Vidya Ravichandran Discusses Glowtouch’s Dual CX + IT Strategy & Their Bet On The Dominican Republic
Glowtouch is on a roll. The US based IT and customer experience outsourcer already has operations in India and The Philippines along with a strong footprint in the US. Despite the pandemic, Glowtouch moved forward aggressively to open its second site in Santo Domingo, the capital of Caribbean vacation paradise Dominican Republic.
Loren Moss was on hand for the grand opening of Glowtouch’s newest facility, where he was able to spend a few moments with CEO and founder Vidya Ravichandran (above, in red). She shared with Loren Moss readers why the company is betting big on The Dominican Republic, plus the outsourcer’s big plans for expansion into new geographies.
Loren Moss: I’m here with Vidya Ravichandran, the CEO and founder of Glowtouch. We’re here in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic. First thing, congratulations on the grand opening today of your newest facility. Tell me a little bit about Glowtouch, how old is the company, and how big is the company? Tell me about where some of your other locations are, I believe you’re based in Kentucky, is that correct?
Vidya: That’s correct.
Loren Moss: That’s great, my neighboring state, I’m from Ohio, so great to hear that but tell me just briefly, if you could just give me some background about Glowtouch, how you founded it, and kind of an overview of the size and scope of the company right now.
Loren Moss: Yes, absolutely. Thank you, Loren, it’s great to be here, I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you today, it’s a really exciting day for us, opening our nearshore facility, a new facility in Santo Domingo. Our company is 20 years old, and I’m the founder of the company. I started it in 2002, we have multiple locations, and we’re about 2500 employees globally. We have three sites in India, our primary location is in Bangalore, another city called Mysore, that came up in the fall of 2021, we have two locations in the US, on-prem and a third have been these locations.
This interview was originally published in FInance Americas
We are headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, like you said, you’re neighboring state, and our other locations are in San Antonio in Texas, and South Florida, in the Miami area, and we have a location in Manila, metro Manila in the Philippines and we started our nearshore operations almost two years ago in Santo Domingo, but in another location in the city and this is our new flagship site here in Santo Domingo that we are inaugurating today. We needed more space to expand and grow the operation so here we are.
Loren Moss: Well, that’s really cool. Does Glowtouch have a…not a niche, but a specific industry focus? So, I know that customer experience outsourcing, there are companies that are very strong in telecom, there are companies that are very strong in retail, is there a specific area where Glowtouch is dominant?
Vidya: There very much is, we do have clients like I said, in multiple industries, but primarily where we focus is in the technology sector, so the bulk of our clients are technology companies, they’re SaaS platform companies, technology platform companies, so a number of our programs globally are all focused on tech support.
There are other elements of customer service, customer care, customer experience, overall but our heavy focus tends to be on technical support and that’s to all different tiers, you know, tier one, tier two, tier three, so we are a little bit unique and that’s why we call ourselves the “uncommon BPO” and we have support operations, but we also have a software development operation that really enhances our support teams. So we do custom application development, cloud enablement cloud services that work very closely with technical support as well, so we are quite differentiated from that standpoint.
Loren Moss: I’ll say, yes, that’s a combination of ITO and CSO and that’s something you normally don’t see. So let’s talk about…we’re here in the Dominican Republic, one of my favorite countries, of course, I’m biased as you know my daughter’s from here, but I think it’s interesting because in the Caribbean, people think about Jamaica as being kind of one of the dominant contact center delivery locations. They’ve done extremely well in Jamaica, but then we look at Costa Rica as being the IT outsourcing location, Mexico and Colombia are also big delivery locations for customer experience.
The Dominican Republic does have a good reputation in this sector, but it’s not dominant. How did you first come to consider the Dominican Republic? and what were the things that drove your decision to choose this country as your expansion destination?
Vidya: So a couple of years ago, about five years ago, we did a pretty large strategic planning operation for what our roadmap looked like, and one of the things that we found obviously that was missing for us, that was hindering expansion of client programs and giving clients an opportunity to have more concierge types of service, that was not onshore, but not necessarily all the way offshore, was that missing component was nearshore for us, so we undertook an exercise to evaluate multiple locations and we did shortlist it down to a couple of different locations, the Dominican Republic being one of them.
“At Glowtouch we want to make sure that the team that we’re bringing on to be part of the Glowtouch family is something that really fits into the overall culture of the organization.”
But what really drove us to choosing this location is we found the right leadership team here, we found the people who were outstanding, are outstanding, and it’s just been a wonderful experience, even though we’re trying to do a lot of this remotely.
And during the pandemic we found that we have very trusted partners on the ground here that were eager, enthusiastic, were able to give us talent, access to a talent pool and be able to do this much faster than any other locations could. So we ended up choosing this because we really felt like it was a good cultural fit for us, because we’re all about culture. At Glowtouch we want to make sure that the team that we’re bringing on to be part of the Glowtouch family is something that really fits into the overall culture of the organization and the people have just been outstanding and I cannot say enough wonderful things about them.
And just in terms of the infrastructure, you know this has been really great in terms of finding access to locations, being able to build something out really quickly, they’ve been very efficient, very quick and it’s just been a great experience for us overall, and we’ve had a couple of programs that we initially started out with, then we’ve expanded to multiple clients in this location, and every one of the programs we’ve been able to bring on quickly, hire efficiently, train up the people in a pretty rapid manner and really be able to deliver some stellar results for our clients. So we feel very good about our decision to come here and we are really excited to continue to expand this location going forward.
Loren Moss: Great, that was kind of an intro into my next question which is: You mentioned that you guys put together a big strategic plan. Tell me about the—growth prospects isn’t the right word—but the direction you as the CEO of Glowtouch, your vision for where you want to take the company. And also, it’s kind of a different question, but then also let’s talk about the nearshore in general and other locations that you think might have potential and then what you think about the growth prospects for your operations here in the Dominican Republic.
Vidya: Yes, so nearshore is very strategic to our growth and I think a lot of BPOs may have already come into that determination a little bit earlier than we did, but we were so, like you said, so tech-focused, and focused on services that were being very efficiently delivered out of India, out of the US, out of some of our other locations that nearshore had not been part of the strategic planning initially.
But everything has changed, the pandemic has changed everything, customers are looking for things that may not necessarily be what they thought they were looking for three to five years ago. So the way they view service delivery and customer experience is also changing and evolving, and while offshore has been really great, and we see significant growth and expansion happening offshore as well. And onshore has some other challenges in terms of just access to talent pool and not to mention cost. And you know, some other issues of just physical infrastructure, people wanting to work from home.
Nearshore has really solved a number of those issues, it’s in a very niche area but it’s something that continues to drive a lot of value to our customers so that’s something that we are going to put even more focus on expanding. So our goal is to have an additional…at least two more locations in other nearshore geographies and we are continuing to evaluate other nearshore locations. So I would say, if not 2022, definitely 2023 we may be in one or two other additional nearshore locations as far as our growth trajectory. You know, we have three operations in the US, and the rest is probably going to be work from home, but we do see in our strategic plans, we have plans to go to Europe to really kind of fill the gap between all the way offshore and onshore, nearshore…so we’re evaluating, we’re doing a thorough study of European locations, so those will be a couple more that we are expecting to add to our roster within the next 12 to 24 months so lots of growth ahead.
Loren Moss: So what is your impression of the availability of talent? obviously there are smart employees everywhere but then some places have more—not so much…smart is not the right word—but maybe with the appropriate skill set okay, what’s your assessment of the ability to find the people ready to work with the skill sets that you need? Especially because you guys are a tech-focused outsourcing firm. So even if somebody’s doing…they’re not a software developer, they still need to be technically proficient, they need to have English skills. What’s your assessment of the talent pool here in Santo Domingo?
And then also the infrastructure, because that’s critical, because you can put in…I’ve been to places recently where there’s promising talent, but the infrastructure isn’t there. You are going to places where there’s no fiber connectivity. You know, I spoke yesterday with the head of Indotel, which is the like the FCC of the Dominican Republic, and they talked about their strategic plan for connectivity with the island. How have you found that to be as far as I mean: we’re in a big commercial facility, it’s a beautiful facility here, but tell me what do you see about the infrastructure here and the talent pool?
Vidya: The infrastructure, one of the things that’s it’s a pretty significant hallmark for us at Glowtouch is we always over-invest in infrastructure and we do that out of the gate because at the end of the day if you are not able to deliver for your customers all the time, consistently, no matter which location you’re operating from, then it’s just not a good experience. You know, you’re not a valued partner for them. They need to be able to put their trust in you.
So, coming to the Dominican Republic, that’s what we’ve done here. There is availability of infrastructure, it has been great. You know, we’ve been operating here for a couple of years in a different location, we’ve really not had downtime, we’ve not had outages. and that’s because we’ve really invested in those areas. And in a large facility like this, this is something that we are very actively looking at, our technology team is constantly evaluating what do we have, what do we need to have, for our team to deliver a seamless experience for our clients. So by virtue of making that a focus area, we’ve been able to deliver consistently, globally.
