Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) is an industry that people relate with the operation of outsourcing business mostly based in Tier I and II cities of the country.
However, this thought has been rendered as a mythical view in the recent times. The actual ground fact remains that a majority of the computer engineers (almost 60%) working in the BPO industry hail from the rural areas and aspire to find job opportunities in the top tier cities such as Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru among other cities.
How opportunistic it could be if some of these deeply penetrated talent is tapped to be employed locally or in nearby rural or town areas?
The major constraints for building up such rural level BPO settings lay in creating infrastructure, prospects of scaling business growth above a certain hierarchy, funding requirements for the start-ups involved and pooling together the requisite talent from the nearby villages and towns as well as convincing them about the rural job opportunities as against shifting to bigger tier cities with higher pay potential.
Unfortunately, rural areas in India are plagued with lack of basic infrastructural amenities such as lack of high-speed broadband connectivity. In fact, a majority of the rural areas faces the hindrance of power connection and frequent black-outs for a large portion of the day.
If the above grass roots problems are addressed to a larger scale, the IT-enabled service sector has in itself the potential to bridge the employment gap existing in the rural areas while providing low-cost solutions to the urban and overseas clients. In fact, tapping rural workforce at local levels would also mean controlling overall attrition levels in the industry defined by talent crunch.
During this weekend, I was surfing net to explore how is rural BPO sector emerging and panning out more recently. One of such finding points out that there are about 200-odd BPOs (mostly run by NGOs) in the country serving the rural purpose.
In fact, most of the rural start-up firms involved in providing IT-enabled services also provide employment to under-graduate students but with good computer skills that fit their agenda and project requirements.
Such candidates are provided with adequate training to turn up productive for the respective companies with the passage of time. Initially, they are allotted low-skilled work such as data entry, typing, scanning, etc.
A report says that a Bangalore-based NextWealth Entrepreneurs has set up a rural BPO model in Mallasamudram employs 200 people (mostly engineers) while providing three types of services to the overseas customers – Online math tutoring, creating PowerPoint-based content to school students ,and writing articles on math topics.
In fact, some of these rural BPOs may not necessarily place as much emphasis on the accent and command of the employees on the English language, like that of their urban counterparts dealing mostly with international clients, as the thrust of the rural BPOs would revolve around servicing local clients and some even in vernacular languages.
Take, for instance, the government is expected to become the largest consumer of IT and BPO services, driven primarily by National E-Governance Plan, over the next few years, over taking the telecom sector as a consumer of such services.
Thus, accent and command over the language may not be the sole factor determining the BPO services, but the overall security and quality of services which gets added at the last count.
Can rural BPOs act as breeding ground for providing optimized low-cost outsourcing services?