Sohan David – Unique Selling Proposition of TBS Global

Ep 079 Sohan David

In this podcast, Derek is joined by Sohan David for a second time to discuss TBS Global, a company Sohan co-founded.  They deep dive into what exactly is TBS Global and the services they provide to clients.

 

Summary

  • Sohan shares that he has 13 years of financial background in Sidney before plunging into the outsourcing business.
  • Sohan shared that they chose Philippines to be their location because of different degrees of ease of business including the Philippines’ infrastructure system, the banking system, and the general resource management, which makes setting up operations of BPO businesses smoothly.
  • Most people involved in outsourcing understand the commercial implications faced by a developing country as well as the bureaucracy that needs to work through. It’s a matter of being patient until the laws catch up to what those requirements are.
  • TBS Global provides a holistic solution to meet the call center requirements as well as the back- office administration and financial services requirements. Their strength is very much in the hybrid service positioning.
  • Consultative selling is something that TBS has done quite well. It is about adding value to the clients in the areas that are relevant to them rather than just rolling out a solution for the sake of it.
  • Sohan shares that he gets one-on-one time with the clients at least on a monthly basis because he is very passionate about business as a whole.
  • TBS Global is a small to medium niche BPO.
  • TBS Global has taken their years of marketing and sales experience to build a joint solution that includes social media and traditional telemarketing. That’s the model that they present to their clients.

 

Key Points

  • Businesses consider offshoring for scalability as well as cost-effectiveness.
  • There are three primary models on outsourcing.
  • Everyone involved in the business has to have skin in the game. No one can do miracles just as much as the next person can.
  • The key for any business is not to jeopardize the core business from a cash flow perspective.
  • The whole BPO industry is evolving in terms of lead generation and marketing.

 

Resources

 

Transcript

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Derek:  Hi, welcome to another episode of the Outsource Accelerator Podcast.  My name is Derek Gallimore and this is episode 79.  Today, I am rejoined by Sohan David of TBS Global.  It’s a BPO outsourcing firm here in the Philippines, but it also has two other international branches.

Today, we deep dive into what exactly is TBS Global and what I encourage you to do or anyone that’s out looking into outsourcing is really seek out the differences of each BPO, how they spin their service differently to every other BPO out there.

There’s a huge amount of BPOs out in the world.  There’s over 600, 700 official BPOs here in the Philippines.  So, it’s about knowing the differences, but also, it’s about knowing the management team, who you’re going to work with, and my chat with Sohan David, I’m sure, gives you insight into certainly TBS Global’s ‘service offering but also how to get the best out of them and the kind of questions to ask.

I’m sure you’ll learn a lot from this.  I certainly enjoyed my chat with Sohan.  If you want any of the show notes or to get in touch with Sohan then just go to our website at outsourceaccelerator.com/79.  Enjoy.

Derek:  Hi and welcome back everybody, today again I’m super excited about being joined by Sohan David.  Hi, Sohan.

Sohan:  Derek, how are you?

Derek:  Good.  Sohan is founder of TBS Global, which is a BPO here in the Philippines.  I’m going to get him to introduce himself and today, we’re going to deep dive into what and who exactly is TBS Global.  They are an outsourcer BPO obviously, but what is their specialty, how are they different, and what can they offer?  This isn’t an infomercial, but I think it’s really valuable to deep dive into these outsourcing operations, see how they compare and how they differ and what they offer.  Thanks so much for joining us today and just as a bit of background, would you be able to introduce yourself and how you came about having this internationalized BPO?

Sohan:  Happy to.  Hi everyone, my name is Sohan David.   I’m the CEO of TBS global.  I’m based in Sydney.  Our head office here is Sydney but our main operation center is in Manila.  We also have another operation in South Africa and Fiji, but Manila is, that’s my baby.  That’s where everything started.

Just to give you a brief background, I’m from a financial background in Sydney and 13 years ago we decided to look at outsourcing and had operations here in Australia for six years, and we felt that we need to now offshore for the same reason that everyone considers offshoring is for scalability as well as cost-effectiveness and we felt that looking for a destination that has outsourcing as a specialty would give us the right resources.

We looked at a few other destinations, but we fell in love with Philippines.  Infrastructure was great.  The reliability of the infrastructure, and the people and the experience, and just the general nature of people were amazing for us to set up shop.  We’ve been in that environment now for seven years as an offshore location in Manila.

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Derek:  Right, fantastic.  Yeah, I mean, I can certainly vouch for the people over here and we’ve actually dedicated entire episodes to the cultural alignment of the Philippines and the nature of the Filipinos, and also they’re sort of predilection and specialty, and voice services and it really is a very easy country to do business in and get along with them an outsource to isn’t it?

