How South African businesses can compete in the global landscape – tips for expanding your business beyond SA

Op:Ed By Adrian Zanetti, Executive Director at PLP Solutions

Johannesburg, 12 July23: The tough economy, ailing infrastructure, inequality, and high levels of corruption all add to South Africa’s economic woes. This coupled with the familiar impact of global markets, pandemic hangover and a war in Ukraine are just some of the dynamics at play in business today. While South African businesses have shown some resilience and adaptability, even in the face of a tough economy, many have seen losses in clients due to the impact of these factors. As a result, more and more businesses are looking beyond South African shores to foreign markets where other opportunities exist in order to de-risk the single reliance on our home base.

South Africans by nature are street-smart, we move quickly, identify opportunities and adapt. What makes South Africa particularly attractive to foreign investment is its skilled and youthful workforce, neutral and acceptable accent to foreign customers and the value of our labour costs to foreign companies.

The success of South African businesses abroad is dependent on their commitment to understanding global markets and tailoring their products and services accordingly. By conducting comprehensive market research and analysing consumer behaviour, cultural nuances and competition, they can ensure their offerings resonate with their target audience. This adaptability will allow them to quickly establish a strong foothold and gain a competitive advantage.

Efficiency and speed are also key to South African businesses expanding overseas. Companies must understand that time is of the essence when it comes to capitalising on emerging opportunities. By leveraging off advanced technologies, streamlined processes, and optimised supply chains, they can ensure quick implementation and smooth operations in foreign markets. For example, at PLP Solutions, we saw an opportunity in 2021 to extend our services beyond South African borders to provide Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) services in a niche and hyper-personalised way. We began to challenge the norm and tendered for a contract with one of the largest food delivery businesses in the world to provide customer service support to their Nordic and French markets from our operations in Johannesburg and Port Louis, Mauritius. The company found Swedish, Norwegian and Danish agents spread across South Africa and achieved the highest customer satisfaction ratings of all their territories.

The lack of language skills and high demand for Nordic speakers then prompted us to look at lower cost markets where a high volume of Nordic languages were available. So, we opened an operation in Barcelona, Spain, as it is one of the largest and most attractive cities for outsourcing. Barcelona offers a Nordic labour pool of over 30 000 Swedes alone, often travelling or studying in Europe. This coupled with our highly skilled South African management, learning and development, workforce planning and culture has allowed us to blend moderate Euro-based costings with Rand-based resources that can offer any European business the advantage of spreading their work between nearshore and offshore locations as competitive pricing for bespoke BPO services.

However, entering a new market is not without challenges. It’s important to find a local partner or invest in good legal, financial and tax advice from the outset. In many cases, there are hidden costs unfamiliar to South Africa in the form of employee social security, varied working hours, digital disconnection rights and a host of requirements with regard to data and privacy.

At the same time, there are wonderful incentives for start-ups wanting to seize opportunities worldwide and a very willing and able local chamber of commerce to support business introductions and professional services. When exploring options, learn to be local fast, understand the rules and business culture and that of your foreign staff and service providers. There is no reason why South African businesses can’t compete on the global stage.

About PLP Solutions:

PLP Solutions is a specialist BPO provider with over 32 years of experience in the customer engagement industry. The company provides turnkey BPO solutions to companies in Europe, Africa, USA, Canada, UK, Seychelles and Mauritius, looking to reduce costs, enhance efficiency and improve customer service. PLP Solutions offers full inbound and outbound customer lifecycle management, omnichannel platforms, technology-driven efficiencies, a 24/7/365 operation, quality assurance, and measurable ROI.

For more information, visit www.plp-solutions.com.

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