Rural BPOs: Corporate responsibility or business?


Posted by on October 22, 2007  /  35 Comments

Rural BPO at Mahavilachchiya received wide publicity yesterday, with several local newspapers prominently highlighting the to-be-success story like Sunday Times did below in a first page half page article, and a finance editorial.

BPO in the Anuradhapura backwoods
IT rumble in the jungle

What puzzles us is why some of these articles (Not the Sunday Times story) referred to the venture as a ‘corporate responsibility’ (an euphemism for ‘charity’) of John Keels Holdings (JKH), a top business conglomerate in Sri Lanka.

When Indian Tobacco Company (ITC) launched e-Choupal chain in India, nobody branded it ‘corporate responsibility’. It was an online window for its rural suppliers of first tobacco and later other agricultural/aquaculture produce like soya, coffee, and prawns, to interact directly with the company. It was part of ITC business and definitely not charity. That was why e-Choupal could survive and expand within a short period of time to over a thousand of centres, while most of the other tele-centre chains died down when the donor money was over.

The future of not just the MV project, but perhaps the whole ‘bottom of pyramid’ as well depends on the attitude the business takes. If this is just a promotional activity of a business firm, funded by its marketing budget, it might not lead anywhere. It is essential that corporate sector treats such ventures as a part of their core business rather than charity or mere image promoting activities.

35 Comments


  1. I, too, was impressed by the work being done in MV. From what I gathered from both articles, the fact that John Keells has employed the services of the youth at OnTime (the BPO outfit in MV) has been a vote of confidence – so much so that organizations like Singer and Dialog are also in talks with them, currently.

    Re the ‘corporate responsibility’ POV: corporate social responsibility is no longer a euphimism for charity. Many businesses consider CSR part of their core business and to ensure sustainability, invest their time, efort and finances in areas that are closely-related to their core business. From what the Sunday Observer article says, the IT/BPO arm of John Keells is primarily responsible for the MV set up, including providing training etc., and this doesn’t come across as a promotional activity/charity initiative. In fact, on the contrary, it seems to be leading somewhere; and expanding and developing.

  2. Well, am glad to see all the publicity and success for MV and the BPO venture. What’s interesting to know would be whether they get enough work to sustain and cover there cost or are they paid fairly for the work they do? It would be interesting to find these facts. As per some info I received which am not 100% sure since I haven’t visited the place recently, what they earn from BPO isn’t enough to even break even. Further I heard what they earn per month is less than 10K per person (something like 6000 ). I hope someone who visited the site in MV or probably wanni can update all of us on this?

    While appreciating all the work granted and a good start/example it’s also important to see whether it’s sustainable/profitable where at the end the young youth want get stressed out as they dont earn enough or can’t make a living out of it. All I got to know is that it’s just punching of some data so there want be any knowledge enhancements either, so in that case at least they should get paid fairly to cover there costs and make decent living is my opinion.

    Also, another important thing that needs to see is continuity and to have enough supply of people for these ventures as another disturbing news I heard was number of students at Horizon has declined drastically recently. So will have an impact on expansion?

    Further, some of the people who did a study recently found out that there is another set of talented youth from Horizon who isn’t keen on such BPO work but looking for much more creative stuff. They are not keen to go out of village either but looking for quite challenging work/jobs. So there is potential to do outsourcing such as designing web content etc.

    Please don’t consider this as am trying to be negative, but want to find out the real truth and future sustainability of Horizon & related work. If there are any lapses it’s best that they are addressed at the early stages.

  3. Harsha,

    Do you know how much somebody in Colombo doing the same job gets? If they pay the same rates in MV I am more than happy. This is just started. We cannot expect wonders. In every project the initial period is the most difficult. Any moving body, when the inertia is overcome can move faster.

  4. Dear Harsha,

    Thanks for the interesting queries. We all know you have raised these questions for the betterment of Mahavilachchiya as you are one of the first donors/well-wishers of the project. Besides, a healthy debate will help develop Mahavilachchiya. (I tried my best to keep my answers short and you can come back to me if you need any clarifications on a specific issue.)

    You basically have raised three questions.