Sohan:  Absolutely that.  I think there’s, I guess, different degree of ease of business.  The infrastructure system, the banking system, the general resource management, I think they’re all geared towards outsourcing.  I think when you have a country that has its second biggest revenue from the outsourcing sector, everything does fall in place to make sure that businesses like us and definitely the larger BPOs, can come in and set up operations quite smoothly.

Derek:  Yeah absolutely and I know that the Duterte Government is actually really behind outsourcing and trying to clear any bureaucracy and trying to really support the sector, so hopefully it’s a very exciting future you’re going.

Sohan:  And that’s a very good point you raised and I think sometimes the general audience doesn’t really know where his office is taking outsourcing.  I had the pleasure of meeting him once at the ASEAN conference and he’s all about commercial gain for the nation and he knows what outsourcing is for this country for the next 20 to 25years.  Yeah, I think there’s absolutely no concern there as to business viability.

Derek:  Absolutely, I’m getting fantastic support actually from the government and I’m really excited to be increasingly working with them because it’s a good news message, like, Outsource Accelerator is actually just trying to promote outsourcing to the world and trying to get more business owners just to consider it.  Certainly, Duterte with his Duterte-nomics and as you say a very kind of commercial mind, he’s really trying to remove any friction for that so that’s super good.  And also funny enough, in Asia in November, Trump is coming over so that’ll be interesting between Duterte and Trump I’m sure.  We have the agenda to discuss outsourcing.

Sohan:   I would love to be in a room with those two.

Derek: Yeah, it’s interesting.  I mean, they are quite collaborative in public, but I’m not sure of their stance on outsourcing.  I have no political insight really, but Trump is a super commercial guy, isn’t he?  You know what I mean?

Sohan:  Very much.

Derek:   He’s absolutely into outsourcing everything even though his public position is to restrict outsourcing.

Sohan:  Correct.

Derek:  I wasn’t actually going to talk about this.  I want to discuss more about TBS Global, but I find it incredibly interesting that outsourcing is an export.  It’s like manufacturing.  The Philippines is exporting this, but because it’s service based, because it’s information based, and because it’s delivered or transported via the internet, it’s actually completely unpleasable and it’s it’s really difficult to regulate it.  I mean, maybe in sort of a few years they might be able to try and pin it down, but it’s actually an export that’s almost immune to kind of tariffs and regulation really, isn’t it?

Sohan:  Correct and I think that’s something as a body that outsourcing organizations have spoken about.  There has to be some sort of a different treatment.  I think most people involved in outsourcing understand the commercial implications faced by a country as well as the bureaucracy that needs to work through.  I think it’s a matter of being patient until the laws catch up to what those requirements are.

Derek:  Absolutely.  Okay, so let’s deep dive in TBS Global.  I want to know, first of all, what do you specialize in?  Are you a call center?  Are you a high skill?  Where do you position yourself in the market?

Sohan:  Sure, we’re very much a hybrid service provider.  We do have the call center functionalities and we love that.  We’re absolutely passionate about the voice services, but we’ve actually integrated a lot of back-office functionality into this.  Again, one of the things that I think we do well is understand our client base and look at what they need and provide a solution for that.  We felt that defining ourselves as a voice or a non-voice was not the tag that we needed to present.

We knew that there were elements of call center requirements that our customers needed as well as a large component of back office administration and financial services.  We basically provide a holistic solution to meet all those requirements.  Our strength is very much in that hybrid service positioning.

Derek:  Right.  Interestingly, the outsourcing industry started with voice and it was all basic call centers and now, the breadth of outsourcing is as broad as business basically, but it’s interesting that I think still about 60% of outsourcing is the call centers and it’s a lot of those American firms with maybe 10,000 or 20,000 staff sitting in seats in the Philippines.  Do you find as well that SMEs are typically more the kind of other functions of business, so accounting, bookkeeping, web management and things like that?

Sohan:  We definitely find that.  I think it’s very easy conversation for us to have with an SME within those sectors and talk about bookkeeping, talk about accounting and administration functions.  Once we have that that conversation it’s, again, very easy to understand what that business requires from an internet perspective.  Consultative selling is something that TBS has done quite well and it’s again about adding value to our clients in the areas that’s relevant to them rather than just rolling out a solution for the sake of it.

Derek:  Right and again that’s a phenomenal value add that you offer, isn’t it, because you’re not just getting an hourly rate for a person, which you would in your own hometown.  You’re actually getting all of the office provisioned IT, the hardware, but also your oversight, your 15 years experience, not directly of course, but within the organization.  There’s a huge amount of structural assistance to these roles, aren’t there?

