Transforming rural poverty through outsourcing

Three hundred million people live below the poverty line in India. A majority of them are unable to read and write. Though this looks like an enormous problem, it also forms a huge opportunity – a market probably never tapped methodically by any education or training. The Rural Edge project intends to make a difference to these 300 million people by enabling and empowering them with a combination of formal teaching and information technology.

The Rural Edge is an initiative by Foundation for Life with the goal of transforming rural India. Foundation for Life is partnering with SAMUHA – a well-known NGO in Karnataka, India, working in many areas for the Integrated Rural Development – for the pilot project, involving 120 candidates.

The project recently won an award by Global Sourcing Council (New York) as one of the best community engagement models for socially responsible sourcing.

Journey of eight villagers

At the Proof of Concept stage, eight villagers with little or no education began their training in Bangalore, in September 2007. Beginning with alphabets, they were trained extensively in six different skills for eight months.

A methodology of training, based on the previous experiences of Foundation for Life and extensive research, was used to train the villagers. The results of the training were found to be startling. They started working in a BPO process after they completed their training.

"If I can work in a BPO, anybody in my village can,” says Ramesh, one of the trainees – who had no schooling at all prior to the training. Chandru, another Zero-educated villager, held everybody spellbound with his ability to converse in English, know-how in computing.

• Click HERE to watch the video of Ramesh on first day of training!

• Click HERE to watch the video of Ramesh on his graduation day!

Pilot project in Koppal, Karnataka

After the initial success of the Proof of Concept, the project was scaled up to 5 training batches in Koppal district Karnataka in October 2009. 120 villagers with little or no education (as per the profile below) started the training.










All of them have undergone intensive training and have been certified through an exam on:


They can now speak confidently in their limited English, type at 40-50 words per minute, and are confident of working in the BPO sector.

Dr. Rajat Chauhan, a guest trainer who had visited The Rural Edge last year, said: “I was privileged to witness their first steps to success. Here were people who couldn’t even read bus numbers five months ago, but now speak very decent, speed-type 40-50 words per minute …”

Click HERE to read Rajat Chauhan’s article about The Rural Edge!


Village BPO Experiment

The initiative also saw the setting up of a company called Village BPO Private Limited, whose mandate is to outsource BPO work from firms and get it executed by these trained people, at the villages itself. Impressed with the quality of the people, HDFC Standard Life Insurance Company decided to outsource some processes to Village BPO. The project started with eight people in Bangalore and then migrated to a remote Kanakagiri town. The details about the work being done for HDFC Standard Life Insurance at Kanakagiri are as below:











Based on the work delivered by the trainees, here is what Arti Ahuja, Asst Vice President – Central Operations, HDFC Standard Lifehas to say about the quality of the work: "We have been very satisfied with the services provided by Village BPO and look forward to continuing our partnership with them.”

• Click HERE to watch a video on the entire Rural Edge Project.

The Future

With the success of the pilot experiment, Foundation for Life is now gearing itself to scale this program across villages in the country and transform the lives of 2.5 million zero-educated villagers over the next 10 years. The key aspect of this program will be to generate employment for these villagers at the village itself – through the route of Rural BPO. For more information on this project, please log on to: