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Thread: An amazing story of Saloni Malhotra

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    Thumbs up An amazing story of Saloni Malhotra

    It was just one of those speeches that Prof Ashok Jhunjhunwala of Indian Institute of Technology, Madras made in Delhi to 'inspire' India's youth.

    He was speaking about the big employment opportunities that the business process outsourcing industry has created in urban India. His poser: Why not have such BPOs in rural India, too?

    Among the 400 people who listened to him in rapt attention was Saloni Malhotra, a 23-year-old engineer who 'always wanted to do something for rural India.'

    She got so 'inspired' that she wrote to him asking for an opportunity to work with him. Initially, he was not sure whether she was serious about taking up such a huge challenge. But she persisted.


    Saloni Malhotra, CEO, DesiCrew Solutions who is making her dream of creating employment in rural areas come alive.

    She quit her well-paying job in Delhi and came to Tamil Nadu to take up the challenge. That was two years ago. Impressed by her persistence, the Rural Technology & Business Incubator, IIT Madras finally decided to take Saloni serioulsy.

    IIT Madras then incubated her company -- DesiCrew -- and she got anointed the chief executive of the start-up, which takes work from urban to rural India using information and communications technology.

    Prof Jhunjhunwala "wanted small decentralised BPOs in the rural areas where a maximum of 15 to 20 people work, and those who work should belong to that village," and that is what DesiCrew has managed to achieve.
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    The first seeds of the desire to work for rural India were sown when Saloni joined an engineering college in Pune. "My roommate was from rural Maharashtra. She asked me what my branch was and when I said Industrial Electronics, she proudly told me, she was going to study Computer Science.

    Then, I came to know that she had never seen a computer but believed that studying computer science would fetch her a good job. I felt bad for those who live in rural areas."

    After becoming an engineer, Saloni was sure that she wanted to work for the rural people. She was also sure that she didn't want to do any charity. She wanted to start a business, thereby generating money� and employment.

    The only thing she wasn't sure about was how to go about realising her dream.


    Saloni Malhotra (seated, 2nd from right) with her DesiCrew team in their Chennai office.

    When she was working with webchutney (a consultancy 'that delivers interactive marketing solutions to maximize the value of the online channel'), she heard Prof Jhunjhunwala speak about n-Logue communications (a company he had incubated), and all her doubts were cleared.

    "I wrote to him, and then came for an interview. The briefing was that we had to start a venture and I was given a year-and-a-half to do research on the project."

    The first three months were spent on understanding the people, and working with the kiosks started by n-Logue in the rural areas of Tamil Nadu. The next six months were spent on finding out what clients actually needed.

    In one year, they found that people in rural areas are as employable as those from urban areas: the only difference being that it takes longer to train them and bring them on par with their urban counterparts. That was in January 2005.

    In February 2007, DesiCrew Solutions was launched. "There were a lot of names we were working on. This one was suggested by a friend. 'Desi' means Indian and 'crew' means workforce. A lot of people have told us that the name is very good."
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    The first centre, which is a BPO, was launched in Bhavani, a village in Tamil Nadu. Soon, there were ten centres with three to five people in each centre and 12 in Chennai. Today, after ten months, they have ten centres and 60 people working.

    In partnership with Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd's Common Service Centre (CSC) program to scale rural BPOs at the national level, it is currently running a pilot location in Tamil Nadu.


    DesiCrew's office at IIT Madras, Chennai.

    How does she spot qualified people in the rural areas? "We work with a rural entrepreneur who has good links in the local area. There is a three stage interview process.

    After the entrepreneur spots the talent locally, the resumes are sent to Chennai and then they take an online test. This is followed by an HR interview and then, they are recruited."

    It was the director of New Horizon Media, Badri Seshadri, who gave DesiCrew the first project of retyping his books.

    "The job costs much less; it generates employment in rural areas; and since it is sent back through the Internet, there is no delay in getting back the digitalized books," said he.
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    Off the Chennai-Bangalore National Highway 4, a tiny road leads to a village called Minnur. As you enter the road, on the left side is the small office of DesiCrew run by Vishnu. It is a DesiCrew franchise. This office has a staff of four women.

    All the ten DesiCrew centres are franchises with DesiCrew investing 60-70% and the franchisee investing the rest.

    There are around 5,000 people who live in the village. And this is for the first time that a BPO centre has come into existence in Minnur. Vishnu always had this desire to do something of his own, and his first experience with entrepreneurship was starting a kiosk for n-Logue. That was how he got introduced to DesiCrew.


    Vishnu (left) with Saloni (standing) at the DesiCrew office in Minnur village

    "With n-Logue, people of this village came to know about Internet, email, etc. I am happy that I could give jobs to a few rural women who otherwise would not have got a chance to work in a BPO.

    I have four people working for me, and from next week onwards, the number will go up to ten. All the villagers are happy that we have a company like DesiCrew here," Vishnu said

    Vidya, a graduate, has been with the DesiCrew centre at Minnur from the very beginning. She is happy that she could do something which she thought only people in the urban areas could.

    "Many of my friends go to the other villages and work in factories but I am happy that I can remain in my village and do something different. Earning a monthly salary has made me feel independent, and proud!"
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    According to Saloni, the person who took the biggest risk was Vaidyanathan Vasudevan, CEO, Epi-source India Private Ltd. Epi-source does the complete back office operations for their US clients, mainly doctors and hospitals.

    The work is invoice processing, claims processing till recovery from the insurance companies, and analysis of the bills.

    Vasudevan says his policy has always been helping the underprivileged by recruiting them in his BPO.

    "I prefer recruiting people from the rural areas and training them. I find them better than the urban people. Then I found that if they worked in their native place, they could save money and lead a better life."

    As he was looking for the right people to collaborate with him, he saw a write up on DesiCrew in a newspaper. That was the best platform he was looking for. His client in the US also had no qualms about outsourcing work from rural India. In fact, "they were glad."

    He trained all the rural recruitees of DesiCrew working on his project free of cost. At the Jolarpet centre, DesiCrew employees do online invoice processing of the US clients of Epi-source and send them back directly while the quality check is done in Chennai.


    Vaidyanathan Vasudevan, CEO, Epi-source India Private Ltd.

    Though the analysis work is currently done in Chennai, he plans to slowly give that job also to the rural BPOs.

    "I would say nobody has taken such a huge risk with us as Mr Vasudevan has. He is sourcing accounts payable process which is high on the skill side. You need to understand basic accounts to do the work. He has put in a lot of efforts to train our people for two weeks in his office. We wanted the centre not very far away from Chennai, that is why we chose Jolarpet," Saloni said.

    Vasudevan summed it up: "The workers in the rural areas are more committed and hardworking. So, their quality is very good. They only lack communication skills."

    In one month, they have two live centres and they plan to open a third centre shortly. He is so impressed with the workforce that he plans to have ten centres and at least 100 people from the rural areas working on his project soon.

    Vasudevan feels more businessmen should join hands with Saloni so that her dream of providing employment opportunities to rural population comes through successfully.
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    At the Jolarpet centre of DesiCrew, Perumal, who mans the centre, is a happy man. The centre became operational only a month ago and he has four women working at present. The staff strength will soon go up to twenty.

    Perumal's introduction to DesiCrew also was through n-Logue communications.

    "I can't tell you how happy I am now. I stay in my native place, I work here and now I also give employment to the girls here. There are many skilled and competent persons in rural areas but there are no opportunities for them.

    All the girls who work for me here are graduates with some computer knowledge but there are no jobs here. I am happy that I could give them a chance to earn a living. When I started out, I was a bit scared because we were going to work "live" for a US client.

    Now we are happy that our client is very happy with our work. Thanks to the girls who really work hard!"

    .
    Perumal with his team at the Jolarpet centre of DesiCrew

    Perumal, a diploma holder in Computer Science, first got himself trained in Chennai on what the US client of Epi-source wanted. Now, he himself trains the girls in Jolarpet.

    "Perumal has driven the girls so well that they have achieved the target much before the stipulated time. The client is very happy with him," Saloni said of Perumal's dedication.

    What Perumal does to elicit better and more work is offer incentives for faster work! He confesses, "There is no limit to my dreams of expanding the centre!"

    Not only is it the best DesiCrew centre, the performer of the month also is from Perumal's centre: Priya. Though Priya is a graduate and has computer skills, she could not work till now.

    "My parents were not willing to send me to far away places and there was no opportunity here. Now I am so happy that I can stay at home and work!

    I am happier now as I have been selected as the performer of the month. I don't know how I got the award; I only know I tried my best. But I can tell you this job has made me a lot more confident."
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    The two people who have encouraged Saloni to dream are her parents, both of whom are doctors. Her father works at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and her mother is a gynaecologist, who runs a clinic in Delhi.

    "Without their encouragement, I would not have done this. My mother is my biggest inspiration."

    DesiCrew is now only ten months old, but Saloni has dreams for her future. "We have 60 employees now. We want to have 200 by the end of the year. We also want to have pan-India presence. We want to go to different States."


    Prof Ashok Jhunjhunwala Prof Ashok Jhunjhunwala of Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, who inspired Saloni Malhotra

    "There is a growing demand for skills in Indian languages. If you call your telephone operator, she asks you in which language you want to speak. In the bank and insurance company, the papers are in two languages; in English and the local language.

    A lot of corporates are selling their products in small towns and villages. So, we feel that having presence in various Indian villages, we can provide service in multiple Indian languages, and also in English. Karnataka is the next target, then Maharashtra and Gujarat," Saloni adds.

    She admits, "You need a lot of courage and determination to struggle seven days a week when your peers earn a lot of money and enjoy!" No doubt, she has that in plenty.

    That Saloni's work is slowly being recognised is evident from the fact that she has made it to prestigious Business Week's Asia's 25 Youngest Entrepreneurs list.
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    Saloni Malhotra among Asia's best young entrepreneurs

    The results are in. Late last year, BusinessWeek.com readers were asked to choose from among 25 finalists in our annual competition to find the best entrepreneur age 30 or under in the Asia-Pacific region.

    We selected the final 25 from a longer list of suggestions submitted by readers and editors and then asked readers to vote online.

    This year's top vote getter is Nguyen Minh Tri, a 25-year-old from Vietnam who has started two companies, My World and Viet Tech.

    He has a bachelor's degree in computer engineering from the University of Portland in Oregon and worked in Silicon Valley as a programmer for Serena Software. "Entrepreneurship is not my career, it's my passion," he says.

    Nguyen has capitalized on his knowledge of the U.S. and Vietnam by locating Viet Tech's offices both in Portland and Ho Chi Minh City. The company is a software developer and outsourcing specialist that focuses on small and medium businesses. Nguyen's other company, My World, is a Web 2.0 venture that bills itself as the leading social and educational utility in Vietnam, offering users the chance to share news, blogs, photos, music, and other content in both Vietnamese and English.

    "At a young age, I was inspired and motivated by business and technology," Nguyen says. "It was my natural aspiration to become an entrepreneur."



    The fast-growing Vietnamese economy provides entrepreneurs like Nguyen with ample opportunities, especially as would-be outsourcers look for lower-cost alternatives to India.

    The rise of the Indian currency against the dollar and increasing wages in Bangalore and other Indian IT hotspots provide an opening for companies such as Viet Tech. "With a young, talented labor pool, Vietnam is attracting worldwide attention in the high-tech market," Nguyen says.

    The runner-up in the BusinessWeek.com competition is Saloni Malhotra, founder and CEO of DesiCrew Solutions. A graduate of Bharati Vidyapeeth's College of Engineering in Pune, near Mumbai, Malhotra launched her company last February.

    Like Nguyen, she is trying to build an outsourcing business by leveraging low-cost workers. She describes DesiCrew as "a non-urban, socially motivated" business-process outsourcing company. India has plenty of so-called BPOs, but DesiCrew is different, she says, because it focuses on tapping the workforce in India's small towns and rural areas.

    "DesiCrew's biggest challenge has been to convince clients about the productivity of rural areas," says Malhotra.

    Malhotra says that it's too early to declare her experiment a success. It remains difficult, for instance, to train rural workers for the kind of jobs DesiCrew is offering.

    "We are an adolescent company and have a long way to go," she says. But so far she's enjoying the ride. Being an entrepreneur "feels like a big responsibility combined with a lot of fun," she says. "Every day is a new challenge with new problems to be solved."

    Local Web 2.0

    Winning third place in the competition is Ari Sudradjat, the founder of PT Braincode Solution in Jakarta. Braincode provides mobile games, wallpapers, screen savers, and other services to Indonesian telecom operators and prides itself on having more local content than its rivals.

    "Being an entrepreneur in Indonesia is challenging, but there are many advantages as well," says Sudradjat. "There is a lot of good talent that is not expensive, operational costs are not big, and there are not many competitors. But the challenges are bureaucracy, kickbacks, and software piracy."

    Rounding out the top four is Hong Kong's Leon Ho, the entrepreneur behind Stepcase, a Web 2.0 company. Ho describes Stepcase as a "productivity solution company" that attracts more than 1 million visitors per month. One of its sites, called Lifehack, is a popular blog that delivers self-help news and other ideas on "lifehacks," or tricks that people can use to boost their productivity.

    Stepcase Apps, currently under development, will be an online software platform for helping people get more organized. "Stepcase is a rare opportunity for me, as it fits all my passions--productivity, Web, software development, and startup," he says. "I started the blog because I wanted to share what I have learned on productivity."
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    {Forum Emperor} Lieutenant General !! K A R A N !!'s Avatar
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    thanks for sharing SAM !!!

    ...
    "I can't escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand !!!

    "Tђモ MΘĐΞЯ@t◎Я"
    Smile It's the second best thing you can do with your lips !!!

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    tfs SAM ...!!!!

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    ▐║Mirchirific Moderator║▌ Brigadier General mirchi.foreever's Avatar
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    great and amazing story SAM
    thanks for sharing...............
    I am a different person- compared to- who I was this time the last year...

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    Too Big........thankz anywayz!
    Please reload this page to view signature.

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    chura lo na dil mera Colonel Harry4u's Avatar
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    seems interesting!
    Donate eyes!
    Love is bLiNd !

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    Hats off to saloni malhotra...........hats of to sam 4 posting it...........

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    TFS..........++
    Your love is all I need to feel complete.

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