September 10, 2019
The advantages of nearshore are well-known. Clients can benefit from vertical integration with time zones, competitive labor arbitrage, high-quality work and multi-language support.
What is not known to many people is that Tijuana, Mexico is not only the closest nearshore location: the border city also offers services beyond English and Spanish to include Portuguese, Mandarin and – potentially – Creole.
“We’re the only company in this part of Mexico that offers services in all four languages, with possible expansion to a fifth,” says Socorro Maravilla, VP of People Support at GGA Solutions, which offers both Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and Information Technology Outsourcing (ITO). “That’s a big differentiator for us.”
Mandarin is the most common form of Chinese. It includes the Beijing dialect, and is the basis of standard Chinese. The language is spoken across most of northern and southwestern China, and in its oral form differs from Cantonese, which is common in Southeastern China, notably in Guangzhou (also known as Canton) and Hong Kong.
“Many people don’t realize that border cities like Tijuana and Mexicali have Chinese communities,” says Maravilla. “Traditionally, the family might own a business like a restaurant, but then their children grow up bicultural. They will know Spanish and Chinese, and perhaps some English.”
For a company like GGA Solutions, this represents an important opportunity to expand its support services. While many observers might think that the client base would be in Asia, the fact is that the Chinese diaspora is now a growing global phenomenon, with significant populations in the United States, Canada, and Europe.
“For example, there are retailers in Chinatown in New York City that need services in Mandarin,” says Maravilla. “From Tijuana, we’re finding that there’s a really competent, responsible workforce in the Chinese community.”
GGA Solutions began offering services in Mandarin last year, and now includes clients in the financial services sector. The company’s Mandarin team is servicing customer care, technical support, and retailer support.
“We can also scale here,” says Maravilla. “There are an estimated 20,000 native Chinese speakers in our area, and that’s growing. Most of these individuals are no longer looking to go and work in the U.S., and instead want to have a life in Mexico, and to be economically active in Tijuana and Mexicali.”
GGA Solutions began exploring the use of Mandarin speaking representatives in March, 2018, after being approached by a client. After reaching out to the Chinese community, it was clear that the opportunity was real.
“Some of the candidates are bilingual, and some of them only speak Mandarin,” says Maravilla. “As a community, these individuals are extremely talented. They were able to catch up on each training topic easily, as they’re also really technology-driven, which helps a lot in this industry. We have capacity to grow in small and larger groups. Within one or two days we’ll have up to ten applicants per open position.”
Tijuana’s multicultural footprint
Nearshore clients who are surprised that Tijuana can provide services in Mandarin might also be impressed by the depth of capabilities in other languages too.
“We had a meeting with one of our clients, and they mentioned they were using a U.S.-based translation company to service Portuguese speakers,” says Maravilla. “We had previously noticed that we had applicants and team members working with us with native or advanced Portuguese skills.”
The result was a pilot launched early in 2019, which resulted in the successful creation of a new vertical. GGA Solutions now provides customer service, claims support, and first notice of loss in Portuguese.
Clearly, language skills – as well as business opportunities – often lurk in areas that might be previously overlooked. A company like GGA Solutions, which operates out of two locations in Tijuana’s financial and business district, the Zona Río, is actively leveraging the opportunity to source from this untapped, diverse demographic along the US-Mexico border. In the future, this might even include services provided in Creole.
“We’re exploring the possibility of adding the Creole language to our pipeline, and have confirmed viability of this due to the Haiti community, which keeps growing in Tijuana,” says Maravilla. “At present this is still in the works, but our market research suggests we can provide support for any client in need of Creole.”
Many Haitians initially came to Tijuana as refugees, and have now settled in the area. The reception amongst the local Mexican population has been largely positive, with the Los Angeles Times reporting last year that the “city’s residents and politicians have lauded the Haitian community as an example of how to assimilate to life in Mexico.”
This is good news for a company like GGA Solutions, which is all about strengthening customer relationships by integrating its client-partners’ operational platforms and business processes. Working from Mexico’s fourth largest city, only a stone’s throw from the US border, GGA Solutions can leverage all of the traditional advantages of a nearshore provider – but now also with the added twist of accessing talent in Tijuana’s burgeoning multicultural population.