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TONGA: First call centre hopes to tap into lucrative international market


Tonga's first call centre in Nuku'alofa. Image: ABC Radio Australia

Friday, October 11, 2013

Item: 8430

Jemima Garrett
SYDNEY (ABC Radio Australia / Pacific Media Watch): Tonga has launched its first call centre, and hopes to take the competition up to the region's oldest call centre industry in Fiji.

The call centre was the brainchild of Japanese-speaking, former senior public servant, Tevita Ha'apai.

ProComm Services was swamped with applicants when it opened its doors earlier this year, as Tonga's thousands of school leavers struggled to find jobs.

According to Radio Australia's Pacific Beat programme, Ha’apai said the industry had a big future.

"Maybe one simple example would be the forecasts for the business processing outsource for the Asia-Pacific region - that is excluding Japan - for 2016, it is expected to reach $US9.5billion," he said.

"That is not for the whole world - just Asia-Pacific - so a slice of not even one per cent, 0.1 per cent could have a great impact on Tonga's economy."

ProComm Services is a joint venture with Takeshi Tamura, chairman of the Japanese company Suite Pole.

Quality of business partner
Tamura, who has travelled to more than 40 countries looking for new investments, said the crucial factor in any business relationship is not what business you are in but the quality of your partner.

"I believe they can overcome difficulties because they can think by themselves and overcome difficulties," he said.

"Their teams work very well, because the Tongans [are] connected to each other [by] strong trust.

"So I decided to set up new company in Tonga - it is not [a] difficult decision."

ProComm Services opened its doors in March, providing a call centre for the Tonga Communications Corporation.

International call centre and business operations became possible in August, with the opening of Tonga's first fibre optic cable link to the rest of the world.

Operational costs
Ha'apai said the company is hoping to secure a discounted rate in accessing the cable to keep costs down and the business competitive.

"We are asking because we understand we are [to] start-up a new industry, we are asking a fair amount of discount and we would appreciate any amount or assistance the government can afford us," he said.

"It is critical because that would greatly contribute for us having a competitive advantage.”

Ha’apai said that the labour costs were already low in Tonga.

“Now it is just the communication costs and if we are competitive in that also, then we are competitive in both areas."

Takeshi Tamura and Tevita Ha'apai have been visiting New Zealand and Australia looking for business and hope to sign their first contract shortly.

Acquiring contracts
Ha'apai said he was confident ProComm had the capability to scale up to cope with new contracts.

"We have 35 staff based on our local service but our system is capable of having...up to 1000 agents or staff," he said.

"In a South Pacific country, in Tonga, it is challenging but we understand the reward or the benefits that there [are] for Tonga."

Ha'apai said the company was still waiting to hear what support it will get from the Tongan government.

"As I understand from India and the Philippines, it has become a national strategy for the government to assist and provide all the support that they can because they understand the potential, all the benefits...the ICT industry brings in for their respective countries," he said.

"So in the same sense, we look forward to further develop not only the call centre, ProComm Services in Tonga, but the ICT industry because it is a new and exciting industry in Tonga."

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Pacific Media Watch

PMC's media monitoring service

Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators.
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