Women in Leadership – Guiding BPESA and The Transformation of South Africa’s Business Services

By Raine St. Claire

March is important in South Africa as it honours Human Rights. For Reshni Singh, a fervent supporter of women’s opportunities in the Global Business Services Incentive (GBS) sector, it is also her one-year anniversary as BPESA’s CEO. With 21 years of experience in roles supporting South Africa’s economic growth, especially at the Department of Trade, Industry, and Competition (dtic), she managed the highly praised GBS incentives programme. In an interview, Reshni reflected on the industry’s significant progress.

Tell Us About Your Company & Your Role

I am the CEO of BPESA, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to supporting the Global Business Services (GBS) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) Sector in South Africa. Our primary goal is to promote trade and advocate for the sector’s development, growth, and sustainability. We offer tailored services to international and domestic BPO operators, vendors, not-for-profit entities, and international clients with operations serviced from South Africa.

My role is to support industry growth, oversee the GBS Sector Masterplan’s implementation, and create a conducive environment for prosperity. Aiming to generate 500 000 jobs by 2030, I prioritise economic upliftment for marginalised youth, empower women, promote education, and lead a high-performance team delivering top-notch value to members, partners, and stakeholders.

How Has The BPO Sector Grown Over The Last 5 Years – And How Have The Advances In Technology Impacted Its Growth?

In the last 5 years, we achieved a remarkable 24% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR), generating a cumulative Export Revenue of R28.3billion. Our global recognition as the preferred Customer Experience (CX) offshore destination has attracted Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) operators, leading to increased global clients establishing a presence in South Africa. Our influence extends to Australia, the United Kingdom, and notably, the USA, where businesses choose South Africa for exceptional talent. Technological advancements played a pivotal role, automating tasks and providing enhanced tools for better client and customer support.

Please Explain The Criteria To Locate Call Centres Locally or Internationally

In a fiercely competitive market, brands consider various factors when selecting a location. Key considerations include the availability of skilled talent capable of serving customers with empathy and competence. Affordability plays a crucial role, covering factors such as labour costs and infrastructure. Economic and political stability is a top priority, alongside adherence to standard ESG criteria, focusing on Economic, Social, and Governance controls. These aspects collectively shape the decision-making process for brands seeking an optimal location.

What Drives You To Succeed?

As a woman of colour leading the national industry body, my main goal is to build upon my predecessors’ successes and ensure the achievement of our collective goals. Witnessing the positive impact of the sector’s growth on thousands of young lives, securing employment that significantly influences personal lives, families, and communities, inspires me daily. I’ve prioritised advancing opportunities for women within the sector, launching various programmes and initiatives centred around this theme.

Are There Any Secrets To Keep Your Team Motivated? 

I lead a diverse team, united by a shared commitment to supporting the country’s economic upliftment and providing meaningful employment opportunities for young people. Despite financial constraints as a not-for-profit, my small team remains consistently committed and productive, handling demands from the sector, partners, and members. We share a common goal of making a positive, longterm impact in the country.

What New Trends/Disruptors Are Emerging in Your Industry

The industry, reliant on over 65% human capital, operates in a dynamic, global environment with daily opportunities for adaptation. Initiatives focus on supporting and motivating people to serve a global customer base. Despite concerns about AI replacing jobs, current roles are viewed as more supportive than threatening. Customers still value human interactions, emphasising the ongoing need for human-to-human conversations.

What Areas Do You Think Need To Be Improved To Enhance The Business Environment In South Africa, Espicially in The Context of The Current Energy Crisis We Are Facing?

Amidst the evolving global business landscape and growing resource demands, countries, including our source markets, encounter common challenges in energy and water. Despite this, South Africa, known for resilience and forward thinking, successfully navigated difficulties. Collaborative community efforts, supported by the government, positioned South Africa as a preferred offshore destination.

During the 2020 global lockdown, the country ensured uninterrupted services, creating nearly 17 500 jobs. This showcases the sector’s stability, effective disaster management, and business continuity measures, including energy continuity.

Are You Finding Any Skills Gaps in The Market? 

Facing challenges in middle to senior management due to recent growth, we’ve introduced programmes for organic leadership growth. Partnering with industry vendors, BPESA addresses skills gaps. Acting as an intermediary, BPESA supports funding partners in skill developments from entry level to technical skills. These initiatives collaborate with industry operators and trainers, providing individuals with upskilling, reskilling, and future skilling opportunities for evolving roles in the industry.

What’s The Best Advice You’ve Been Given Or Would Give, In Business?

To build relationships, foster a collaborative work culture, and stay adaptable to change. Encourage innovation, value your team’s input and maintain a clear strategic vision. Consistency, integrity and a focus on continuous improvement is the key to success.

What Are Your Goals For 2024? Are There Any Exciting Plans Ahead?

As CEO of BPESA, I work closely with our outstanding Board and partner community. Our mission is to build on recent achievements, create more job opportunities for young people, and attract additional global BPOs and clients to establish operations. With expanding funders’ support, we’re dedicated to delivering programmes in our Skills portfolio and enhancing research output for a broader stakeholder audience. Lastly, I’m excited to host a larger community at our annual flagship GBS I BPO Conference and Alchemy Awards in November, celebrating excellence in the industry.

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