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We see a lot of knowledge-based jobs shifting to rural BPOs

Despite gaining good degrees rural youth is unable to find employment opportunities in villages DesiCrew a Chennai-based BPO that operates in rural Tamil Nadu and Karnataka had observed the trend in 2007 when they launched their first rural BPO to bridge employability gap In an exclusive interaction with R M Saloni Malhotra the Founder and Manivannan JK CEO DesiCrew discuss the way forward of rural BPOs

Manivannan JK and Saloni Malhotra
DesiCrew
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Rural BPO has become the buzzword in India. How can they help improve the economic conditions of rural areas?
Saloni Malhotra: Since inception, DesiCrew has created over 1,000 jobs in rural India. Currently, we have over 250 employees, who have computer literacy and experience in world-class BPO delivery processes. Women constitute over 70 percent of our employees and they serve global corporates from their own villages. One of our main objectives is to create social impact by bridging the employability gap. Funds infused into local communities lead to increased income levels. This in turn leads to increased purchasing power and saving potential.

What challenges have you faced initially? Are they still same?
Manivannan JK: It is fairly easy to start a BPO in rural areas. However, the challenge is in customer acquisition and delivery. Way back in 2007, several customers appreciated the concept of a rural BPO. But, they were not sure about the bandwidth, power and people skills. It took a lot of efforts to showcase the skill sets of the educated rural youth, undertake pilot projects as a proof-of-concept to demonstrate our delivery capabilities. While most customers were cost-conscious, they would not reduce the quality standards or timelines.

Over a period of time, we had observed that customers moved away from asking these fundamental questions and were more interested to know about the transition, governance and matters on IT-compliance.

Do you think selling the concept of a rural BPO in itself is a challenge?
Manivannan: The concept was never a challenge. Customers always were willing to try something new for gaining the cost advantage. They had to convince their internal systems to accept a remote delivery center as a part of their operations.

How’s been your experience while operating the rural BPO?
Manivannan: It has been a fulfilling journey so far. Our employees have reaffirmed our faith in their ability to meet customer SLAs. We are working with the market leaders supporting their operations across multiple time zones. We would be scaling up aggressively this year.

How do you bridge the skill gap in the rural populace?
Manivannan: We have a skill development and education programme, which ensures that employees can pursue a Graduate/Post-Graduate course of their interest. This gives much-needed flexibility to work and study simultaneously. We also ensure that employees can go on leave to prepare for and give examinations. We have other programmes with a special emphasis on spoken English training. We also utilise applications for training modules with remote access, language labs on the cloud etc.

What kind of support do you expect from the Government?
Saloni: Government can be one of the biggest sources of creating outsourcing jobs. There are several opportunities in the data management and citizen contact center verticals. These jobs can be executed by the rural BPOs spread across every state.

Apart from this, the Government can provide a subsidy, capital and training support to rural BPOs. There can also be a tax exemption provision for firms that engage impact sourcing companies.

How are rural BPOs different from the city peers?
Manivannan: In terms of customer delivery, there is no difference. We have a no-frills but functional center that meets customer requirements in terms of data security and accessibility. Attrition levels are much lower compared to the city peers. The value of the job is significantly higher, in relation to the impact it creates in the local community.

What kind of future do you foresee for rural BPOs in India?
Saloni: DesiCrew’s model relies on the Internet communication backbone to move the jobs to the people instead of vice versa. We are currently working on a platform model to bring digital jobs to rural India from across the world. In addition, process automation tools and performance dashboard use the latest Internet and mobile technologies. We at DesiCrew view technology as a business enabler to streamline complex business processes to be redesigned to measure and disseminate across geographies. Moving forward, we see a lot of knowledge-based jobs shifting to the rural BPOs.

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