Indians send call centre jobs to Belfast

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The Independent Online

After years of snatching thousands of call centre and data processing jobs from Britain, Indian companies are moving onshore, or "near-shore" as they call it, to create jobs in the UK.

The Indian call centre company, ICICI OneSource, said yesterday it is to open two call centres in Northern Ireland, creating 1,000 jobs over the next couple of years. The company announced it would open its first call centre in Belfast with 400 jobs in July, supported by government funding from Invest Northern Ireland. A second centre is planned in the north-west of Northern Ireland later this year.

This is the second such investment in the British Isles by an Indian call centre operator after ICICI's rival, HCL, opened an outlet in Belfast last year.

India's outsourcing industry has seen meteoric growth this century as British businesses have moved large chunks of their customer service and processing operations to the subcontinent to save money. BT moved nearly 900 jobs at its UK broadband help-desks to India in December by awarding the contract to HCL. However, customers' reported unhappiness with Abbey's 1,000 call centre staff in Bangalore forced the high street bank to shut its centres in India last year.

ICICI said it was attracted to Northern Ireland because of its highly skilled workforce and relatively cheap property prices. It has started recruiting for its Belfast operation and views its launch in Northern Ireland as the second wave of outsourcing in which UK businesses are using Indian firms within Britain rather than moving jobs offshore.

Recent research by the consultants, OMIS, concluded Belfast is the best place to run a call centre in the British Isles because of its large pool of talented people and cheap property prices.

Meanwhile, Africa will see the fastest growth in the number of call centre workers of any region between now and the end of the decade, according to Datamonitor.