Sohan:  Very much, Derek, and I think one of the things that I can talk about quite confidently right now within our business structure is that I get one-on-one time with my clients at least on a monthly basis.  I’m very passionate about business as a whole not just the outsourcing, so to me, I don’t feel like I’m I come to work.  I love the fact that, especially with my Sydney based clients, catch up for lunch, catch up for coffee.  We’ll roll out plans.  I’d love for that motto to continue even as we grow to the next and the following stages.  The concept of having a business manager attached to our clients is very important to us.

Derek: Its truly a partnership then, isn’t it, your business?

Sohan:  Very much so.

Derek:  Interesting.  Give us a sense of kind of how big you are and then also, how do people pay you?  What is the typical of the pay structure like for TBS?

Sohan: Sure.  In terms of size, we’re definitely not the giants.  Deliberately, we would be a small to medium niche BPO.  Our size could range between 80 seats at one center to about 300 seats in some of our centers.  Typically, most of our clients would occupy anywhere between 5 to 25 seats and so that gives us the ability to definitely grow them to their double their current size.

From a payment structure, most of our clients prefer to be on an hourly rate so it’s an hourly rate per agent and that’s managed on a monthly basis.

Derek:  Right and again, that’s all of the office housing, the hardware, and your oversight?

Sohan:  Correct, very much so.  It’s what we call within the industry the rolled up rate and it could vary between, in some cases $8.50 across to about $14 based on the type of solution that our client needs or the skills that they need from those resources and that’s an hourly rate that includes the resource, the mandatory obligations for that resource, the housing, the infrastructure, in sites as well as the complete outgoing cost involved.

The hourly structure tends to be the more popular.  With some of our larger clients where they have more than 30,000 transactions a month, we do have a transactional model in place so that you know that could be a per call or a per email or generally a per contact strategy.  That’s become very popular.  It definitely puts the emphasis on the outsourcing company to be very efficient in their solutions.

Derek:  Let’s discuss.  I mean, there are three primary models on outsourcing that I see.  There’s typically what there’s staff and seat leasing where effectively, you pay the salary and then you pay a kind of management fee to the BPO.  There is the hourly wrapped rate as you suggest and then I refer to it as the more traditional and historic truer BPO where you’re not paying for hours worked, you’re not paying for a person, but you’re actually paying for an output or a result.

Sohan:  Output.

Derek:  As you suggested, it’s whatever, you pay X an hour per lead generation or per call, and when a client buys that, what they’re obviously is getting them is obviously the staff member and the facilities, but you are effectively co-designing and managing that entire operational implementation.

Sohan:  Very much so and I think I wouldn’t necessarily recommend for a BPO starting off to start off with that model because it takes a longtime to work out what it needs in terms of expertise to roll something like that out because effectively, as you said, what you’re doing is you’re running that company’s department end to end.  If it goes wrong, it goes terribly wrong not just for the client but also for the BPO from a revenue perspective.

A lot of sort thought is needed.  It’s a risky strategy especially if we were talking about a sales lead pay-for-performance type of perspective, it’s probably not something that we would encourage and I think one of the reasons that we would not go down that avenues is, what we found is that when there’s nothing for the customer to be involved in.

When your client can basically trust you to run with it and when the input is minimal, the campaign doesn’t – it struggles.  There’s minimum input.  When you don’t have an answer, you don’t know who to go to, so I think that’s where those hybrid payment models can definitely help.

Derek:  Yeah.  It’s interesting, isn’t it, because BPO service providers, in many respects, you can often inherit all of the business problems of clients.  Some potential clients see it as basically outsourcing their headaches or outsourcing the difficult aspects of their business, yeah.  I kind of don’t envy you in that regard in that you’re almost seen as a solution finder, not just a kind of outsourcing staffing provider but you make or break off this bloke’s business.

Sohan:  You are 100% right in that and especially when it comes to sales campaigns.  That’s why our sales strategies have changed quite dramatically.  We talk about a long-term sales strategy rather than depending on that savior mentality.

A lot of businesses come to us and say, “Look, we’re in trouble,” but they may not say in this many words but they are kind of waiting for that telemarketing to be their saving grace.

Derek:  Right.

Sohan:  It doesn’t work like that, unfortunately.

Derek:  I have had comments from a lot of BPOs and it’s a bit of, I was like, “Yeah, that makes sense,” but a lot of people turn to outsourcing if they are about to go under because it’s kind of like the final, they are scraping around for any opportunity to save costs and then they suddenly discover outsourcing and actually they probably should have discovered it 10 years ago or one year ago or whatever.

