Foreseeing future challenges:
After scaling our Narendranagar center to full-capacity, we will set-up similar micro-BPO centers in the other blocks of the state as described earlier. 4-5 such micro-BPO centers can be part of a District Level Cluster (DLC). Our long-term goal is to develop five such DLC clusters, totalling to about 20 centres employing 4000 people in the districts of Tehri, Pauri, Rudraprayag, Chamoli & Uttarkashi. The learning’s of these five DLC Clusters can be then used to replicate such clusters in other districts of the state and then to neighbouring hilly states like Himachal Pradesh & Nepal. If we succeed, more BPO companies will consider setting up BPO operations and this can be the catalyst for creating large-scale employment in the hilly areas of this Himalayan state.
On the demand side we operate in a highly competitive environment, both due to rapidly changing technology and the increasing competition from other developing countries like Vietnam & Cambodia in South East Asia and Kenya in Africa where the governments are supporting the efforts of IT & BPO businesses to create large scale employment for their youth. Currently our core offerings are a mix of automation and manual work, with more volume being the ‘manual work’ part. This could be threatened by more efficient and accurate ‘automation’ tools coming in the market at substantially lower prices. To overcome this risk of ‘manual work’ getting obsolete, we are getting into ‘fuzzy’ service offerings that can’t be automated, like art, page design & content writing. We are also trying to stay ahead of the automation curve by cconstantly upgrading our in-house processes with newer & newer open-source tools. These have helped us increasing our productivity per person and enable us to process almost twice the volume of content per employee than earlier.
Forging Partnerships to accelerate growth:
As of date eGramServe has reached to this juncture though the efforts of our internal team, our investors and due to our clients who gave us the first break, and chose to work with us. To scale the impact on the capacity-building side, we propose to partner with livelihood enabling organizations to impart training on BPO skills and enterprise development. We can aid the enabling organization’s efforts to generate awareness among the SHGs operating under their umbrella about the BPO industry and the opportunities for income generation in the BPO business. After the awareness program, eGramServe can impart training to the interested SHGs and run an on-boarding program for member entrepreneurs of those SHGs that will help them start and operate the small scale BPO center in their villages. The enabling organization can provide the seed capital to the rural entrepreneur/group of entrepreneurs to set-up the BPO center, and eGramServe can provide the ongoing business and project management support. One such organization operating in the state is the UPASaC- a Venture Capital Company formed as a JV between the State Govt. & international aid agencies like the IFAD. UPASaC (popularly known as Aajeevika project – meaning livelihood) & eGramServe are discussing partnering with each other to develop rural BPO clusters in the Tehri & Pauri districts.
Inspiring with a replicable model for other geographies:
For three years after starting operations our rural team honed their technical skills by working on sub-contracted projects from larger BPO companies. These companies readily gave us work as they wanted a low-cost supplier who could help them shore-up their bottom-line. In doing so we gained exposure to International best practices and methodologies in the e-publishing domain. However we had to really bootstrap as being a tier-II supplier our clients, who were larger BPOs, paid us peanuts! We have now moved from being sub-contractor to these larger BPOs and are directly engaging with International clients like Lexis Nexis, the world’s No.1 Legal publisher, and Macmillan Education a leading educational publisher. Our success can inspire other tech entrepreneurs to emulate this in other geographically-disadvantaged regions across the country for fostering employment creation for youth within such regions. We learnt that though we started at the fag-end of the supply chain as a low-end suppier, the team’s perseverance, determination and a will to upskill, brought us up the value-chain!