BPO sector back on expansion mode; office space takeup rising
After a hiatus partly triggered by political jitters last year, the Philippine business process outsourcing (BPO) industry is back in a big way, with the knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) subset becoming more significant as more workers upskill or reskill beyond the usual call center operations.
Property consulting firm Colliers Philippines reported on Thursday that based on first quarter Metro Manila office space takeup—a good indicator of appetite for expansion—KPOs accounted for 28 percent of total volume in the first quarter, up from only 16 percent throughout last year.
Some of the major KPOs that closed property deals during the first quarter are Amazon, Google, Accenture and ING, Colliers reported.
Regular voice-based BPOs, on the other hand, also increased their share to 18 percent in the first quarter from only 9 percent for the whole of 2017.
Net takeup of office space amounted to 390,000 square meters in the first quarter. Combining the space taken up by regular BPOs and KPOs, their cumulative share of 46 percent in the first quarter is bigger than the 23-percent share of online gaming firms, which last year made up for the slack in BPOs with a hefty share of 40 percent.
Dinbo Macaranas, senior research manager, said the increasing importance of KPOs was aligned with the BPO industry’s moves toward upskilling or reskilling.
KPO is a subset of BPO that involves outsourcing of core functions requiring specialized skills and knowledge, such as animation, design, research and development, digital marketing, and legal services.
Since 2000, voice-based BPOs have been the major drivers while online gaming firms entered the picture in a big way in 2017. Macaranas noted that KPOs, on the other hand, had been steadily increasing contribution since 2014.
The strong demand from KPOs is a welcome development amid concerns of a potential cut in fiscal incentives for outsourcing firms, Colliers said. If the second phase of Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) were to be passed – referring to the package that cuts corporate income taxes but removes most fiscal incentives – Colliers noted that the income tax holiday would be limited to four years and the 5-percent preferential tax rate on the industry’s gross income would be replaced with a 15-percent tax on net taxable income.
Colliers still sees stronger contribution from KPOs as the BPO market shifts to higher value services amid threats of disruption from artificial intelligence.
Overall, Colliers expects a 6-percent growth in net take-up over the next three years, driven by a more diversified tenant mix.
Meanwhile, a total of 470,000 square meters of new office space were completed in the first quarter, the highest in any quarter in Metro Manila’s history. Nonetheless, strong take-up has kept vacancy rate below 6 percent.
For the rest of the year, Colliers expects over 525,000 square meters of new office space to be completed.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.