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GramIT: Empowering rural India
Verghese K Jacob is the Chief Integrator with Byrraju Foundation. In a corporate career spanning 25 years, he has worked as Division Head and CEO of large organisations. For the last five years, Jacob has been serving in the social sector and spearheads the activities of Byrraju Foundation as its Chief Integrator and Lead Partner. In an exclusive interview with i4d magazine, he shares his ideas and thoughts about the role and future of rural BPOs in India and also about GramIT, Byrraju Foundation’s rural BPO initiative
How did rural BPOs as an idea come about?
Byrraju Foundation (a non-profit organisation fully dedicated to rural transformation) and Ramalinga Raju, the founder of the Satyam group of companies, firmly believes that rural youth have the potential to deliver the best of the IT enabled services or BPO services to the rest of the world. Raju, with his vast experience in setting up IT as well as IT enabled services (ITES), primarily has been targeting the top companies in the world for meeting their IT and ITES needs. He was very confident that if the Indian urban youth can do these jobs, so can the rural youth. The Indian villages did not have the right infrastructure to establish rural BPOs and this caused the rural youth to migrate to the urban centres like Mumbai, Delhi, etc. The Indian cities are becoming expensive destination for ITES services and the next wave of migration will be to other low cost countries like Bangladesh or Vietnam. Instead of this happening, Raju wanted to link this global opportunity to the 30 million trainable youth in Indian villages , who can do these ITES job very well. The Foundation was fortunate to have Satyam offering to do the outsourcing or to take the risk of outsourcing some of their back-end jobs, by which we could prove the sustainability of the model. For Byrraju Foundation, running BPO operations is not the end, but it is one of the major means to achieve our vision of sustainable, holistic rural transformation.
Could you elaborate on the scope and future of rural BPOs in India and other developing countries?
Rural BPOs can become a highly scalable business model. Since many urban centres across the world are becoming very high cost destinations, BPO jobs would soon become unviable in urban sector. Most probably 10 years down the line, 80 percent of BPO work, especially transaction processing, will be done by semi-urban and rural workforce. Though these rural areas may lack adequate infrastructure, electricity and broadband connectivity, availability of skilled manpower is not going to be a constraint, rural youth can be made ITES ready within three to four months.
Does Byrraju Foundation also provide training programmes to youth to enhance their skills?
Yes, Byrraju Foundation also provides essential skills and training programmes to rural youth. Our training syllabus provides four basic skills:
The Foundation provides the above skills to rural youth on a regular basis, to enable them to deliver world-class service.
What are the key elements essential for a successful Rural BPO? Please elaborate from operational, technical and capacity building perspectives.
There are five essential elements to make rural BPOs operational:
Migrating work from urban clients to rural BPO centres