Outsourcing in Bulgaria: Trends and insights
The outsourcing services sector in Bulgaria marked 11.2% operating revenue growth in 2020 thus contributing to 6.6% of Bulgaria’s real GDP in the same year. With double digits increase expected in 2021, as well as the next few years, the sector’s future seems to be bright.
According to Kearney, the global management consultancy firm, the country maintains its position as the top sourcing location in Southeast Europe (SEE), ranking Bulgaria 17th in the world in the 2021 edition of its Global Services Location Index report. Furthermore, Bulgaria not only topped the SEE ranking, but also achieved the fourth best score in the EU, behind Estonia, Poland, and Germany.
This is due to multiple factors such as tax policies, infrastructure, salary costs, population education levels, and more. With its 10% corporate tax rate, Bulgaria comes second most attractive country in the EU for international investors. Combining low tax with lowest labour costs and salaries among the 27 EU members, the country offers huge potential to any company ready to nearshore (outsource) services to a remote location.
Bulgaria offers many attractions for outsourcing / nearshoring customers. The workforce is very well educated with 40+ universities, 40+ colleges and 3000+ schools. Furthermore, Bulgarians rank second in the world in terms of IQ tests (Mensa) and employees are generally multilingual, highly flexible, and loyal. In addition, Bulgaria is a full EU member and has deployed a robust communications infrastructure so vital for the provision of efficient nearshoring.
The highest percent of outsourcing companies in the country operate from its capital. Situated within a 3-hours flight from the UK and just 2 hours from most Western European countries, investing in Sofia operations is often the logical choice for many.
Number of Sourcing Companies with Foreign Majority Owners
When planning an expansion, investors take into consideration infrastructure, political environment, digital transformation levels, office space costs, and more. Having to choose between home-based growth and outsourcing / nearshoring is before all a matter of simple calculation and the result is often influenced by salary costs.
Annual rates per Full Time Employee (FTE) in the BPO sector in Bulgaria varies widely between its sub-segments. On one hand, labour costs per FTE for 2020 jumped by 31.5% y/y in Finance and Accounting Sourcing (FAO), making it the branch with the strongest annual growth rate, while Human Resource Sourcing (HRO) and Voice-based Business Process Sourcing (VBPO) more than doubled their rates in comparison with 2019 to 26.3% and 19%, respectively. At the other end of the spectrum, Knowledge Process Sourcing (KPO) and Other BPO halved their growth rates on an annual basis.
To put this into perspective the actual salary costs are as follows: KPO with EUR 23,823, followed by FAO and Shared Service Centres (SSC) with EUR 22,838 and EUR 21,430, respectively. HRO is found at the bottom with EUR 9,445 per FTE in 2020.
Salary Costs per FTE (EUR)
With all data pointing towards the good outsourcing / nearshoring future of Bulgaria as such destination, ENCORE, a UK owned nearshoring services provider fills in some niche outsourcing opportunities. In addition to the expected Support desk function, ENCORE takes ownership of whole Business administration processes, covering Project management, logistics management, procurement, and supply chain management, to name a few.
In addition, the Sofia-based offices cover business processes automation, IT service management as well as marketing as a nearshoring service. ENCORE has made the transition towards outsourcing easy. With a number of regionally based territory managers to help with introduction, onboarding, and continued support as well as total contract flexibility, ENCORE delivers high-quality operations from a distance.