Partnership to nurture SME entrepreneurs

In what could be a significant boost to the Rural BPO industry in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Cisco Systems is partnering with the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) and Tiruchirappalli Regional Engineering College – Science and Technology Entrepreneurs Park (TREC-STEP) to nurture and support ICT entrepreneurs in the country [via Economic Times]:

In the three-way partnership, SIDBI will provide financial support, Cisco would aid in technology and the incubator TREC-STEP would help in mentoring. The partnership is targeted at the micro, small and medium enterprises segment. It has been rolled out on a pilot basis in India.

TREC-STEP is an award winning small-business incubator local in the south Indian city of Trichy. Since its establishment in 1986, it has excelled in promoting technology entrepreneurship in the region. Given the broadening focus on small and medium enterprises (SMEs), it would be worthwhile to consider setting up well-functioning business incubators in every district in India.

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Dhristee’s Rural BPO Pilot in Bihar

We have highlighted here at TC-I the potential for rural BPOs to create jobs.  One of the more interesting players is Dhristee, the company whose primary business is franchising rural information kiosks.  Recently the company ventured into the rural BPO space, setting up pilot unit in the rural hinterland of Bihar.

CNN-IBN recently ran a story (video is below) on the pilot initiative [Via Acumen Fund]. Here is a tiny quote from the narrative:

But this isn’t about do-gooder NGOs giving villagers money and equipment – or about social organisations thrusting empowerment into the hands of people not ready for it. It’s about people in backward India who want to be a part of the e-revolution that’s painting India with the big WWW.

Interesting, I guess words like ‘market-based solutions’ are still out of sight for the mainstream media (restricted to development junkies like us!). But the story brings out the economic potential of rural BPO – for instance, the employees in Dhristee’s pilot initiative earn about Rs. 4000 a month.

First ever National Conference of Rural BPOs

Byrraju Foundation (a philanthropic foundation founded by Satyam head B. Ramalinga Raju and his family in 2001), is organizing India’s first National Conference of Rural BPOs named ‘Jyotismay’. The conference is to be held on 16th May, 2008 in Hyderabad, and you can register to participate in the conference through this link. It is important to note that the foundation also runs a pioneering Rural BPO outfit called GramIT.

The conference is an effort to provide collective voice to the Rural BPO industry which is still at its nascence. As we have noted in this space before, although there has been intense media coverage and interest in Rural BPO pilots across the country, the net job creation by the industry is still minimal. However, a national conference where Rural BPO players from across the country can come together and learn could be the right trigger to create a large-scale movement.

Interview with India’s Rural BPO Guru

Its been almost three years since Businessworld India published a feature on Rural BPO, writing about a company called Lason. Lason had just just set up its first rural BPO unit in Kizhanur village, 50 km from Chennai. The unit was the brainchild of Pradeep Nevatia, then managing director of Lason India, a subsidiary of the $167-million BPO firm Lason. The company’s efforts were arguably one of the first Rural BPO experiments in the country.

Since then, Pradeep has left Lason India to start his own company called Ninestars Information Technology. The Hindu just published an excellent interview with Pradeep, highlighting his vision for the distributed delivery model and rural BPO in India:

As soon as we recognise that BPO and manufacturing are essentially no different, the problem of ‘city vs village’ would vanish. I have personally experimented ‘village BPO’ including the first-ever ‘village BPO,’ and the results are extremely good.

The cost reduces by minimum 25 per cent owing to lower infrastructure cost and manpower cost. The employees stay with their family and spend negligible time and money on travel.
The other important advantages seen are in lower absenteeism, lower attrition and strong discipline leading to higher productivity, quality and employee retention cost.

It will be interesting to see if Ninestars can give much needed momentum to the Rural BPO space.