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Getting the next Generation of BPO employees work ready: Implication of STAR Scheme in India

The Indian BPM industry currently employs 10 million people and expects to employ 103 million people in 2020. While the industry moves towards more sophisticated work streams it will have to look at preparing more youth for the jobs. The National Skills Development Corporation launched the STAR Scheme to train more youth starting from 10th grade level on relevant industry skills and reimburse the cost up to INR 10000 per candidate. While the scheme rolls out we looked closely at few Impact Sourcing Service providers in rural areas and the effect on them.


Training rural youth on BPO skills has challenges that are mostly related to the education system which currently does not support vocational trainings taking place in schools and colleges in rural India . The geographical disparity in India also makes it difficult for training organisations to have a reach into the interiors of the country and deliver effective trainings to the youth. While a few organizations are doing some tremendous work in skilling the youth, it has also led to a training fatigue since youth go to cities to train and without picking up any relevant skills are left jobless again. Bringing this disgruntled lot into a training space is difficult since winning their trust isn't easy. While the state Govt. has some schemes under SUDA (State Urban Development Authority) to train people on BPO and English skills it has met with its own set of challenges. They have a bidding process wherein NGOs in the region can bid on per candidate cost and the contract is awarded to the lowest bidder. There are some centrally funding schemes also being run by the social infrastructure arm of Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Limited India as the implementing agency. "The relevance and application of these schemes can be a challenge for smaller social enterprises since they run into the challenges of questionability of bidding process, the bid prices being very low due to which the quality of training is affected, poor quality of content created for the schemes, bureaucratic hurdles with departments etc. Since these schemes do not do a complete feasibility study of such trainings in the region we see a drop outs during the initial stages of trainings itself and this leads to difficulty in getting reimbursed for the cost incurred." Biplab Saha, E Gram Serve.
E Gram Serve is a BPO in the hills of Uttarakhand, India and currently has 40 employees working on e-publishing work of STM journals & books (STM=Scientific, Technical & Medical) of world leading journal & book publishers. The employees are in the age group of 20-28 years. About 10 employees are above the 28 year old age. About 30 employees are graduates mostly being BA & B.Com and about 3-4 are BSc from the degree college in Narendranagar, Rishikesh & Chambal in Uttarakhand, India. 1 employee is a B.Tech from a college in Uttar Pradesh, India and 4-5 are post graduates - MA, BEd, MSc. About 20-25 employees are pursuing graduation in Narendarnagar, India.


STAR Scheme is an ambitious plan of NSDC to bring more skills closer to the rural youth. While the scheme aims at enrolling more and more rural youth it will need adjacent stakeholder relationships to be established for its smooth run. The content under the NOS and NFOS rolled out by NASSCOM SSC is very relevant to the BPO industry hiring's and pertinent for anyone looking to join the industry. The scheme places the primary responsibility of publicising about the scheme on the trainer along with complete placement of the trained candidates. Biplab Saha, CEO, e-Gram Serve believes that, "this roll out will require a collaborative approach between BPM's in the cities, social enterprises like ourselves in rural areas and training entities. To dismantle the training fatigue of young crowd it is critical that joint programs are launched and hiring of underserved communities is a distributed effort."


Head Held High is a Bangalore based training organization that works with youth in rural Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa in India. They provide relevant skills trainings to rural youth and help them get employment opportunities in the industry. Their training programmes start with a selection process of the applicants through an interview, post which they are trained in various skills. The skills trained in include English, computer, mathematics, logical reasoning, basic business related and life skills. The candidates are put through an exam based on completion criteria before the end of the programme. The organization is positive about the STAR Scheme and the opportunities it can open up in rural areas. Rajesh Bhat, Co-Founder and CEO says, "the scheme will allow more organizations to train larger numbers of rural youth on relevant skills through industry created content. This will lead to the confidence in city BPO's that they can move to Tier 3 towns and beyond since there will be ready pool of trained and certified talent that can be utilised." 


While the scheme is an ambitious plan to provide more skilled workforce to the industry and create inclusion, it will require a combined effort of the employers and training institutes to give the confidence to the rural population on effectiveness of enrolling for the program.