Rural BPO Centres
Business Process Outsourcing: CSR Initiative Turns Tables in Rural Economic Development
The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is on a path of rapid growth. Before this era, during the times of 2007, although the central economic centers of Sri Lanka were seeing growth, there had been minimal activity in the rural areas even though talented and capable youth were in abundance in these areas.
John Keells Holdings PLC (JKH), for over a century has been a pioneer driving force in the Sri Lankan economy, heavily active in seven sectors including Transportation, Leisure and IT. JKH has been also contributing towards the society through its many CSR initiatives, and the rural BPO project is one of the major initiatives that were taken on by the Group’s CSR initiative, the John Keells Foundation.
InfoMate (Pvt) Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of JKH, which is also a leading FAO, acted as the spearhead for this project in collaboration with the John Keells Foundation, and the Foundation for Advancing Rural opportunity (FARO): a nonprofit organization that actively assists rural youth in Sri Lanka to find sustainable employment and career opportunities in the business outsourcing industry, without them having to leave their domestic habitat.
Mahavilachchiya: A Humble beginning
Under this initiative, the e-village at Mahavilachchiya was introduced to the John Keells Foundation by FARO. A new Company, On-Time Technologies Ltd was incorporated in 2007. Members of FARO maintained a controlling interest in the fledgling company to provide JKH with the credibility and security required.
Connectivity from Mahavilachchiya to SAP and other systems was established and tested successfully by InfoMate, and two resources from On-Time were trained at InfoMate for three weeks on Basic Accounting (Double entry and reconciliation), English, Excel & Typing Speed, SAP based processing, Shift based processing, as well as a comprehensive overview of the BPO industry and trends. The resources were also trained in Service Levels, IT security and Confidentiality to ensure the Quality of the service that On-Time will be providing.
Thereafter, a formal tripartite agreement between JKH, FARO and On-Time was signed as well as a Service Level Agreement between InfoMate and On-Time. Once the connectivity from Mahavilachchiya to JKH’s Systems using a VPN was established and tested in April 2007, commercial operations between InfoMate and On-Time were commenced in May 2007, where InfoMate Ltd pays On-Time Ltd based on the number of documents processed.
Soon afterwards, a second batch of 3 trainees was trained in InfoMate for a month, expanding the resource base of On-Time. The operation soon grew to a 19-strong organization.
In 2010, the model was replicated in Seenigama. This was in collaboration with FARO and the Foundation of Goodness, Seenigama (FOG). Fifteen youth are currently employed by Seenigama BPO Technologies carrying out work for InfoMate. The project is a win-win for all parties concerned.
The concept has proved to be an outstanding success. The project was aligned with the principles of the Mahinda Chinthana; demonstrates the power of the IT and BPO industry in bridging distance and divides, and creating sustainable employment; and it has now established a model which could be replicated across Sri Lanka.
The Seenigma operation
Through the period of involvement by the Group’s dedicated team from the John Keells Foundation, InfoMate contributed to the operation in many ways. The training was facilitated to On-Time employees through InfoMate, including a management training program for the management, and quarterly workshops. The training was monitored by InfoMate through fortnightly conference calls to provide MIS and guidance. JKH foundation made periodic CSR visits to see to the upkeep of the building as well.
Due to these contributions, there were many achievements made, including:
- Employment opportunity for talented rural youth, without having to leave their homes and to travel to the commercial centers such as Colombo to seek employment
- Alternative employment opportunities to farming, garments and the military
- Equal opportunity for females was also achieved
Then and Now
The operation which began with 2 individuals has now expanded to a-20 strong operation, with processing of documents and sustaining a steady growth.
During the 5 years, several youth passed through On-Time, many have gone on to obtain Government and private sector employment leveraging the training, IT and accounting skills gathered rural youth, specially females were able to find good source of income without leaving their homes and their families. The scope of work outsourced has widened considerably, and the quality and productivity achieved by the rural BPOs meet client expectations.
Currently the Project is working towards improving the infrastructure of On-Time; to have back up power, back up connectivity and newer machines.
On-Time Technologies – Mahavilachchiya
The Third BPO of its kind was opened in April 2013 at Jaffna, in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka.