CHRIS Butt is a serial real-estate and construction entrepreneur with a gift for building millennial-friendly environments.
His company, Figari, recently received acclaim for a “Zombie inspired” design project appropriately themed “Don’t be a zombie”—an obvious scathing social commentary on the perceived state of the business-process outsourcing (BPO) industry.
The Zombie office for Probe BPO in their new Wilcon state-of-the-art contact center reception area features Boris, 2-meter tall zombie who is the leader of the misguided BPO employees who temporarily reside in zombieland. For their client, Probe, the urgent call to action is that no one’s allowed to be feeling and behaving like a zombie.
Figari is a Singapore-owned company that started in 2011, with its primary goal to provide competitive, world-class facilities and outsourcing solutions for BPO and other organizations based in the Philippines.
Butt, who feels equally at home setting up surf resorts in La Union as he does BPO offices, gives Figari an edge in understanding the millennial work space psyche that requires as much living as there is working and where offices are look more like campuses and creative spaces.
What does it mean to build for the millennial generation with an average age of 25? Butt said, “This generation wants to be proactively and constantly excited by their work spaces.”
His design philosophy mimics the dynamism of the city, no nook and cranny is ever wasted. Another BPO project featured the “Taxi Corner Cozy Corner” which is cushioned with beanbags for a chilled-out working session among the busy hustle and bustle of their 24/7 work cycles.
Figari’s designs reflect not only the zeitgeist of the times but also incorporates elements as nature, bamboo and the sensibilities of the principals, usually foreign—a successful hybrid that could only be achieved by a strong proactive engagement model with clients.
Witnessing firsthand the mass production mind-set of the real-estate industry, Butt has decried the rise of office spaces that were “all about profit”. He encourages clients to have a vision of an office that creates spaces for creativity, problem-solving and reflection.
This unconventional approach to designing office spaces has caught the attention of major brands as Deloitte, QBE and Tiger Mobility. Curt Martin, senior vice president of Operations at QBE Cos., headquartered in Kansas, spoke about “the strong proactive communication model, which is critical to building space”, and yet, is often overlooked in a desire to create more efficient and profitable spaces.
Beyond building spaces, Figari create a support system for businesses all over the world looking to capitalize on the BPO boom in the country by providing, facilities leasing, commercial design and fit—out and managed services for various industries, such as BPO, information technology, financial and insurance services, legal, logistics, retail, marketing and communications.
Today they count nine facilities in Bonifacio Global City and Makati, over 1700 seats in Manila, but they have yet to penetrate the Visayas/Mindanao region.
Martial law in an emerging BPO hub as Mindanao? Butt is curious about the role curfew would play in a 24-7 economy or how the government intends, at the very least, to deal with this temporary threat.
While continuing to be optimistic, he has expressed the need to communicate more to external investors, especially in times of perceived instability.
Aside from the ongoing issue in Mindanao, there are longstanding issues about doing businesses in the Philippines that he would like addressed sooner than later, such cost of utilities and doing business in the being made more competitive compared to the rest of the region. There’s also a quiet imminent issue that he hopes would be addressed: The changing regulation with the government where the incentives are possibly being taken away from the locators in an effort by the government to raise more revenues.
Despite some tentativeness by the market to further expand, Figari is bullish about two specific locations outside of Traditional BPO hubs: Alabang and Clark.
As close as Alabang is to BGC and Makati, the cost to acquire versus rental yield is better in Alabang and where quality of life is much more pronounced.
He also highly encouraged moving up north to Clark which now hosts many “redundant sites” that’s saving a lot of capital expenditure for locators.
Physically, Clark is also ideal, as it’s historically spared from natural disasters and the earlier investments by the Americans has provided best-in-class infrastructure.
Beyond BPOs and attracting more investments, Figari, which means in Greek to the moon and back, will always have half of its business heart in the Philippines and the other half focused on the rest of the world.
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