    1. “As per some info I received which am not 100% sure since I haven’t visited the place recently, what they earn from BPO isn’t enough to even break even Further I heard what they earn per month is less than 10K per person (something like 6000 )………”

    We have put the OnTime BPO as a separate, independent entity. Since this is totally a business venture, we got the support of the experienced business people and legal people to set this up. According to the calculations, if we have 6 seats (6 employees) from OnTime BPO, its break even stage is met. Now we have 4 seats and the rest 2 seats will be completed by the end of this month. The two youth are being trained in Colombo right now. Do not expect to get the whole Horizon Lanka expenses to be covered trough the BPO. BPO is a limited liability company and it only pays a royalty for Horizon Lanka. Horizon Lanka has given three months period for the BPO to use its resources (electricity, PCs, space, etc.) for free and from the 4th month is a reasonable fee imposed on OnTime. LankaCom has provided a free VPN facility till the project gets to sustainable stage. Our aim is to have 25 seats by December and with the current speed we hope to get there by the end of the year. The youth working for the BPO have satisfied the customers by doing work even faster than expected despite the power cuts, etc. As Tuk Tuk Driver correctly mentions this is just the beginning and expecting wonders at this stage would be too much. Hope Harsha can remember our humble beginning of the Horizon Lanka Academy since you visited us long time ago. Did you expect us to come this far then?

    As per the income aspect of it for an employee, you should compare the expenses of a youth working in a city with a youth working in a village. A city youth will have to pay for transport, food, accommodation, fashionable clothes, social events, etc. whereas a village youth can ride a bicycle to the BPO, stay at home and enjoy village grown food and wear their day today clothes, and continue the less complicated social life in the village. So, 6000 earned in a village will be much better than 15,000 earned in a city. (The youth will reach 10,000 LKR per month very soon.) The best example is Isuru. He has already purchased a motorbike on lease and he is paying the installments with his monthly income from the BPO. After 10 years of working for Horizon Lanka, I still don’t own even a bicycle!!! This is because that charity based work won’t be sustainable and the business will be different. I am glad that the youth are benefiting at an early stage of their life.

    2. “Also, another important thing that needs to see is continuity and to have enough supply of people for these ventures as another disturbing news I heard was number of students at Horizon has declined drastically recently……”

    Since January 2006 I am not physically in the village. I am handling the project electronically from outside with my part-time staff. This had a direct impact for the student number to go down as the students and the villagers lost the personal touch with me. But this had a hidden blessing as well because the youth took over from us and they learnt to become responsible in management of the institution. They are making mistakes but learning fast.

    There is another reason for the number of students to go down. There are 4 public schools in the area with computer facilities now. We have helped 3 of these schools with our equipment and knowledge. We also provided unlimited internet access to two schools through mesh. So, Horizon Lanka is not the ONLY place for computers now. Few private tuition classes also have started and students have more options. The conditions of the public schools are also better compared to 10 years ago. We had lengthy discussions on the academic activities and maybe we can hand over the academic affairs to the government schools, private tuition classes, dhamma schools, etc. in the area during next two years and completely concentrate on business oriented activities. Now that we have got the basics (PCs, connectivity –mesh –wi-fi-, mobile and fixed line telephone coverage, better road access, publicity, etc.) we can change our focus onto what the village needs from us. We hope rather than us doing a lot of things, we should concentrate on few specific areas now. Academic activities never brought sufficient income to Horizon Lanka as we could not overcharge the village students. I completely agree with Harsha’s concern about the continued influx of skilled youth. Now that more youth are joining BPO, we can directly train them for computers and English which is less expensive. Earlier we had to teach science, mathematics, Sinhala, Social Studies, etc. as well since there was no other options. So, do not worry. We will supply more skilled youth for direct ICT related jobs. There are more computer institutes in and around Mahavilachchiya now. We are helping them with our expertise.

    3. “Further, some of the people who did a study recently found out that there is another set of talented youth from Horizon who isn’t keen on such BPO work but looking for much more creative stuff. They are not keen to go out of village either but looking for quite challenging work/jobs. So there is potential to do outsourcing such as designing web content etc.”

