While cost reduction still drives the decision to outsource, the spread and maturity of the practice has led to the rise of another important factor: location. As companies specialize in more services across more countries, Bulgaria is becoming attractive not only because of its low-paid, highly educated, multilingual work force, but also because of its proximity, culturally and geographically, to Western clients.

"Training is the same everywhere, but culture is important for communications," said John Hazlewood, chief executive of TravelStoreMaker.com, an online travel agency with a call center and software development operations in the country. "Bulgaria is much closer to the Western business mentality than China or India."

Industry data are difficult to come by, since companies carefully guard their business details for competitive reasons. But, according to the government's Invest Bulgaria Agency, around 33 call centers have opened in Bulgaria since 2001. Around 3,600 people are currently working in the sector and the numbers are increasing. More than 17,000 people work in the software industry in Bulgaria and 31,000 in information technology as a whole, according to the international technology consultant IDC, which expects these numbers to continue to grow.

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