BPOs in the Philippines, Google’s investment in stealth startup Magic Leap and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

I just read an interesting article on Wired about content moderation outsourced to companies like TaskUs, featuring the experiences of some workers in the Philippines. The business process outsourcing industry in the Philippines was on track to hit $16B in revenue for 2013. Manila is considered top 3, after Mumbai and Bangalore, as top destination for outsourcing by consulting firm, Tholons. As I was just in Manila a couple of weeks ago, I can personally attest to the ubiquity of BPO centers, specifically call centers which account for 80% of BPOs in the Philippines. I can also attest to the Wired article’s claim that compared to workers in the US, a BPO job is still something to aspire to, in the Philippines. Even at $500/month, the salary is very competitive compared to other jobs.

Much of the growth in consumption in the Philippines can be attributed to the BPO industry and as a Filipino, I am quite thankful for that. Still, reading the Wired article, it’s disheartening to know that thousands of miles away, workers are exposed to depravities of the human mind – things that most of us assume have been taken cared of by computer algorithms. Furthermore, I have hope for the future of the BPO industry in the Philippines – that we can move beyond the drudge work towards higher end outsourcing services such as software development. It is slowly happening; the tech scene in Manila is alive and bustling, thanks to initiatives by IdeaSpace, Kickstart Ventures, etc. For now, the next time you see your pristine social network newsfeed, think of the armies of people who have gone through the muck to make it that way.

On another note, I am quite excited to hear that a South Florida startup in stealth, Magic Leap secured a $542M investment, which was led by Google itself. For a look at what the company does based on trademark and patent filings, read MIT Technology Review’s article here.

Here are the most relevant news in tech and retail this week:

In tech:

  1. Apple‘s Q4 earnings more than exceeds expectations of $1.42/share on $42.1B revenues; Apple Pay went live with on Monday with a few glitches, and; GT Advanced Technologies reaches an agreement with Apple, settles $439M debt and will exit sapphire business
  2. Google Q3 earnings report shows 20% YoY revenue growth to $16.52B while operating income declines with increased R&D spend; Google launches Inbox, an app that merges email management and Google Now
  3. Amazon Q3 earnings disappoint big-time at a loss of 95 cents a share; spending on “technology and content” up at 40% and consumed 12% of revenue; Fire Phone inventory at $83M
  4. Yahoo Q3 earnings at 52 cents a share with revenues at $1.094B ; CEO Mayer said Tumblr would generate $100M in revenue next year; the Alibaba IPO gives a $6.3B boost
  5. Microsoft‘s fiscal Q1 earnings top expectations at 54 cents per share with revenues of $23.30B

In Retail:

  1. Sears will lease space in 7 stores to European fashion retailer Primark in a bid to raise more money
  2. Southeast Asian e-commerce startup Zalora opens first offline store in Singapore
  3. British online fashion retailer Asos posts annual results: 27% growth in sales but pre-tax profits fell to £46.9M on strong pound
  4. Japan’s e-commerce company Rakuten launches Rakuten.co.uk, to focus on independent retailers to sell online in the UK
  5. Kering‘s Q3 revenues bolstered by 6.2% increased sales at Puma while Gucci sales fell at 1.9%