    You are right. BPO operations are for the average youth and those who have special skills can continue in their respective fields. For instance, 3 girls are being trained in Colombo from last Monday in one of the leading software companies in Colombo on graphic and web content. Harsha also helped us by providing a job opportunity for one of our youths in MicroImage. Likewise we hope there will be more chances for these youth with special skills to be trained in future. Hope you all can help us. We have another 10 youth who are interested in networking, graphic, photography, videoing etc. with a lot of talents and you can help us by giving them opportunities. Those who are interested in returning to the village can start household BPO works from the 28 meshed up houses, 7 wi-fi zones, etc. in Mahavilachchiya and earn more income for the village. We don’t expect to restrict all youth to Mahavilachchiya itself. We need some of them to come to Colombo, go abroad, etc. so that more experiences will be collected for the betterment of themselves, project and the country.

    As a whole, Horizon Lanka was a good case study and it has had its ups and downs and changes during the crucial times and survived all these. I don’t see any reason as to why it cannot survive the current new trends. We survived the negative impacts of 9/11, tsunami, my departure from the village and we will survive the recent attacks on Anuradhapura airbase related negative impacts and any other predicament which will come in future. “Never say die” and “take no for an answer” are the attitudes I have taught to the students and hope they will keep this in their minds.

    We hope experts like Harsha and others will be there to guide us if and when you foresee some danger. Horizon Lanka started with an unprofessional (me) and few kids. So, now professionalism and maturity are coming. Hope things will be better in future. Take a look at the scores of other Horizon like initiatives which are mushrooming island wide. Horizon has been an inspiration to those projects. We need to network all these projects as far as possible and bring in BPOs and other income generating projects to help these projects. Horizon Lanka is only a model to learn from. We need to see other projects learning from our positive and negative results.

    Nandasiri Wanninayaka

  5. The bigger questions are whether projects like this are (a) sustainable and (b) replicable elsewhere as it is.

    We cannot ignore the sunk cost. MV has not come to this level overnight. The cost of the project so far involves not just the cost of the building, computers and equipment but also the cost of capacity building. (Several from MV have received overseas training) When you treat the project as a whole all these should be taken care of. Some estimate the total cost to be in the range of US$ 500k. A more realistic guess would be half of that (I am not sure, please correct if wrong) but still it is significant when compared with the little tangible outcome.

    As Wanni correctly points out income from BPO will not cover the entire cost of the project. It is good that they have found a way to move forward, but that per se does not answer the questions I pose above.

    My gut feeling is there is no point replicating this project as it is. There is no way we can justify the education component. So the best is to in similar projects in future give less importance to the education component and focus more on the income generation (BPO) component. Whatever the education should be primarily focused on the capacity building for BPO.

    With that knowledge perhaps JKH or someone else, can start think about the rural BPOs in the big way.

  6. If OnTime can cover all operational costs including rent, electricity, connectivity, etc. that is a significant achievement.

    I think it is unreasonable to expect OnTime to pay wages equal to those in Colombo. That would wipe out its advantage. It’s like expecting BPO employees in Colombo to be paid the same wages as those in London.

    This is a healthy and much needed discussion. I would be interested in what the young people of MV have to say about these issues.

  7. Differences in HR costs might not be the only incentive for JKH or any other firm to go rural. What about low rent? Low transport costs? (In CMB many BPOs provide transport for their staff if work late hours) The recruitment costs too might be low because compared to CMB, the employer loyalty is high and turnover low.

    Yes, I have taken the relatively higher leased line costs into account but overall I guess the total operation might not be less profitable even if they pay the same salaries.

    In India, most of the BPO operations are outsourced to Bangalore not purely for low HR costs. It might be cheaper to find people in Bihar or Orissa but nobody goes there.

    Anyway, what I actually meant was not the same CMB rates but at least rates not too low, compared to CMB ones. These young men should not be exploited purely because they come from villages.

  8. Thanks Wanni for the detail explanation. As mentioned there is no question about the good start and also I don’t expect overnight wonders either as I know how hard people over there had to work to get recognition and get acceptance all over. And also i don’t expect to see that BPO covers Horizon costs.

