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BPOs: Connecting rural India
A lone company is giving a try by answering the question "Could the next wave powered by BPO firms spring up in India's rural heartlands?"
SHARMILA IS PURSUING her MBA program from distance education. She is barely out of her teens and is already an entrepreneur. Perhaps, she runs India’s first rural BPO facility.
 
Sharmila’s office is located in Eswaran Koil Street, in Kizhanur village, Thiruvallur district, about 50 km from Chennai. Several huts and small houses line the street. There is also a slightly bigger building. This is where Sharmila lives and this is also where her office is.
 
The single-room office on the first floor is unpretentious. The five computers perched on ordinary tables provide a stark contrast to the traditional environment of the house. Fourteen people work in this office in two shifts - six operators and one auditor in each team. Sharmila’s employees work as data-capture operators. They are typing, what seems to be, a legal document pertaining to a court case in the US. They have been doing this for two months now. Sharmila and her team are convinced that they have hitched on to India’s BPO boom. "I am really happy. This is the result of teamwork. If things go well, we will add 20 more people in the next few months," she gushes.
 
Sharmila works as a business associate of a company called Lason. Pradeep Nevatia is the managing director of Lason India, a subsidiary of the $167-million BPO firm Lason. Sharmila implements small, low-skill portions of BPO contracts that Lason wins from big customers around the globe. Mr. Pradeep Nevatia has bigger dreams. He wants to have at least 100 people working for him in Kizhanur.
 
Recently, Satyam Computers set up a BPO in a village in Andhra Pradesh. P Krishna Mohan, a 24-year-old B Com graduate from the village, quit his job in Hyderabad and joined the call centre almost immediately. His previous job paid him Rs 4,000 per month.
Working for the call centre has changed Krishna’s life. "From saving hardly Rs 100 a month in Hyderabad, after paying for rent and transport, now he earns Rs 3,000, and saves around 80 per cent, as he stays with his family. He is also now able to spend time with his family.
 
An interesting mail on the subject opines: "Every country has demonstrated its capability to the world in one way or the other. This has helped them to become a developed country in the past. Chinese in manufacturing, Koreans in automobiles, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong in electronics, Germans in heavy industry, UK in banking and insurance, etc. This is an opportunity for us to show our capability in this particular field (known as BPO) and succeed. There is nothing wrong in this and should be encouraged. This will certainly benefit the rural economy which has not been possible with our outdated agricultural technology."
 
Many negative things are said about BPOs, which are not true. It’s the power of mind to withstand any negativity that exists in today’s society. Any person may fall into it in any industry and even in schools. Let us not blame the BPO industry for our weaknesses. Let us avail its benefits to make a comfortable livelihood.
 
It is true that we have hardly captured the potential market in the world (may be less than 1%). Great potential lies in this field; let us make use of it. BPO is not about call centers, there are business processes in areas like Aviation, Insurance, Banking, Health care, Information Technology and various other reputed subjects which remain under explored so far.
 
The name BPO has been spoiled by our own media industry, including popular newspapers that have created hype about the news than any reality.
 
Indian Tobacco Company (ITC) is planning to leverage its infrastructure to offer a basket of new services in power, health, education and business process outsourcing (BPO) in rural India. ITC e-choupal, which essentially began as a supply chain delivery mechanism for its agriculture-commodity business, is looking at an investment of Rs 5,000 crores over 5-7 years.
 
According to ITC agri-business division chief Executive, S Sivakumar, "We are in talks with industry majors for possible tie-ups so that we can offer services by utilising our rural connectivity and infrastructure. We are planning to launch pilot projects in power and BPO services next year," 
 
The above reading justifies that rural India has had a nice start for running a marathon race and the beginning has been marked. In the days to come, we are going to hear a lot of positive news and from many more Sharmilas, more firms connecting with ITC e-choupal, Sayam’s foraying into different villages in different regions and more. All such news conveys one simple message: "Rural India has made a good beginning."
 

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