Philippe Rouvrais, Head of Modis Delivery, Pre-sales and Technology Solutions, Europe and General Manager Eastern Europe shares some thoughts about the economic impact of COVID-19 on the outsourcing sector in Bulgaria and his expectations for the industry future. Here is part of the interview for Economy.bg:
How the Covid-19 pandemics affected the outsourcing industry in Bulgaria?
Bulgaria has been traditionally one of the most popular outsourcing destinations for business processes related to IT, software engineering, data infrastructure, accounting, HR, customer support, etc. Even during the pandemic, this sector in the country remained stable providing employment to over 70 000 people. I think that COVID-19, if it slowed down the activities somewhat, did not cause serious damages in the industry and I am happy to see more and more companies getting back to “normal”. For some of them the pandemic even brought new opportunities and perspectives.
What about Modis Bulgaria?
We had an instant reaction to the threat of COVID-19 with safety measures taken even before the emergency state was declared in Bulgaria. We managed to ensure home office for all close to 1500 Modis Bulgaria employees, remote completion of administrative processes and 100% online recruitment for new candidates. Working in a safe environment our colleagues successfully met the increasing demand for our services and solutions generated by our clients. Every day we are receiving great feedback by our partners and other companies in the Adecco Group for the measures taken in favor of our people and our clients.
Do you have canceled or on hold projects? From which sectors mainly?
I think we have proved that Modis can be a trustful partner for all our clients. Maybe, in addition to the nature of our business - long term service engagements, this the reason we have had very little impact to our business during the pandemic. Moreover, we have continued growing and looking for new talents to join our teams, to support our client’s transformation initiatives.
What were the main challenges for Modis Bulgaria to adapt to the new situation?
The pandemic caused challenges both for businesses and the society, but we managed to turn ours into opportunities. Who could have imagined that our entire organization would be capable of delivering business operations remotely? We managed to organize and lead the process of transition and adaptation to the new working reality. The challenge in such occasion is to respond to the needs of all your stakeholders at the same time but I think our teams have done a great job by taking care of our people, our clients and presenting Modis as a socially responsible organization.
Is your staff still working from home? Do you plan to continue with this model?
We will stick to remote work and home office for our colleagues until we are sure that going back to the office is 100% safe for them. We are planning to use the model at least within the next few weeks. At this point in time, there is no sense of urgency for our people to return to work in our premises.
Do you have employees laid off? Reduction in salaries or job freezes?
In these difficult times, I am glad that Modis Bulgaria did not have to take any measures of this kind towards their people. We really believe that our people are the most valuable assets for Modis, and we have always focused on ensuring them the continuity of work.
When do you expect to start hiring again? People with what skills and qualifications will you need?
Actually, we have never stopped hiring. We are onboarding on average 10 people every week. During the emergency state around 150 new colleagues joined our teams in Sofia and Plovdiv. At the moment we are actively looking for highly qualified people in IT and technical skills such as Java developers, Android developers, iOS developers and IT support engineers with language skills – German, Italian, Spanish, French, English etc.
When we met in January you had plans to open new offices in Varna or Burgas and also to open software engineering centers in Sofia and Plovdiv. On what stage are these plans now? Are they still valid?
Of course, we are still planning our growth in Bulgaria within the next few years. In Sofia there are approximately 60,000 people employed in the Outsourcing sector and we have almost reached the sustainable capacity of the market. This is why we are actively exploring opportunities for Modis to open new locations in other cities in the country just like we did with the opening of our third location in Plovdiv last year.
Recent surveys of EY and Brookings Institution showed that employers in many countries are speeding up plans to automate their businesses as workers are forced to stay at home during the pandemics. Where do you stand? Do you plan speeding the automation and reducing staff?
At Modis we embrace innovation and technologies that could help us work smarter and automate very people intensive and repetitive activities. By doing so, we are planning to free up our resources, making them available for re-skilling and then allocating them to higher added value activities. Clearly, for Modis, automation and innovation is not a way to reduce our staff but rather to help us increase the availability of our resources to do other activities. This will be instrumental to be successful in a world where skill shortage is becoming a daily difficulty.
For this purpose, we created, in Bulgaria, back in 2017 the “Modis Innovation & Automation Lab” and as a result, we have noticed increased satisfaction both by our own colleagues and our clients.
How do you see the future of the outsourcing industry in times of uncertainty?
It is difficult to predict the future of the Outsourcing industry which been facing many challenges like all industries with the past months of Covid19 pandemic.
Many organizations in Eastern Europe have managed to move their people to “work from home”, maintaining or even increasing their production capacity. The availability of resources in this environment will be crucial for the rebound and will bring new opportunities soon. At the same time one of the biggest challenges will be for these organizations to remain in business until the first phase of this crisis is over.
Demand in the areas of security, digital transformation, cloud services and artificial intelligence should increase in the upcoming semester.