    Below are some of the observations of few people who went to MV recently who are doing a MSc Study, this is for open discussion based on their input,

    – At the time they went which is approx 1 1/2 months ago, they were yet to get any payments for there work. Perhaps by now they must have got. They have said what they earn from that capacity want be able to break even so they need to grow.

    – What they say is that they get average Rs. 1.20/- (correct if wrong) per invoice and does 150 per day avg. So assuming they work 30 days they get approx, 5600-6000. Let’s say 6000/-. Then they have found out that Boys are not that keen in the village to work for a 6000K job and want to go out and find better opportunities which they can earn better. So the females are more likely to take up these as they can work from village and perhaps it would be interesting to find out facts on this as well. Male/Female ratio on in village BPO.

    – Our team feels finding more people for expansion would be tough in MV.

    – Further after the initial generation of talent that MV produced, there seems to be NO new generation emerging like the initial generation. It’s dropping as per the finding. So this will have impact on future expansions.

    – There seems to be a certain set of people who are working against Horizon where some of the school teachers are preventing kids going to Horizon. To do that they schedule there tuition to overlap horizon schedules it seems. So my worry is that is there any “never say die” and “take no for an answer” 2nd generation coming up since your departure from the village. Who will give leadership to have those attitudes for the future??? My opinion is there should be another strong leader.

    So as per above if these are true facts, it’s important to address issues like,
    – continuos supply of required manpower
    – covering operational costs and ensuring it’s not running under a loss and ensuring sustainability
    – ensuring retention as people want get fed up after sometime doing the same mundane task over and over again without any challenge. In those circumstances what’s alternate plans for such people to grow to another level.

    I suggest Wanni should visit MV often :-) to ensure the momentum going.

  9. correction, above should be 6000 or 6K,

    Also another suggestion would be Ontime can network with nenasala’s around North-Central province to attract people to the BPO operation by working closely with them.

    Perhaps as Chanuka mentioned a big organization should setup things in a big way! that’s the way for ensuring sustainability as they will take more ownership and interest on it.

  10. Chanuka, there are things in this world that does not make any business sense at all, but are still equally important for development. Education and paradigm shift are two examples. So IMO a rural BPO starting out as a corporate responsibility rather than a government responsibility is definitely a step taken forward.

    But this thread has opened up something bigger:

    Horizon Lanka isn’t functional without Mr. Wanninayaka? This is certainly an interesting twist. This question alone is probably more relevant to sustainability/replicability of Mahavillachchiya than anything else.

  11. R,

    Two clarifications.

    1. Nobody says education is not important, but given a choice, even Buddha agreed food takes priority over Dharma.

    2. Again I did not say anything about govt starting BPOs. As I understand Govts and ICTs are not a good mix. Wherever ICT has florished it has happened with little or no govt involvement. Development in the Silicon Valley has little to do with US govt, except for the fact that it happened in a Post WW-II Industrial park. Bangalore becoming the IT centre in India has to do more with Narayana Murthy and Azim Premji than Bangarappa and Veerappa Moily, then Chief Ministers of Karnataka state. So it is best to keep the govt out and see what the rest can do.

  12. Point taken.

    Lets take the question in a little more detail.

    What is the difference between a BPO and a “Rural BPO”? What kind of extra investment does a Rural BPO incur? What are the cultural barriers that need to be broken to carry on a business in a rural community?

    I will not answer these questions because there are more competent people than me in this forum to answer these questions. All I can say is that (as a part time BPO worker) you need a fair amount of English knowledge and a fair amount of common sense (or exposure to the outside world) to get contracts. As a community worker I can safely say that it will take a huge amount of effort to establish these two traits in villagers. Is anyone ready to make that sacrifice?

    IMO the only driving force to establish a BPO in a village is the good will of people like Mr. Wanninayaka and philanthropists like Harsha. So calling a “Rural BPO” a CSR is not that far from the truth.

    With the above explanation, I think you’ll see my next question in a new light.

    Horizon Lanka isn’t functional without Mr. Wanninayaka? This question alone is probably more relevant to sustainability/replicability of Mahavillachchiya than anything else.

