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BPO firms shift focus to rural market

Views 3 Views    Comments 0 Comments    Share Share    Posted 02-12-2008  
December 2, 2008:

Chennai: To offset the brunt of global IT slowdown that affected the operation of business outsourcing(BPOs) firms in India, the domestic BPOs are now focusing on rural market, reported The Financial Express.

"The knowledge-based local language BPOs servicing rural populace also serve the purposes of finding IT-based employment to rural youths at a lower cost," said L Somasundaram, Program Head, Economic Demography, Centre for Development Finance, Institute for Financial Management and Research (IFMR).

Somasundaram mentioned that ICT entrepreneurship in rural India promises an impressive return of 30 percent to 35 percent. "Hindi belt BPOs operating on data entry and documentation in Haryana and Rajasthan manned by high school computer literate youths are good examples of IT penetration in local language reaching out to hitherto unreached segments of rural India through the BPO window. This is mainly due to IT giants like Google providing open source translation eliminating the software expenditure while setting up IT infrastructure for such enterprises. Local NGOs also should be credited for playing a pivotal role in sensitizing youths about their IT potential in local language in such areas"

He believes that ICT entrepreneurship in rural areas is strongly linked to rapid urbanization. Based on studies, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu are leading states in urbanization, with TN economy since 1991 growing at 40 percent. "While Maharashtra witnesses urban growth in cities like Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur, TN boasts of a strong tier-I line up that is expected to grow up to 50 percent. According to economic demography, an educated skilled villager finds immediate employment in nearby urban city thereby increasing his marginal propensity to consume by virtue of his employment," he added.

According to Somasundaram rural BPOs would be a perfect vehicle for capacity building for related businesses such as digital publishing in local language, documentation of herbal plants, knowledge dissemination on nutrition content, diary farming, organic farming, poultry farming, heritage tourism-all based on combining IT with native skills.

However, he sees the poor bandwith and low IT penetration in rural regions as major obstacles to achieve the expected growth in this sector.

JD Sophia, Principal Investigator, Jamsetji Tata National Virtual Academy (NVA) opined that 100 village knowledge centers and 20 village resource centers run by the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), had enrolled around 20 to 25 students receiving free training in MS Office, web designing, DTP (Desk Top Publishing) and web designing for free. "Learning modules in vernacular languages help them learn fast enabling them to have a good grasp of IT and language,"she noted.

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