Sohan:  Correct.  Again, I think the warning signs especially for outbound telemarketing or lead generation type of business models, that can be the case and we’ve experienced that a number of times.  Your client selection has to be very much in detail.

Derek:  This is an extreme proposal or hypothetical proposal, but have you ever had a guy come to you say, “I have made this widget.  I want you to sell $1 million worth of widgets and I’ll pay you $100,000 to sell it.  Go and do it.”

Sohan:  Look, it’s an interesting question you asked.  We’re actually speaking to someone at the moment who is very much in that mind frame.  He’s got a beautiful product, but again, I think for me, what I’ve learned is that everyone has to have skin in the game.  I can’t do miracles just as much as the next person can.

Derek:  Businesses are tough to run, aren’t they, and I think there’s a lot of opportunists out there that think we can come to TBS Global and actually outsource every single concern we have about the business.  I actually preaches in outsourcing that first a lot of people start with bookkeepers or something and generalist back-end stuff, but eventually, you can, in theory, tip that pyramid upside down so that virtually the entire organization is run from a lower cost base location and just have remote people in the high cost hubs.

There’s a massive opportunity for that, but if taken to an even further extreme, you can have the hypothetical of a guy saying, “I’ve invented this widget and so I want you to run the accounts department, marketing department, sales department, HR and admin and everything.”

Sohan: It is and that’s a risk especially for someone of, I guess, my nature when I get very excited about businesses and opportunities for the market, it’s something that I need to be very mindful of.  Especially in today’s environment where amazing applications and technology can come out of someone’s garage.

There are definitely opportunities to do that and I know there’s been a number of opportunities where we’ve actually turned our back and said, “No, that’s too risky,” that we regretted. I think the key for any business is not to jeopardize your core business from a cash flow perspective with some of these opportunities.

Derek:  Yeah, it can be a distraction.  I mean, it’s a completely different business if you partner with someone to be the operations arm of their business, yeah.  It is interesting how the delineation is very blurred, isn’t it, between seat leasing full BPO and then actually you are running the entire business for the guy.  It’s quite progressively blurred, isn’t it?

Sohan:  It is and I think to a certain extent what we have done, we’ve actually, as a company, we scaled in and out of that type of solution for our clients so there are times where, especially with my clients in Sydney, I would be called into an internal meeting from a marketing or a sales or an operational perspective, and I will sit in and have privy to a lot of information that the market doesn’t have.

It’s great from being able to then take that information and translate that to a solution, I love it.  But it can only be done with a certain type of client who is mature enough to understand what an outsourcer can and cannot do.

Derek:  Yeah.  I suppose it’s kind of a nice feeling when things are going well and they ask you to pursue opportunities that if the team in Manila isn’t making sales and they blame it on you as the outsourcer then it can sometimes create a difficult misalignment, yeah?

Sohan:  Very much so and I think that is one of the reasons that our sales strategy has completely changed.  We no longer take a list of prospective customers, call them, and try to sell them something or try to register them to something.  We’ve taken our years of marketing and sales experience and we’ve built a joint solution that includes social media and traditional telemarketing.  That’s a model that we now present to our clients.

Derek:  Yeah.  I mean, the whole industry is having to evolve, isn’t it, in terms of lead gen and marketing, and you’re having to evolve with that, aren’t you?

Sohan:  Very much so.

Derek:  Fantastic.  So thanks so much.  It’s been an absolute pleasure to talk to you and a fantastic insight.  This is what I preach to people as well that people outsourcing and using your organization, first of all, they’re saving all the hassle of having to incorporate and hire people and all that is covered within the hourly wage.  That cannot be understated because there’s a huge amount.  It is a developing country and there’s a huge amount of bureaucracy and red tape in terms of hiring and managing people and you cover all that.  But then also there’s decades of life and business experience and business savvy in you and your organization and your processes that people just naturally inherit by taking on your services.

Sohan:  It’s a win-win.

Derek:  Absolutely.  Thank you so much.  If people want to get in touch or know more, how can they contact you?

Sohan:  Happy to have any information sent through to me and any queries.  Email me, [email protected].

Derek:  Fantastic.  Thank you, Sohan.

Derek:  Okay that was Sohan David and if you want to get in touch with him or TBS Global, then go to our show notes which is at www.outsourceaccelerator.com/79.  If you want to ask us or get in touch with us here at the outsourced accelerator then just email us at [email protected].  See you next time.

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