Jan. 8, 2015


Nândio D. Durão

Mozambique

Nândio D. Durão

General Director, Howard Johnson Call Center

"There is a lot of encouragement from the government, especially for small companies."

BIO

Nândio D. Durão has been the General Director of Howard Johnson Call Center since 2011 and is leading the restructuring process of the company and launch of new offers to the market. Also experienced in research, he has previously worked as a consultant for several public and private organizations and as Assistant Lecturer at Universidade Politecnica. He has an undergraduate degree in Tourism fro Eduardo Mondlane University in Mozambique and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Tsukuba in Japan.

What was behind the creation of the Howard Johnson International Call Center in 2007?

We are the first private call center in Mozambique, and even though we started the company in 2007 our operations began in 2008. At that time we were focusing on the US and British market, because that is where call center business demand was. Some partners invited us to start the business and enter the market. In 2009 we found out that we needed to make adjustments, because language was a problem. Our agents could not meet the expectations of our clients. We were doing inbound and outbound projects at the time. And while our outbound services were going pretty well, our inbound and customer-care lines were a problem, because people called and started asking questions. In response, we decided to close our doors for the rest of 2009 and 2010 and rebuild the business. We started to look at the Mozambique market. In mid-2010 we started to talk to companies here rather than deal with the international market, at least temporarily. That is when we started talking to utility companies and tried to draft cooperative business plans for call centers. We approached businesses that already had in-house call centers. It was a little difficult to convince them that outsourcing was a good idea, because they were concerned about confidentiality. We did consultations with some to build their own in-house call centers, and others gave us small projects. By the end of 2010 we knew we were on the right track and could grow the business. From that point on, we have been increasing the services we offer in outsourcing customer care solutions.

What new services are you planning to provide in the future?

In 2013 we were nominated for the prize of best SME in Mozambique, an initiative co-organized by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. That was an incentive for us to think about other operations we could undertake. When we had our board meeting in 2013, we drafted ideas for new services. On that list, some services were already in demand by our clients, while others were lacking in the market. One was debt collection. Banks were also an important part of our customer portfolio. We wanted them to outsource their customer care lines. However, most of them refused and asked rather that we help them improve their in-house service because of the sensitivity of their data. These banks then started asking what other services we could provide for them. They wanted us to sell banking services to their clients, such as credit cards, which can be undertaken without giving out sensitive data. Other kinds of financial offerings were house and car loans. Next, the banks wanted debt collection, and the tracking of people who were not paying their loans. We drafted the whole raft of products and services to cover this need. For these services, we tried to work with internationally known companies. They provided the know-how, which we were able to pass on to our customers. In addition to debt collection, we also started a documents management and archiving service. Since we were already doing data processing, our company helped some of our mobile operator customers to process data, such as the registration of SIM cards. When we first rolled out these programs, we were working with paper for 4 million customers, and they now want us to manage all of their papers—about 25 million for one company alone. We decided to develop in this area, because the whole market, even the public sector, needs it. We ended up adding to our portfolio of services: debt collection, documents management and archiving, sms services, and CC equipment supply and installation. We also decided we would create our own products and services for telemarketing. As a result of our efforts, in 2014 we were awarded with the International Star for Quality, a recognition for excellence and success made by the Business Initiative Direction to professionals and business leaders from around the world.

How would you describe the profile of your clients?

Most of them are large corporations from Mozambique. In 2015-2016 we hope to re-enter the international market. For that we will start with Portuguese-speaking companies and go from there. Our agents are familiar with this market and can control the services from our end. To move to other countries, we will have to do some research and development. Finance, ICT, insurance, and utilities corporations currently make up the bulk of our clientele.

How would you describe the environment in Mozambique for start-up companies such as yours?

The environment here is good. There is a lot of encouragement from the government, especially for small companies. There are also many large corporations and investments coming into the country right now. Policies are well drafted and there are incentives that make us want to explore new areas of growth. Once you are in the game, however, you start facing some problems, especially where taxes are concerned. Navigating the country's tax code is a challenge. There are two more challenges in the market. One is regarding HR, especially for a business like ours. In short, this part of management is not developed here. If we had assistance from the government, that would help. In our case we had to go abroad to find someone who really understood call centers, to bring in know-how that does not yet exist here. Another challenge is the ICT environment. There are a lot of investments that we need to make, such as new equipment. Our market does not yet offer this, so we have to go abroad.

How would assess the outsourcing market in Mozambique?

Large companies are starting to understand that they need our services, and how beneficial they are. Others are not there yet. These businesses want us to help them implement call center services in-house. They are really looking for consultancy services. Often, once we start consulting them, these companies realize that outsourcing is a better solution. Our approach is working, and our operations will continue to grow.

What is your vision for the company in 10 years?

Our plan is to have 5,000 seats. We only have 48 now. In the near future, we will increase to 200, which is our current capacity. We plan to increase to 2,000 in two years, if the market allows, and to 5,000 in 10 years. For our main service, call centers, the plan is to go abroad again. We are also trying to follow best international practices in order to make us competitive abroad. We will start with Portuguese-speaking countries, and concentrate on back-office activities. There is a lot of work to be done with back-office services, which require language expertise.

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