The BPOs are calling Bharat

The BPOs are calling Bharat
MINI JOSEPH TEJASWI TIMES NEWS NETWORK , TNN 10 October 2009, 05:27am IST

College and an office job was 17-year-old Abhijit’s dream. But financial problems meant he had to join his father on the farm, helping to grow paddy Steep rentals and a high attrition rate in cities are why many BPOs are moving and sugarcane, collect fodder and sell milk. That became his life in the tiny hamlet of Baburayanakoppal, near Srirangapatna in Karnataka.

Until three months ago, when an abandoned rice mill in the village was renovated and became the office for a 100-seater BPO (business process outsourcing) unit.

Word was soon out in the village that there were jobs to be had. Though he neither spoke nor understood English, Abhijit decided to give it a shot. He applied, wrote a test, was taken in and trained. Today, he’s part of the Indian BPO army, once seen as an urban opportunity accessible only to educated, English-speaking boys and girls.

Abhijit’s employer B S Venugopal, a director of Mpro Solutions, says though the training takes time, it is worth the effort. ”We did not expect to find readily employable talent in rural areas. They are raw with no language or communication skills but eager to learn.”

A few weeks into his training, Abhijit tells TOI Crest in grammatically correct English, ”It’s not that a farmer’s life was a bad one, but farming doesn’t pay enough for a comfortable living. In my case, I had no education and didn’t think I could be anything other than a farmer.” Now as part of his job, he makes calls to prospective donors from a database seeking funds for NGOs. His salary is Rs 3,500 a month.

Abhijit isn’t the only one taking advantage of BPOs going rural. Even as many outsourcing firms based in cities put a freeze on hiring, many new units are opening up in villages and towns in the south.

Karnataka’s IT/BT secretary Ashok Kumar C Manoli says the companies are bringing technology and financial empowerment to rural youth. ”The idea is to create a rural BPO cluster , which can be integrated with similar projects across the country,” he says. ” We want to promote jobs for rural youth who have some computer knowledge and belong to small towns with a one lakh population. To start with, each of these centres will have 100 seats,” he adds.

Abhijit’s colleagues at Mpro – Mahesh, Jagadish , an orphan, Soumya and a dozen others – are also taking advantage of this economic transformation. But what will they do with the extra money? Abhijit wants to help his father buy more cows. His friends, too, want to help their parents out but they also want to buy mobile phones and bicycles.

”The initiative will change the economic fabric of the countryside,” Manoli says. BPOs will make youth in the hinterland financially independent as they did in the urban areas. They will have money for marriage, to pay off debts or buy sewing machines and cows. More importantly, it will stop the mass exodus of young people from villages to cities seeking employment, he says.

It is the cost of business in big cities – exorbitant rentals, steep wages, high attrition – that has many companies looking towards the village. Mpro Solutions is the first to become operational under the Karnataka government’s ambitious rural BPO scheme. The state plans to set up a hundred such units to create one lakh jobs in the next four years. A few weeks ago another centre was opened at Gundlupet, while two centres are being readied in Salgame and Shiggaon in Karnataka. Also in the pipeline are eight more in Sirsi, Huliyur, Chikbalapur, Hosadurga, Pavagada, Mundargi and Devadurg in rural Karnataka.

The state is rolling out the red carpet for those adventurous enough to go rural. It’s offering financial incentives of up to Rs 20 lakh and a per employee training incentive of Rs 10,000. Manoli says the response from entrepreneurs has been overwhelming. Infosys and Wipro, too, have shown interest.

Bangalore-based BPO company RuralShores, which already has a centre in Bagepalli, is in the process of entering rural areas in Tamil Nadu and Bihar. Xchanging, which acquired Cambridge Solutions, and Hinduja Global Solutions too are venturing into semi-urban places like Shimoga in Karnataka and Durgapur in West Bengal.

Other southern states too are developing business models to encourage private players to venture beyond the cities. Tamil Nadu already has rural BPO units and is planning another 100 rural units in the next few years.

Kerala is looking at a hub-and-spoke model. The government aims to set up 100 rural BPOs at the panchayat and district level in 14 districts over the next three years. The first rural BPOs have already come up in Perinad and Kadakkal in Kollam district.

Sai Seva Business Solutions, a rural BPO unit, was set up in Puttaparthi (the abode of Sathya Sai Baba), a couple of years ago by management students of the Sri Sathya Sai University. HDFC Bank outsources part of its work on data capture and profiling of new accounts to them. Tata Business Support Services has set up a BPO in Mithapur in Gujarat, near the manufacturing unit of Tata Chemicals.

A country-wide rural BPO drive is expected to create employment opportunities for millions of rural Indians, allowing them a share in the country’s $12-billion BPO pie.

Times Of India Reference

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