Indian BPO major HCL, which has reposed faith in trouble-torn Northern Ireland since 2001 when Western companies were chary of investing there, has spread more cheer by employing its 2000th employee in the region.
Many view HCL investing in Northern Ireland as one of the foremost landmarks of India-Britain relations during Tony Blair's tenure as prime minister. Since 2001, other Indian companies such as Firstsource, Pix Transmission and Tech Mahindra have followed HCL into the region.
HCL has so far invested 16 million pounds in three expansions in Northern Ireland in the last seven years - the most recent led to the development of a second BPO/contact centre in Armagh. It has now hired the 2000th employee in the region.
From its centres in Northern Ireland, HCL provides a range of high value BPO, contact centre (including multi-lingual) and online services to a range of clients from sectors as diverse as telecoms, retail, banking, media, publishing, utilities and technology.
According to Jeremy Fitch, managing director of business (international) at Invest Northern Ireland, a regional development agency, "HCL BPO Services is a valuable asset to the local economy. Since 2001 this global service leader has not only offered varied career opportunities for talented local people, it has repeatedly invested in its employees as part of a corporate commitment to training and development."
"Recruiting its 2000th employee is a tremendous achievement and clearly communicates to other global organisations that Northern Ireland is the most competitive European location available."
"This announcement is evidence of the growing partnerships that are developing with the Indian business world in terms of both inward investment and export opportunities, and it is particularly fitting that this announcement is made as our local business community fostered even stronger links with India during the recent Invest NI trade mission."
Kevin Houston, senior vice president and general manager for HCL BPO Services UK, added: "I am very excited by the progress achieved to date and by the operation's long- term potential."
"Since HCL BPO Services was originally established in Northern Ireland in September 2001, the company has grown locally and globally. We now employ 2,000 in Northern Ireland and over 13,000 people around the world."
"Our two centres in Northern Ireland are complemented by a network of nine service delivery centres in India and our NI expansion is based on HCL's realisation that while outsourcing to India can produce cost savings of up to 60 per cent, this differential by itself is not sufficient to build a global BPO services company."
"For us in Northern Ireland, this means that while our India centres are an integral part of the solution we offer our clients, the Belfast and Armagh centres offer us an opportunity to tap into another skilled workforce which will enable us to service European markets even more effectively."
Ranjit Narasimhan, president and CEO of HCL BPO Services Ltd, echoed Houston's enthusiasm: "Independently conducted research has established that Northern Ireland's people, infrastructure and cost base make it the best place in the UK - if not in Europe - to set up a customer BPO/contact centre.
"Having been operating here for nearly six years, we're delighted at the speed with which we've been able to establish a highly efficient, highly regarded operation in tune with our global ambitions.
"Now benefiting from HCL Technologies' financial strength, global reach and our high technology and CRM capabilities, Belfast has become an essential part of the highly innovative business model that we're building".
"It's a model that is still relatively unique in our industry. But it is one, I believe, that others will have to try to replicate sooner than later if they are to make the most of the global opportunities that now exist in offshore business process outsourcing."