Anthony Bowers, founder and CEO of Tallant Asia joins Derek to discuss the reasons why he was captivated into the BPO business.
Tallant Asia is a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) company, based in Cebu City, Philippines. The company helps offshore businesses build a remote team to perform non-core tasks. business.
- Anthony is an Australian. His passion for travel and his professional career led him to countries in Asia, and initially to the outsourcing industry in Hongkong.
- While in Hongkong he learned of the abuses suffered by Filipino and Indonesian domestic helpers. He wanted to help provide meaningful careers to these migrant workers or provide opportunities for them to earn good income without leaving their country or their family behind. Thus, the genesis of Tallant Asia.
- Anthony started looking into the BPO industry and saw the beneficial impact of outsourcing both from the standpoint of the production country like the Philippines, and the client country, in contrast to the many misconceptions of outsourcing.
- To the production country, people have the opportunities to earn higher salaries without leaving their country and their family. The country does not suffer from the consequence of a ‘brain drain’ as highly skilled talents stay and contributes to the growth of the economy. On the other side of the coin, the client country can focus on its core business functions because non-core tasks are outsourced at a lower cost without sacrificing output quality.
- Anthony have seen how a business collapsed just because the management failed to consider that outsourcing can save the entire business operation and the jobs of the core employees. Global sourcing could have been a key factor not only for survival but to enable the company to compete internationally. Technology and the Internet removes locational barriers and opens the opportunity to get the best talent based on merits.
- Contrary to common misconceptions about outsourcing, the industry proves beneficial both to the production country and the client country.
- Outsourcing can save the operation of an entire business and strengthen its competitive advantage in a global world.
- Technology and the internet makes global sourcing a value adding operational strategy for business success.
Hi, and welcome to another episode of the Outsource Accelerator Podcast. My name is Derek Gallimore, and this is Episode No. 189. So today I’m talking to Anthony Bowers of Tallant Asia. Anthony is an Australian. He though has lived in Asia for maybe the last 20 years. He was an early adopter of actually speaking Chinese and moved over there as a young guy and never really returned. So, he spent the last almost two decades across China, Hongkong, and now the Philippines through his travels and his professional career. He, I supposed, fell into outsourcing so much so that he is now running his own outsourcing operation called Tallant Asia. So, it’s an interesting story and we have lots to talk about. I’m sure you will enjoy. If you want to get in touch with Anthony or know anymore about this episode go to our show notes at outourceaccelrator.com/189.
Hi, and welcome everybody. Today I’m excited to be joined by Anthony Bowers of Tallant Asia. And that is about T-A-L-L-A-N-T.
So really excited to have you here, Anthony, how are you?
Anthony: Doing great Derek! And really also excited to be on your podcast. Thank you very much for the invitation.
Derek: Great! And yes, it’s kind of gooky[?], how we can all get excited around talking about outsourcing. It’s really such a progressive industry and I’m so excited that I do generally get excited about. But you as a bit of background, we want to dig into your history, and you are an Australian. I spent about ten years of my life in Australia as well. And now found yourself here in the Philippines, specifically Cebu, which is one of the secondary cities, possibly primary cities other than Manila in the Philippines. And you founded, and you are the President of Tallant Asia, so we would love to hear about that story. Thanks for joining us.
Anthony: Absolutely. Yes, I’m from Australia but actually dual-citizen. So, my mum is from the UK and Dad is Australian.
Derek: So, am I, I was born in UK.
Anthony: Whatever it goes. Sorry about the World Cup anyway. I thought it was coming behind. Maybe it meant coming home next time. So, yes, I grow up in Sydney, Australia. Had a pretty quested lifestyle there I grow up in the North shore, half of my life. But about 2002, in 2001 decided to go up to China. I’ve learned Chinese for quite a while, I just want to get immerse. I think it’s quite a pretty common story Derek, where the original plan was to go up for six months, do some teaching, get immersed, learn some more Chinese and then come back home. And I did all that. I just didn’t do the come back home part. And have been in Asia now closing it on 20 years, I think it’s 18 years now. Primarily China that was for about a decade. Then did seven years in Hongkong. And in the last couple of years, I then started to go out to the Philippines, and I’ve been based in the Philippines now, for about three years full-time.
Derek: Fantastic. And I mean, you said that you didn’t do the coming home. Most people do, don’t they? It’s an uncommon story when you don’t but the reality is probably 90% of the people do come home and it is just a kind of an Asian experience of something like a lot of travel but to some of these I think it kind of gets in the blood and it becomes a part of you. What was it about your experiences in Asia that drew you to that as your “now” life?