  13. What are the cultural barriers that need to be broken to carry on a business in a rural community?
    to carry a business you need individuals who think of themselves as capitalists, that is, they have to judge their own social roles in terms of productivity and performance, they have to be target oriented and voluntarily believe in an ethic of self-enhancement. 20 something year olds from a village, who have parents who are farmers and who have little exposure to the urban and global neo-liberalism will take time to transform their identities to suit this kind of ethic. Some of the youth who have had global training exposure will be faster in understanding and adapting to this (and will probly move to better opportunities sooner or later), while the others will just do it, cuz this BPO opportunity does seem to be the best option around (beats working in a garment factors, working as a domestic worker in the M.East, joining the army).

  14. Princess,

    You need to separate the issues. You seem to be describing the set of skills and attitudes are needed by entrepreneurs. These are relevant for those starting rural BPOs.

    Why would these same skills and attitudes be needed for those wishing to work in BPOs? It’s no different from going to work in any structured hierarchical organization, is it not?

  15. This is partially a response to the question posed by R.

    Why focus on Rural BPOs? Why not normal BPOs (in CMB)?

    Lets go to the beginnings. The first BPOs were started in India, mainly in B’lore way back in may be mid 1990s, but the boom came much later in early ’00s. (after the global recession in the post 9/11, because moving out made sense)

    Unfortunately, whatever the reason we in Sri Lanka (and in B’desh, Nepal and Pak) then missed the bus. India is way ahead in this game now. I am not sure whether we can now catch the bus. For example, the BPO business in B’lore is now saturated and they easily divert the spill over to Mysore and other nearby places. That will never reach Sri Lanka.

    I cannot explain it in words, but I have never witnessed the BPO spirit in CMB as it is in B’lore. I can take any bet (though cant prove it) BPO business in CMB will never take off even for another 10-15 years. Yes, we will have a handful of BPOs in CMB, but that will be sporadic and will never become a big business.

    Thus the only option is to have an early start in the next wave BPO 2.0.

    What is BPO 2.0?

    A similar recession (like post 9/11) in the global economy has already been predicted starting late-2007. The first indicators are already seen in terms of stock market clashes, inflation in many economies including China and evident election of Hilary Clinton. (Well, I m joking on the last point!)

    So in near future there will be another wave of demand for BPO operations at *lower* costs. So we cannot have them in cities we have to go rural. (Compare this with the expansion of the garment industry to rural areas during the times of Premedasa)

    MV and overall the villages in Sri Lanka is well poised to take this challenge. It is a take it or leave it opportunity. Grab it as long as the opportunity is there or it will be only a matter of time there will be hazar of BPOs in the Indian villages.

  16. Dear All,

    All these discussions should be aimed at answering this question in the link. http://movingimages.files.wordpress.com/2007/10/copy-of-all-inf-no-solutions.jpg

    Can ICT feed the hungry is the question. I am optimistic despite all the recent odds we faced. Temporary setbacks had been there at any successful organization. Mahavilachchiya is a test bed. One can take the positives out of it and keep the negatives out.

    BPO in Mahavilachchiya is too young. We haven’t come to the stage of “Mission Accomplished” yet. Let the young men and women prove their mettle. Let the time decide.

    The last thing I want to hear from anyone is that “Horizon Lanka isn’t functional without Mr. Wanninayaka.” It shouldn’t be so. Men come and go. But the concepts remain. Let the young people learn and prove themselves. I can go back to MV and take charge again but this will be a bad influence. Now it is the time for the youth to take over. I want to see the things from a distance and guide them if necessary. Mahavilachchiya project is a collective effort with the kids, villagers, well-wishers, donors, investors, critics, etc. I don’t want to play a bigger role than I am already playing. I have come back to MV when it was needed three times before.
    (1) by giving up government service (teaching) in a High School in Anuradhapura city (2000)
    (2) by giving up a well-paid job in MAS Holdings (2002) and
    (3) another job in an International School in Qatar. (2004)

    Those days kids in Horizon Lanka were too young. But now we have at least 10-15 most senior students who are 18 and why not give them a chance to prove themselves? Kids may have looked silent during past few months as the most dynamic group was facing the highly competitive ALs. But they will bounce back soon. Now they are being trained for specific tasks. Let’s wait for results for some more time.

