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In Bangalore, a BPO with a heart

John Ribeiro | March 25, 2009
The firm hires only physically handicapped people to work on data-entry jobs

Pavithra and Ashok started the company

BANGALORE, 24 MARCH 2009 - An entrepreneur in Bangalore has found that running a BPO (business process outsourcing) operation with physically handicapped people, who have only finished high school, can make money, too.

The firm that Ashok Giri D and his wife, Pavithra Y.S., set up three years ago with an investment of Indian Rupees 6 million (US$117,000), mainly from bank loans, now makes margins of about 15 percent to 20 percent. And they are getting ready to expand from about 120 employees to 400 by the end of this year.

Vindhya E-Infomedia is located in a corner of a maze of streets and by-lanes in the Rajajinagar industrial suburb of Bangalore. The building is an unassuming structure and consists only of a ground floor, making access to work easy for the physically handicapped staff employed there.

"We could not make our business model work in the posh, expensive locations where the large multinational and domestic BPO firms are located," said Giri, who earlier worked in sales at some tech companies.

As the company hires employees who have only finished high school, it is focused primarily on the low-end of the BPO food chain, consisting mainly of data-entry work. High school students in India typically complete 10 years of education, while undergraduates complete 12 years, and graduates 15.

Setting up Vindhya E-Infomedia met Giri's ambition of becoming an entrepreneur and his wife's interest in helping the disabled, including hearing-impaired people, with whom she had earlier worked through nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

Bangalore's BPO boom has provided opportunities to the city's graduates who earlier would have found it difficult to get jobs. But those who have not studied beyond high school still find it difficult to get well-paying jobs.

More than 80 per cent of people hired by BPOs are graduates or undergraduates because of the complexity of the business processes involved, said Amitabh Das, chief executive officer of Vati Consulting, a recruitment firm in Bangalore.

Large BPO companies are not averse to hiring handicapped people, but they do not get many with the education and skill levels they are looking for, Das added.

NGOs have stepped in to train handicapped people out of high school in skills such as using computers. The opportunity for entrepreneurs like Giri is that by hiring and further training them, they can ensure that they will stay with the company for a longer period in an industry severely affected by staff attrition.

"Large companies will not hire candidates who have only finished high school," Giri said. In contrast, graduates tend to see BPO jobs as stop-gap arrangements before higher studies or some other career, he added.


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