“So our goal is to have an additional…at least two more locations in other nearshore geographies and we are continuing to evaluate other nearshore locations.”
One of the interesting things during the pandemic, was it kind of shows the real difference between a commercial investment and commercial infrastructure and people that are trying to work from home. That’s a little bit more of a challenge, so we did have our sites open for people that didn’t really have the right kind of connectivity. But we made it a safe environment that people could come and still operate during the pandemic and we were able to do it pretty seamlessly. You know, even in other locations in India we were able to deliver the technology that people require to work out of their homes in a similar manner like they would from the offices, so that has been something we’ve been able to address and we have not fortunately suffered any adverse effects from a lack of infrastructure or connectivity standpoint. So that has been really good.
And I’m really glad to hear your conversation about the ministry here, continuing to want to expand connectivity, and just infrastructure, because that’s critical to the growth of any economy. If you don’t really put all the right infrastructure in place on the front end, it’s really going to be difficult to then try to scale later. And obviously there are other large BPOs here, and I’m sure they have a pretty strong influential hand in making sure that the island continues to be at the top, world-class connectivity standards, because that’s really critical.
As far as talent pool, we’ve been able to recruit all kinds of talent, so one of the things that we were a little bit unsure like you said, Costa Rica tends to be a great hub for engineering talent. You know, there are niche areas where people specialize in certain types of talent pools, or at least that’s what you generally hear about, but when we had requirements for engineering talent, some of our clients asked us to see if we could source nearshore talent, particularly in the software, development area and engineering areas and I’m delighted to tell you the talent is very much available.
You know, it takes a little bit more time to source it because we as BPOs tend to have very traditional sourcing channels and mechanisms, but we have found them and the really great news is they’ve done such a great job that our clients would expand our engineering pool in the Dominican Republic. So we have active requisitions from clients and our talent acquisition team is working on bringing in more engineering talent, so because it really gives people an opportunity to go two ways. If you’re very technically minded, if you have skill sets then there’s an opportunity to come and work on programs that support that or do software development, but if you’re really much more interested in customer experience then you know there’s obviously room to grow in those areas.
And sometimes we find that people want to do both. In some of our locations we have really found that, and people look at opportunities to be in two different areas as a career progression: to be in places where there’s cutting-edge work happening. So that’s really served us quite well, and we’re delighted with the talent pool that we see here and hopefully, we’ll be able to bring some bigger engineering programs here.
Loren Moss: That’s great to hear, is there anything that you wanted to mention that I maybe neglected to ask you? Are there any points that you wanted to make or emphasize that I maybe didn’t ask?
Vidya: The one thing that I will emphasize again, like I said before, is the people. They have been so dedicated and so committed. You know, we’re a smaller BPO in a country where there are very large names. But the people that have chosen to be here, they have a mission, they have a purpose. We’re a very mission driven and purpose-driven company, so we’re very…for us, culture is everything and to be able to see a group of people that have self-selected themselves into wanting to be here by choice, that’s not something that we take for granted.
That is something that matters to us a lot, and so when we see people really putting their faith in us, we want to really be able to bring back to them the types of opportunities that we know they deserve, both personally from a career progression standpoint, and to give back to our communities because these communities are where we’re operating, they’re giving us a lot. So we’re very committed to bringing back and giving back to those communities as we continue to grow and operate in these locations.
Loren Moss: One last question, I always wondered this: what does Glowtouch mean?
Vidya: So we wanted to start a company that had the letters G and T. My grandparents’ names start with G and T. And they’ve been obviously a pretty strong force within our family community, and so 20 years ago when we were looking for names, you know it’s hard to find domain names at that time the only TLD’s they had were dot-com, and now you have a lot of different extensions. So we tried different combinations of names that were not taken and then we found Glowtouch. And it really means, to us it means a lot, other than the fact that it is a reflection in honor of my grandparents, We like to bring the light wherever we go. We like to be very high touch both to our employees, our clients and to our communities, so I think it’s all came together very beautifully.
Loren Moss: I, want to congratulate you on your opening, and I know it’s a very special opening, I mean, all are special but I know this one in a special way that I know that you worked very closely side by side with your father who I’ve come to hear a lot about, so I want to congratulate you especially on the added significance of the occasion and of the timing, and so just a heartfelt congratulations for me and thank you so much for your time.