    I would like to conclude my post with the following quote which I wrote after visiting USA in 2000. (See full story at http://www.horizonlanka.org/wanni/)

    Quote [I hope we can contribute something for the second or third generation kids to have a better place than we have in Sri Lanka.

    My message to the teachers and parents of Sri Lanka is,

    “Give your kids a chance to express their feelings, treat them like equals, listen to them, respect them and be honest and genuine to them in a manner that they have trust and confidence to talk to you about anything and everything. Never demand respect, and punish them for the slightest mistake. Do not treat them as ‘Little Idiots.’ They have the potential than we really imagine.”] Unquote

    Nandasiri Wanninayaka

  17. great explanation but how much of it is true. bpo or rural bpo have no chance in sri lanka because there is little or no support from the government side. the incompetent icta staff fail to understand the importance.

    politicians on the other hand are more interested in pushing projects like ‘nanasala’ (bathing houses?) and silpa sayura which give them the milage but nothing to the country in the long run. most of the projects supported under e-society funds are no sustainable but will come to a dead end when the donor funds ran over. if we had staff with at least some intelligence and a backbone at icta we could have done a lot but with the present lot no hopes.

  18. Be complacent with a little piece because we can’t have the cake?

    This is what I call ‘Moragoda thinking’. He knows we can’t bring foreign tourist anymore, so he is happy with handful of local tourists. Will that earn us any foreign exchange? Can that sustain our hotel industry in long term? Not problems for him, as long as he has some work to do.

    The challenge is to grab as much as possible from the global outsourcing business. In India its billions, we have hardly anything. So if we are not good at it why bother? Let us do something else, than doing it for its own sake.

  19. Has anyone been surprised by the quality of journalism in this country! I think besides the point that the “backwoods” of sri lanka are getting computer and have wireless in their “makeshift”homes”, whats more surprising and disturbing is that journalist at the Sunday Times, can’t write!
    Also, what does it even mean to say that “one in every eight families has a computer ( a ratio of 100 computers for 800 families)” is this even true and does MV even have 800 families?
    Then, why is the writer so baffled about all this!, as he writes, its “unbelievable”.

    I suppose im just ranting. But its pretty pathetic.

  20. MV is a very large village. 800 families seems correct. I know that young bloggers from MV read this thread. Let them respond on the computer numbers.

  21. Dear Prof. Samarajiva and Kol,

    See the numbers below.

    PCs at homes – 40 (under Digital Butterflies project
    http://digitalbutterflies.wordpress.com/)

    At Horizon Lanka Lab – 25

    Siddhartha School – 20

    Thakshila School – 15

    Saliyamala – 1

    Gamini School – 5 (unconfirmed)

    Laptops -10 (under Digital Ambassadors project
    http://digitalambassadors.wordpress.com/ )

    Temples, police station, government offices, etc. 20

    Total = 140

    Real Number should be around 150.

    Mahavilachchiya DS Division is fairly large. Mahavilachchiya is a colony.
    Not a village. If you take the whole MV DS division numbers may go even
    higher. Tantirimale, Kadurupitiya, etc. also come under MV DS division. If
    we count all these PCs number will go up to 200 . But the PCs brought to
    Mahavilachchiya through Horizon Lanka is around 100 . (We revealed these
    numbers to Sunday Times because we don’t want to get the credits for the
    computers brought to the village by other organizations.)

    We donated some used and new PCs to village schools, temples, police
    stations, etc. to help bridge the Digital Divide. There are some problems
    with old PCs. You can help repair them by sending us used PCs, spare parts,
    etc.

  22. Thanks Krishanthi for the clarification.

  23. This is to inform that Mahavilachchiya’s OnTime BPO has reached the break even stage within its first 6 months of operations. This is just the beginning. We have a long way to go to say “mission accomplished.” Thanks for all parties concerned about MV BPO for your valuable comments, encouragements, criticisms. Let’s hope we can achieve more in the next 6 months.

  24. Hi Nandasiri,

    There are very few businesses that you can breakeven within the first six months and if so this is a commendable effort. Congratulations!

    Please tell me how you arrived at the conclusion that your business has reached the breakeven point. What was the capital investment for building, equipment etc? What are current expenditures? When you say breakeven do you mean that the profit earned within the first six months covered the capital and current expenditure for those six months?