Anthony: Well, the China thing was with my old man he made me learn Chinese when I was very young. It was a really an interesting story. He befriended this very eccentric French gentleman who is a graduate of Japan, who is also a xenophile. Who is broke looking for some type of works. So, my old man being the type of guy he was said, “Oh, you can teach my son Chinese.” And that’s how it begun when I was very, very, young. And eventually when time come up to finish my studies, I’ve flopped around as a young man, as you do, I decided I would go up to China. I got married there, so that’s what kept me there.
Anthony: And I was at the deep dark heart of it. So, I wasn’t doing Shanghai or Beijing at the beginning. And now, I did and got there for a while. I was in a place called Hunan and in a city called Changsha, it was right in the thick of it. And it was a very formative experience, a wonderful experience in many ways also very eye opening and trying in other ways. I think that is for an expat or foreigner in any nation or country is pretty much the story with regard to here. That it does get into your blood and you did in many ways love it. It can also be very trying at times. And then after that stint there, moved down to Hongkong because I was getting a little bit awed by my life in China. So, I still wanted to keep the Chinese element, but I needed a bit to know more lifestyle as well and I planned to do my PhD, but I didn’t graduate.
I spent many years studying and teaching in Hongkong and then I start to learn more about the offshore and outsourcing industry while I was there. So, we had a business partner or silent partner who did a lot of work with abused domestic helpers and it got me interested in is there way to provide meaningful work for Filipinos and Indonesians specifically where they don’t have to travel to a foreign country to look for work where they can find meaningful work in their own country. Just an option, and that was really the genesis of Tallant Asia.
Derek: Right, wow! That’s incredible. When was that when you were looking for working opportunities for these people? What sort of year was that?
Anthony: Probably…now it’s 2018, I think I started all that in, I started looking at the industry in about 2013. But the years could fly by a little bit quicker than I want. So, I maybe off by a year or two, but that’s basically where it was.
Derek: Where you aware of outsourcing at that time because one of the key messages that we were trying to propagate especially to the Philippine market is that outsourcing is, you know, they are the kind of economic warriors of the new economy and it has so many advantages to the other options that they have. One of the biggest options being OFWs which is overseas foreign workers, people going overseas not only for domestic jobs but engineering jobs, highly skilled jobs but it creates a brain drain from the country and often most of the best skilled people leave the country and again this creates quite a void within the Philippines so outsourcing provides the opportunity for them to stay here, for them to stay with their family and earn good salaries bridging with the Western kind of salaries but also keeping in the skills, knowledge and the training here in the Philippines. But did you have an awareness of outsourcing then or was it because of your own explorations that you realize that outsourcing have a lot of potential?
Anthony: No, I have no experience about outsourcing Derek. I have a very standard parochial view of it growing up that outsourcing was bad, was wrong and it shouldn’t be done. Once you understand outsourcing and I’m trying to understand when I explored the industry at the beginning is that in fact, it is incredibly beneficial both to the production countries, so by that I mean where the staffs are, say it’s the Philippines but also to the client countries.
If companies in Australia for example and our clients want to compete internationally given the way that technology is moving and the fact that a lot of these corporate products can be on the cloud now, then companies really has to look at global sourcing and that is looking for the best talent around the world. It maybe in the Philippines, or maybe somewhere else. Then if they’re not thinking globally, then they can’t compete internationally.
So, I think both for the local people I think it’s incredibly important that they have that option. If they still choose to go overseas, good on them, they might want to experience Dubai as an engineer, and they may have other option rather than being an OFW. Fantastic. If we could also provide them with an option to have good middle-class career work, then I’m really happy to try and provide that for them and at the same time provide excellent service for our clients. I think one of the real issues is that people have misconceptions that we’re about taking jobs from people in Australia or America.
And I think that is far from the truth, we’re about scaling, we’re about allowing companies to grow and companies to compete and protecting the jobs of migrant workers, and by that, I mean those in Australia or Hongkong, or in America, wherever we have clients. And I’ve a really telling sad example of that is where we were talking to a construction company and they had about 30 staffs and they were having trouble competing for work. That was a Dutch company, I think if I remembered correctly and one of the people there was looking at offshoring as an option. It got canned because of parochialism we need to protect these jobs, and when we called back in four months the entire company go yonder. And that’s 30 jobs lost in Australia, they could have been saved by having a portion of the work offshored and allowing their highly paid staff in Australia to concentrate on high-value work which is really one of the cases of what we do.
