Thursday, August 30, 2007

From naxal village to BPO hub

Arun Ram
Thursday, August 30, 2007 01:05 IST

75 youths get jobs in the nation's first rural outsourcing unit in Krishnagiri

CHENNAI: Married to a lorry driver and mother of two, Ilayarani Sivakumar (27) never dreamt of a life outside her home in Shoolagiri village in Krishnagiri district of Tamil Nadu. Today, the class 12 dropout is a BPO employee.

Ilayarani is among the 90 youths from the naxal-infested villages of Krishnagiri who have found a new life through Fostera (Fostering Technologies in Rural Areas).

Fostera, brainchild of district collector Santosh Babu, is a first BPO to train and employ the rural unemployed. The youngsters, most with no knowledge of English or computers, were trained by HCL experts in less than three months.

"I never thought I could operate a computer or talk so fluently. My husband proudly tells his lorry driver friends that his wife is a BPO employee," Ilayarani tells DNA in fluent English.

It all started last September when Babu was wondering how to implement a single-sentence letter from the IT secretary which said: "Start a call centre." The same day, he had a chance meeting with Ashok Kumar, an old friend and an MBA graduate.

"We started discussing about it and the same day, identified an old dilapidated village community hall that could be transformed into the BPO office at a cost of Rs 23 lakh," says Babu.

Today, the village hall boasts of 25 systems and two servers. It also has a cafeteria and a conference hall.

In two months, the average processing speed of the employees has increased from 16 words to 67 words.

"We have already begun work of image-to-text data conversion for a couple of companies. Our proximity to Bangalore is an added advantage," says Kumar, who now functions as Fostera's CEO.

"I still pinch myself to believe that I will be receiving my first salary from a BPO this Friday," said Vijay Kumar (24) from Onnalvadi village. The first month salaries have been tentatively fixed at Rs 5,000 each and will go up as Fostera gets more business.

Around 75 youngsters will work in three shifts. Babu is confident that the model can be replicated across the country to empower rural youth.

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