    This would be an ideal business case to be implemented at other villages too. What is the possibility of doing so? What are the barriers you think most significant? Lack of telecom facilities? Lack of skilled operators? Or is it purely because our corporate sector is not geared for such ventures yet?

    (I am an MBA student keenly following the development of BPO at Mahawilachchiya.)

  25. Sidhamtha,

    If you are looking at Sri Lankika BPO’s you can employ over 50,000 to 100,000 but you have to solve one major problem with me. Read more at Sinhala software development blog

    Donald Gaminitillake

  26. Dear Sidhantha,

    As I mentioned earlier, our mission is not accomplished yet. If you need more specific details, you can communicate with our young CEO of the BPO Nirosh nirosh@horizonlanka.org

    Once the first year is over, we will have an Annual Report and it will answer your questions. Let’s wait for some more time till the foundation is strengthened further before replicating this model elsewhere.

    We started the BPO with just two seats and adding more now. If we started big by now we would have failed perhaps.

    If you are an MBA student, try to arrange a visit to MV and see yourself. Your comments will help us too.

    I don’t get too involved in the BPO work. I am watching and guiding from a distance. If the young men and women in MV can prove themselves we can start more business ventures like e-commerce, software development, etc. in future.

  27. Wanni,

    It’s great to hear your story on reaching break even. I am sure the team will work hard to turn around it to a profitable venture. Is there any plan in place for capacity building? This is one of the most important thing to expand the BPO further. I think you should give your guidance and support to build the capacity for future.

    Harsha

  28. Harsha,

    Today we had lengthy discussions with a reputed ICT educational firm on a proposed 3-year plan to produce 1000 ICT skilled youth from Mahavilachchiya and suburbs. Mahavilachchiya is a big area and there are enough youth. Educational plan will include both ICT and English. We will announce once the deal is sealed.

    What we focus on now is to start more ICT related business ventures in the area. Charity won’t work in the long run. So, we need to change the strategies at this stage.

    Thanks for the guidance and enthusiasm shown in Mahavilachchiya.

  29. I Like To Horizonlanka It Foundation

  30. For all those who alerted on Horizon Lanka’s future. Thanks for all the concerns and we have taken remedial actions. We are tying up with a professional ICT teaching institute to start standard ICT courses in Mahavilachchiya. Courses will be offered at affordable prices. Those who cannot pay will be suppoorted with scholarships but the students should work hard to receive a scholarship.

    We will officially announce this very soon. Apart from these courses, the students will be free to continue their regular web updates, blogging, etc. which they do. Standard courses will not disturb the creative side of the students.

  31. http://www.horizonlanka.org/news/ict_education1/index.html
    EXPANTION OF HORIZON LANKA’S ICT EDUCATION

    Horizon Lanka Foundation is happy to announce that it will tie up with a reputed ICT institute of Sri Lanka which is a franchise of an international institute from the academic year 2008. From February, the ICT academic activities will be taken over by this new entity and standard ICT courses will be offered to the students in Mahavilachchiya and the suburbs on an affordable fee. Those who find it difficult to pay the fees will be given scholarships through Global Giving scholarships program. http://www.globalgiving.com/pr/1700/proj1657a.html?RF=widget_large1657 You can help students in Mahavilachchiya to get a quality ICT education by contributing to this fund.

    The proposed company offers many other areas of training such as BPO, English Language, Soft Skills, Business Administration etc. The company is also the licensee in Sri Lanka for Australasian Education & Training Services (AETS) and the Australian Center for Languages (ACL) through which a wide range of internationally accredited training products are offered.

    Await more details on this new venture in our website soon. There is a big demand for the Mahavilachchiya youth in the job market since the students have shown outstanding talents in ICT, English and presentation skills so far. With the advent of the new partnership, the village students and youth will get a wide range of options to follow while in the village. We will start with a pilot in early February and then go for the expansions.
    According to the agreement, the profits of the new venture will be shared on a 50-50 basis with the proposed company and Horizon Lanka Foundation so that both parties will benefit and Horizon Lanka Foundation will be able to gain self sustainability while producing more youth to the job market from Mahavilachchiya.