Derek: Yes, yes. We see these examples time and again. That it’s not only necessary but it’s essential for any company anywhere in the world to seek out the most efficient means of doing their work like operating when there are better options out there. When there’s cost effective means, and you know in today’s competitive and tight margined world you just can’t afford not to at least explore all options on the table, and it’s efficient and it’s really is a win-win, I should say. We actually have a white paper on outsourcing being a win-win because it does still get a lot of kickback and we thought of it as necessary that we can layout the economic arguments as to why it’s beneficial as you say for the production company of course, but also the client outside the production country, but also the client’s country and the client’s community. I think what scares people is there’s an inevitability about it and the reality is that employment really is changing over the next 20 years it’s just going to be another world, isn’t it? In terms of employment norms.
Anthony: Yes, absolutely. And it’s all technology in my opinion. It’s all about technology. During 20 or 30 years ago, you sat on the chairs in the office. I needed to be physically present to deal with the computer technology, etc. Now you don’t, you got cloud accounting software, you have other cloud software, and once that location barrier is removed, then you’re start to, you’re truly are looking to have maximum potential in your business. Then your scope needs to be international, including the scope of looking for talent. And if you’re not doing that, then I think it’s pretty clear that that’s a hindrance to the growth of the business in my opinion. Other people may have a different idea, but I really feel, I really feel that way and I certainly feel very strongly that we are protecting Australian businesses and we are protecting the client company’s business by helping them have a cost efficient, highly skilled production workforce, which is what it’s about. We are aiming to create let’s call it a factory of staff with people and producing really high-quality work. Because at the core, yes, you have costs and that’s a huge factor of it. when people are looking for off shoring and I think if anyone says that it isn’t, then that’s not quite correct in my opinion. But at the same time, I think that if you aren’t also focused on getting the highest quality talent that you can find that you may not be going about it the right way. So, someone comes to us with just cost in line and we tend to try and shy away from it because we also want them to be focused on getting the best quality output they can from the stuff here in the Philippines.
Derek: Yes, absolutely. It’s got to be a combination of quality and output and cost in it, isn’t it? As you say, without doubt, you, there needs to be an element of saving money. Otherwise you would have everyone in your office, in your home town, but when, when you know, you put the overlay of outsourcing on, there’s an opportunity to save money but also not only deliver the same level of quality, but because you’re saving money opens up opportunities to further develop your business, add other business units to add other products, do more R&D, and that’s where the real kind of rocket fuel about sourcing is.
Anthony: It totally is. I’ll just add to that, that it is also about increasing the scope of available talent, right? If you’re just looking in your hometown for a certain type of role, then you are limited to the population of that home town. Whereas if your scope is global, then it’s worldwide. And that some massive difference on the ability to find a really quality people for a company.
Derek: Yeah, absolutely. And as you said it is purely technology. Before there were steam engines, you know, towns and villages were very isolated, and you only had the network of that 100 or 1000 people in each town. And then of course you had steam engines and you had airplanes and now you have the internet, which effectively created one town out of the seven billion people on the planet and you can’t sort of put up a kind of made up walls anymore. And I think as you mentioned with technology as well that is such an enabler but that in 20 years, I think there won’t be any delineation between outsourcing and employment. It will just be called employment because you hire the best person at the best price regardless of where they’re sitting or where they were born or what university they went to. It’s more of a meritocracy.
Anthony: I couldn’t agree more. And I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with the word meritocracy in that when we do have some fairly intense conversations with people regarding that, you know, the protection of what is in client countries, etcetera. And my opinion is that the meritocracy is the best way. Like if someone is highly talented, highly skilled, if they’re paid well. So, and treated well, have a great work environment. Who is anyone to say that they don’t have a right to have that work, just based on the fact that they’re in a different location. And again, it comes back to misconceptions, you know I was one of those people that had that misconception before I started looking into the industry in that, when you say outsourcing or offshoring…
Derek: Has a very visceral response, doesn’t it?
Anthony: It does. I think what this people pitch, I don’t know, cheap plastic chairs and chipboard desks, no air conditioning and someone slave driving a group of people to produce the lowest cost and really grift from a country and there’s nothing could be further from the truth. I mean, we have A-grade office buildings, and staffs are very well looked after. We try to be good corporate citizens by you know, paying our taxes properly and also providing back to the community. I’m a member of the Rotary Club here in Cebu that do great work for the community and we want to continue to give back to the community. And again, I think it’s misconceptions.
Derek: Yeah, and of course you’d see that because outsourcing almost not single-handedly, but has been a major contributor towards the rise of the middle class in the Philippines, the development of society, the sort of increasing of education and you know really has a lot to be proud of, isn’t it? It’s not a sweatshop environment.
