Guest: Andre Villalba
Presenter: Henry Acosta
Guest Bio: Andre is a highly experienced Project Manager and Web Business Specialist. With his in‐depth understanding of Actuarial Analyses within the business environment, he delivers efficient development solutions and drives marketing campaigns & development projects to allow business growth for a client‐track record that includes Novartis, Baxter, Toshiba, Lionsgate Films, Cruise.co.uk, BMW and Yahoo. He is an expert in Project Management, Agile Delivery, Development Architecture, and IT Solutions.
Segment overview: iLucent is an outsource company with offices in Davao City, Philippines that specialises in remote staffing for Medical Healthcare Service companies that are mostly based in New York City, handling medical billing support and providing US-based clients with virtual assistants. Andre talks about how iLucent expanded its services from Medical Billing Outsource Services to Software Development Services. He takes pride in the ‘Yes Sir’ and ‘Yes I Can’ culture of Filipinos – an attitude full of positivity and a sense of confidence in being able to deliver better services to clients.
Address: 2/F 59B Aala Building, Iñigo St.,, Davao City, 8000 Davao del Sur
Contact: (082) 287 1350
To know more about iLucent Outsource Solutions, listen to the podcast below.
Our talk with Andre Villalba begins at the 1:25 mark of the podcast:
Henry Acosta: This is the Outsourcing and Offshoring Philippines podcast with Henry Acosta. And joining us today is Andre Villalba, the CTO or Chief Technology Officer of iLucent Outsource Solutions. He is with us today to talk about iLucent Outsource Solutions and to let us know about what they do and who they are. Welcome to the show Andre and thank you so much for joining us today.
Andre Villalba: Hi Henry. Nice to be on the show, thanks for having me.
Henry Acosta: Just tell us a little bit more about yourself and how you got involved with the BPO industry.
Andre Villalba: Alright. Well, it’s been quite a journey. I don’t want to say too much because it might reveal how old I am but it’s been a while. I started off as a web developer. Although before, I did sort of try out being a call center agent. That really didn’t work for me very long, well actually it did for about a year or so. And when the opportunity came knocking for me to go into web development and programming, it’s what I went to school for so something to break out of the structure. And it’s interesting because in the beginning of my career, I was kind of looking for something to break out of structure and that’s where I went into web development and things sort of started from there. We got into an IT company in Cebu and they saw my communication skills. It’s something that’s a little bit rare with developers because most of the developers, they speak a slightly different language and so being able to speak English clearly and talk business to clients in a way that they would understand was an advantage for me so it sort of pushed me up and within two years or so, I was able to become the Technical Director of that UK-based IT company. But of course since most of their operations, they got purchased by a larger marketing company later on and so I had to move on. I started a small marketing and web development company in Thailand after that with a few of the sales people from the previous company and we sort of set up a company that went really well for two or three years. Well the company focused a lot of its drive and energy on the industry of SEO. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with that, it’s online marketing and search engine optimization. So when Google changed its algorithm, it sort of went southward very fast and that company had to fold up. And from there, it was a lot of outsource working. I also did some work with home-based development work and home-based consulting business development and website development and other outsourcing details. And then most recently, well before iLucent, I was with a company called SAMATOSA, it’s a software company and they do software projects for pharmaceutical companies and it’s very, very cutting edge. And it’s a software development company and I loved it. But, I got cancer and I had to stop and when my treatment was coming to an end, iLucent came along. They’re a New York-based client and they asked me to come in and look at their software needs and I consulted. It just drew from there to a point where they wanted me on board as their technical officer and I said, “Sure.” And before I knew it, I am the Operations Director so it’s sort of I prefer the title CTO because they wanted me to take on the title of COO but I said that’s just a little bit too overrated. There’s only 30 of us in the company and having such big titles, it’s something that I’m not really fussed about, but here we are.
Henry Acosta: Can you tell us about iLucent Outsource Solutions?
Andre Villalba: Well iLucent is a New York-based outsource company and at the moment, we focus on different clients. Majority of the clients that we have are in the medical industry and we handle medical billing support for them, providing them with virtual assistance. Most of them belong to the New York City, in New York larger area, medical institutions like Sinai and so on. Now these companies, they’re very intertwined because they’re part of a Jewish community and we service that. There’s another company here in Davao that does that as well, they’re called ‘Focusinc.’ And we do very similar business, wherein we provide outsourced solutions for them. At the moment, it’s mostly medical billing needs but at the same time, it’s two-ply because that’s during the evening when people outsource VAs work during the evening on Eastern Standard Time and during the day, we have the software team in who does the software support programs for the medical billers and other clients as well.
Henry Acosta: Are your clients solely just from New York or do you have clients somewhere else?
Andre Villalba: Right now, iLucent, the company itself only has clients in New York. There is enough business to go around.
Henry Acosta: Have you ever had clients come near offices in Davao and maybe meet or train your staff?
Andre Villalba: From previous companies, we have. iLucent is a fairly new company. We just recently celebrated our one-year anniversary and so for iLucent, none of its clients have come to the Philippines yet.
Henry Acosta: I see. It is becoming a trend for outsourcing firms who have small to medium sized clients to bring out their employees to their respective countries or actually visiting the Philippines. Clients really enjoy their time here and their employees.
Andre Villalba: It’s true because we speak the language and we have a lot of potential and it’s a great opportunity for people who can speak the language and do the work. There’s a lot of work that can be done online because everything, all the information is available online at a click of a button.
Henry Acosta: Yes. It’s crazy how the technology has evolved in the last decade and how it has progressed which made having a global office possible for everyone around the world. You couldn’t have imagined everything to be like this, maybe 10 to 15 years ago.
