existing models. For example, it estimates the AI SaaS market could create 900,000 new white collar jobs and more than 3.6 million indirect jobs in India alone.

For Everise workers in Guatemala, private investment from Asia has translated into steady paychecks and increased opportunities. Most have benefitted from the company’s commitment to training potential and existing employees in new technologies. Karla Montejo Gonzales, one of the first women hired by Everise to train potential new hires, has advanced to Senior Operations Manager in the company’s sleek new headquarters in the heart of Guatemala City’s business district.

“I have seen the BPO industry change peoples’ lives,” she says. “I started at Everise as a trainer because I had BPO experience, and my career has led to better opportunities. It’s an evolving industry with a lot of innovation. I tell our new hires – there is no ceiling to what you can achieve here.”

Published in May 2023