Anthony: I couldn’t agree less. Yes. Absolutely.
Derek: So, you know, you’re going from a relative outsider, you now own and run your own outsourcing service provider. Then there was a step in the middle there where you became in effect the enterprise…what was that? Customer relationship sales manager for outsourcing, another outsourcing outfit in the Philippines?
Anthony: That’s right.
Derek: Can you give us some insight into your initial learnings there, your learning curve in outsourcing? The things that opened your eyes to, and effect to you of the applications about outsourcing because I assumed you learned enough that you were convinced that actually this is a business for you in the future?
Anthony: Yeah. It was certainly an eye opener for me. I, again, it comes back to misconceptions and a fairly narrow view of what I’ve thought outsourcing was, which I just pictured people picking up phones or taking calls or calling people and annoying them and stuff like that. And I went out to a company in Pampanga, somewhere, where I learned for a long time and did some work part time. It’s a little bit under the grave hour first and got to learn about the company and it was just fascinating seeing the depth and breadth of work that was being done for clients.
Anthony: And it was fascinating for me to see the deep relationship that forms between the onshore and offshore staff, which was fascinating and decided to take the plunge. So, I went over there full time now. Like everything in sales was really difficult at the beginning. I wasn’t sure what the trigger points where, or how to get people convinced. But through a bit of hard work and a great deal of luck and support from the owner of that company, I managed to start getting clients. And then the thing that I’m most proud of is that my very first client, he’s still going and very successful. At first the high was the PA to the CEO, a very heavy hitting CEO and a…
Derek: It was the convincer.
Anthony: It was, I was convinced Derek. And what I mean by that was the lady, I interviewed, but we interviewed several people. One of them stood out who eventually got the job was one of the most professional people I’ve ever come across. So, she was very high skilled, overseas experienced.
Derek: And that’s actually a lesson that for outsourcing in general, isn’t it? I think for new clients that are a little bit skeptical, you got to get those early wins in there. Otherwise people are the quickest to point out points of failure or disappointments, which is natural in any sort of business engagement. And it’s unfortunate that people can be quick to judge when maybe an employee doesn’t turn out, which is so common in any country, in any industry. But that’s probably one of the regret, isn’t it?
Anthony: So yeah. And many different examples of that we rolled out some really large software development teams, etcetera. So that’s interesting. Again, because I really didn’t understand the industry. So, you can build these huge software teams works really well. You can Citrix in to service in Australia for dollar issues, etc. And still really going strong a lot of those teams and for me the best one without naming names is a telecommunications company that we had set off and you know quite parochial, right? This was, I think run through by the owner and I’m very sort of “no, this isn’t going to work”. We’re not going to get quality out of this stuff. It was beautiful to see the turnaround from that sort of anti-outsourcing position to where by the time that I left that company, those bonds were incredibly strong and that was a very good team atmosphere between the production staff in the Philippines and the client stuff in Australia. And that’s a beautiful thing to see.
Derek: Yes, generally I think once people start, it’s a bit of minor trips to China. It’s often a one-way ticket, isn’t it? You know, it’s not easy to outsource and it’s no silver bullet, but against results it’s far more than what people expect, just being a dodgy call center. That it’s incredible. And again, we try and preach to people and tell people that this really is one of the most, if not the most transformative business tool out there in existence, and people just need to have a look, explore it, and give it a go.
Anthony: Look, it’s actually is. And we’ve thought long and hard about how to do that. When I say we’ve got some of that business stuff development for me in Australia for Dee Mills. And so, we’ve got sort of informed me a plan to have a business week in Cebu. So, we’ve actually got that off the ground with some people coming up in August and it’s really about trying to show people this. Just come on up and have a look, see the staff seating environments and hopefully little by little changing those perceptions.
Derek: Yeah, it’s incredible stuff. So, Anthony, I want to get you back for another episode, so we can actually deep dive. We’ve gone a little bit overtime, we have to deep dive into exactly what Tallant Asia does. And how you service your clients and wow your clients. So, thank you so much for your time. If anyone wants to get in touch with you and find out more about what you’re doing, how can they do that?
Anthony: They can go to my website, tallantasia. It’s TALLANT. Or they can send an email to [email protected].
Derek: Fantastic! And of course, we’ll have all those details in the show notes. Thank you so much Anthony.
Anthony: Thank you Derek. It’s an absolute pleasure and I look forward to talking to you again.
Derek: That was Anthony Bowers of Tallant Asia. If you want to get in touch with Anthony or know any more about this episode go to outsourceaccelerator.com/189. And of course, if you want to email us, just do so at [email protected].