Andre Villalba: Absolutely. If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would be sitting in an office right now, on an internet connection that’s a 100 mbps and I would have told you, “You’re crazy.” But here we are.
Henry Acosta: Can you tell us about the clients that you guys have? What kind of clients are ideal for you and people who are interested in outsourcing, what should they know before they actually pull the trigger on it?
Andre Villalba: Well I would say in general, I wouldn’t say specifically for iLucent, because we’re a little bit proprietary, we’re protective of the information of our clients. We don’t really tell them what kind of clients we have in general. But I’d answer that question, in general, any outsource person, the ideal client is, you have the small individual clients and then you have the bigger ones that expect to grow to a team of 20 and so, but the ideal person that I would go for is a client who understands the difference between the culture – number one, of the outsource people, the people of the Philippines. We have a slightly different culture from that of Americans, or Japanese, or British people. But more importantly, the second thing that I would really look for within a client is a client who understands that they operate internationally and they have to respect international laws. So that’s the ideal thing because with many, many clients, they just don’t understand that to operate in the Philippines, you have to comply to our laws and a lot of our laws don’t make sense to them. Our labor code for example, is one of the silliest things that foreign clients would see. The amount of holidays that we get, the amount of time that we have to give our employees before we’re able to let them go is also something that a lot of clients are not used to. And technically, if you want to let someone go in the Philippines, you would have to wait anywhere between 30 days to 3 months and that’s just not how it goes in the U.S. or in Europe because there, they don’t like how you work, you say goodbye and you ask someone to pack their stuff and get out of the office. They can do that. Here, you try to do that, you realize that your employee will come back the next day and own the company and that’s just one of the things that you will get. And the culture between generations, that becomes a big challenge and you get older clients who would expect a lot of business sense from professionals and in the same way that you and I would. But the more recent generations that have come along, they’re a bit more tricky to work with and it’s a culture barrier. And clients who understand this sort of culture would be best to set their expectations in a more realistic way, otherwise, they get angry very fast and so it becomes a challenge. So going back to your question of what kind of clients would be ideal for us, my answer is just someone who’s open-minded to doing business. When you go into outsourcing, you just have to accept the basic fact of you are doing business internationally and along with that, comes all the baggage of cultural differences, time differences and so on. And if you’re not ready for that, then you’re going to be encountering a lot of negativity in the work environment.
Henry Acosta: What makes the Philippines such an attractive place for Western countries or for Westerners to outsource here?
Andre Villalba: Well number one, is because of our ‘Yes Sir Policy,’ our ‘Yes Sir Culture.’ The Filipino culture, it’s very rare, well it’s not that rare anymore but generally, Filipinos would say, “Okay, yes. We can do that.” It’s very seldom that you would say, “Let me think about it.” ”Let me see if we can do that.” “Let me see if it’s possible.” It’s full of positivity. It’s a sense of confidence in being able to deliver something and if it gets to the point wherein we get ourselves into trouble, and we say, “Oh no. I overestimated our capacity.” We usually just make do with it and compensate at our expense. A client comes to us and says, “I want this project done.” We say, “Yes, we can do that in a hundred hours. No problem.” Now, if it were some other company and my experience with companies in Kazakhstan or other companies in the Ukraine for example, software companies in the Ukraine or companies in India, they would say, “Well, you know, we’ll think about it. We’ll take a look at your needs and we’re going to charge you 150 hours for that 100 hour project that you’re asking for.” And for Filipinos they’d say, “Yes, we can do that. We could do 100 hours. Sure.” And then we end up doing 150 hours. The thing is a lot of us, we don’t mind doing the extra 50 hours because we love to please. That’s just part of the Filipino culture and it makes it so attractive to foreign clients because we love to please, that’s our culture. We’re hospitable, we love to accommodate people’s needs, because it’s in our programming.
Henry Acosta: Yes, that is a very big part of the Philippine culture. I’ve heard a lot of people say that it really becomes a special kind of workplace for both the clients and employees, that just makes things work and make the partnership last. And for those interested in getting in touch with iLucent Outsource Solutions, can you tell us how they can reach you guys and where are your offices located here in the Philippines and around the world?
Andre Villalba: Well we got a New York office. You could just search iLucent Outsource on Google. I’d say, if you’re interested to work with us, as a supplier or as a virtual assistant, if you are in the Davao or Mindanao area and you want to work in Davao, you can always come and check out our Facebook page, it’s facebook.com/ilucent or you can always send an email, contact me at [email protected] Send me an email. If you’re a client and you’re interested and you’re looking into outsource solutions, you can contact us through ilucent.com.
Henry Acosta: Are there any contact numbers that people should know about?
Andre Villalba: Well our local office number here is area code 82 287 1350 and our New York office is actually being set up, it’s currently for our clients’ company but as soon as I get that number, I’ll give it out to you.
Henry Acosta: That’s all our questions for today and thank you so much for joining the podcast Andre.
Andre Villalba: Alright. Thank You, Henry. Thank you for having me and it was great talking to you guys as well.
Henry Acosta: And that was Andre Villalba of iLucent Outsource Solutions. If you want to learn more about iLucent Outsource Solutions, you can visit their website at www.ilucent.com and you can look them up on Facebook as well. And if you want to know more about the BPO industry in the Philippines and actually learn about the companies that are headlining it, you can go to our website at www.offshoring.com.ph. And if you are already outsourcing, you can follow, like and subscribe, put to us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube so you can find tips and advices on how you can run your team better. And this is the Outsourcing and Offshoring Philippines podcast and I’m Henry Acosta.