"Who could have imagined working at a BPO centre, that too in my village? I was planning to shift to Bangalore to get a BPO job. But then to everyone's surprise, the BPO came to my village. I applied and was selected," a delighted Jayalakshmi said. Echoed Jagadish, 22, a fellow villager: "Now I can have a decent income, and make best use of my education and skills in my village itself. I don't have to migrate."
Jayalakshmi and Jagadish, along with 120-odd youths, are part of India's first rural BPO that has been set up in this tiny nondescript village, about 150 km from India's IT hub Bangalore.
The BPO, Mpro Solutions, started operations Aug 7 and is supported by the Karnataka government, which wants to show India how information technology (IT) can change the rural economy. Its target: create almost 100,000 jobs in the hinterland. "There is a gold mine here," said Mpro director B.S. Venugopal. "Talented youngsters from rural areas could be an asset."
According to Ashok Kumar C. Manoli, Karnataka's Principal Secretary for IT and BT and Science and Technology, the initiative would change the economy of the countryside.
"Creation of rural BPOs will automatically stem large-scale migration of educated rural youth to urban areas," Manoli said.
"The new initiative is expected to enhance the IT skills of the rural population and create jobs for them. On the anvil are rural BPO centres in Chamarajanagar, Hassan and Haveri districts." Manoli said the state government planned to provide a Rs.2 million capital investment subsidy for setting up a 100-seat BPO.
It would also provide Rs.10,000 for training and another Rs.5,000 for rental and Internet connection per employee, he added. Information Technology and Biotechnology Minister Katta Subramanya Naidu said the state government planned to create 100,000 IT jobs in rural areas over the next five years, including 10,000 this year.
"The government plans to establish 100 such rural BPOs and has earmarked Rs.40 crore (Rs.400 million) for subsidy and manpower training," Naidu said while inaugurating the BPO in the village on Aug 7. Welcoming the latest trend of BPO sector penetration in the countryside, experts predicted it would pave a new chapter in rural economy.
"It's a noble concept and has immense potential. The rest of India can emulate the idea. Rural BPOs could emerge as sub-contractors for IT majors that handle international clients," said technology expert Sridhar Mitta.
Over half a million people are employed in the IT industry across the state spanning software services and IT-enabled services, including BPO and call centres. As India's tech hub, Bangalore accounts for about 450,000 jobs, with 300,000 in software services and the remaining (150,000) in back-office operations.