    (Updated Sunday, January 13, 2008 4:26 PM )

  32. See the recent developments on expanding Horizon Lanka’s ICT educational activities. http://www.horizonlanka.org/news/ict_education1/cyberskills.html

  33. Dear All who raised the issue of Horizon Lanka’s continuation of its academic affairs and sustainability,

    Thanks for the concern. We have taken remedial action by now. Let us hope for the best from now onwards. Visit http://www.horizonlanka.org/news/cyberskills/index.html

    HORIZON LANKA – CYBERSKILLS ICT CAMPUS (UPDATED: February 4, 2008 )

    Horizon Lanka Academy of Mahavilachchiya joined hands with MMBL CyberSkills Pvt. Ltd., the Sri Lankan and the Maldivian franchisee of NIIT, India on February 03, 2008. This new partnership will enable the students and the youth in and around Mahavilachchiya to study ICT (and English) from the nursery level up to the Bachelors and Masters Degree from Mahavilachchiya. The youth from Mahavilachchiya will have the opportunity of studying at NIIT-affiliated 12 leading universities in Australia, UK, USA, Canada and New Zealand in time to come.

    The launch of the new program took place at Horizon Lanka with a simple ceremony. Reverend Maraka Suseela Thero performed religious rites. Mr. J. W. S. Kithsiri, The Divisional Secretary of Mahavilachchiya DS Division, Mr Nandasiri Wanninayaka, the CEO of Horizon Lanka Foundation, Mr. Chamila Algewatta, the Manager, CyberSkills Pvt. Ltd, Anuradhapura, Mr. Chatura Thilanga Vijekoon, the Manager of CyberSkills – Horizon Lanka Campus, Mahavilachchiya, Mr. H. A. Wickramasinghe, the Principal, Ashoka Mala Public School, Kadurupitiya, Mr. H. Jayathunga, the Principal of Thakshila Public School, Mahavilachchiya graced the occasion. Miss Anusha Priyadarshani and Miss Krishanthi Priyadarshani compeered the event while Nipuna Roshan Wiskramasuriya delivered the vote of thanks.

    Students and the parents were present at the event and 15 students and youth were registered for the new courses on the first day alone. Others can register themselves till the 15th of February for the first batch and the courses will be commenced on the 16th of February.

  34. The Sunday Leader

    This article appered in The Sunday Leader on March 02, 2008 http://www.thesundayleader.lk/20080302/BUSINESS.HTM

    A village based business process outsourcing (BPO) service that handles part of the backoffice operations of Sri Lanka’s largest diversified company, has also been contracted by the country’s biggest telecoms operator, whilst having talks to provide similar services to Sri Lanka’s largest white goods supplier.

    This BPO operation located at Mahawillachchiya, Anuradhapura, that processes data of suppliers’ to John Keells supermarket chain (a process that began some months ago) has now been employed by Dialog Telekom to process some of their market research data, Dilip Jayawickrama, Projects Director, Foundation for Advancing Rural Opportunity in Sri Lanka (FARO), an NGO, told The Sunday Leader.

    FARO, which was among seven NGOs to receive World Bank grants of Rs. five million each through the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) on Wednesday to develop ICT opportunities to the rural and disadvantaged people, provides support to this BPO operation in Mahavillachchiya.

    The village youth involved in this project, some eight of them, had their basics right, that is having a working knowledge of English and in the use of computers, due to the work of another NGO, Horizon, said Jayaweera.

    “This made it possible for our entry, such a foundation has to be first laid before we can move in,” he added. Jayaweera said that outsourcing of this work by Keells has helped them to cut costs, with eight of their staff who were involved in this work earlier, being relocated to other departments.

    He alleged that Dialog which hit the top in a short span of under 15 years, with most, if not all of their work done inhouse, were somewhat cautious in outsourcing their work, though a start has been made, with some of their market research data being now handled at Mahavillachchiya.

    In the case of Singer, talks have been initiated, with no business deals having been yet procured, he said. Jayaweera further said that he wants to start a similar BPO unit in Seenigama, a village which was devastated in the recent tsunami.

  35. i am surprised u guys got the 5 mil grant. so many people here tried to stop the grant to MV.