A powerful partnership between RRD and an Indian BPO provider has delivered outstanding business results while transforming the lives of youth by bringing tech jobs to villages in the foothills of the Himalayas.
RRD’s positive experience with impact sourcing has taught the company many lessons, but the one that stands out is that “people across the globe carry common values.”
“It is important to remember that every young person has the same aspirations, whether in the city or the villages,” says Amardeep Devadason, Senior Vice President of Operations, Global Outsourcing. “Impact Sourcing makes sound business sense, and provides a route to aspirations, enabling impact workers to become members of a global workforce.”
Since 2014, the global provider of multichannel business communications services and marketing solutions has been partnering with B2R (Business-to-Rural) Technologies, the first rural BPO organization to operate out of the villages in the foothills of the Himalaya mountain range.
Through its partnership with B2R Technologies, RRD developed a team of more than 100 members, 50 percent of whom are women, from over 50 villages across Uttarakhand, India. Additionally, RRD expanded its footprint in India, allowing the company to more effectively service its global clients across multiple time zones.
For its successful efforts and social impact, RRD was recognized by IAOP and the Rockefeller Foundation with the Global Impact Sourcing Award in a Purchasing Organization at OWS2.0.
“Our Impact Sourcing program is a key component of our agile business model that enables us to deliver superior service to our clients, engage with some of the best talent globally, and create real change in communities worldwide,” said Kiran Shankar, President, RRD Global Outsourcing. “Our partnership with B2R Technologies has allowed us to create programs that uphold RRD’s values, are highly sustainable, and promote an inclusive environment.”
In addition to creating new employment opportunities, RRD and B2R Technologies have made efforts to promote environmental sustainability in its India facilities by recycling paper, using low-power-consumption desktops, planting trees and locating centers within walking distance from impact workers’ homes to cut down on the need for fuel. These initiatives have resulted in B2R’s carbon footprint being significantly lower than its urban counterparts.
Impact Sourcing Journey
As a company with a long history of corporate social responsibility, RRD was looking to diversify its delivery model six years ago. Its research showed that its global facilities in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the U.S. were in the right locations.
Instead of expanding geographically, RRD decided to research rural sourcing models that provide meaningful employment in the villages, rather than cities, to meet its business needs while having a positive social impact.
B2R was selected from a shortlist of three other rural BPO players in the Indian market, following a competitive process similar to an RFP. The company’s focus was always to ensure that the engagement made long-term business sense and would deliver world-class services to RRD’s global clients.
“We made no compromises on quality, security, or information security and built the engagement to match our strict global standards. If the math doesn’t add up, we’re not going to do it,” Devadason says.
The results have exceeded expectations and RRD found a true partner in B2R that shared its same values. “They knew why they were doing impact sourcing,” he says. “Their philosophies were aligned with RRD in that they understood that if it doesn’t make commercial sense, it will never work in the long run.”
To get the operations started in the hills of Uttarakhand, RRD invested heavily in bringing B2R up to speed on a set of services that have never been executed at any kind of scale by an Indian IS provider.
In addition to providing technical training, RRD also helped B2R with the design of their networks, physical security protocols, and audit processes. They encourage B2R to obtain its ISO certification and audit them annually.
Based on the positive results, the scope of B2R’s work for RRD has expanded from basic layout and composition services for financial documents to graphics and desktop publishing and now to high-end image processing services using Photoshop.
The B2R team is integrated within RRD’s operations and serves a seamless node in its distributed delivery network, enabling the company to go to market offering a “center of excellence” model. The model offers benefits in servicing clients across multiple time zones and economies of scales that result in increased competitiveness and better service, the company says.
This robust model also puts RRD in an excellent position for the next level of technology disruption which will bring a greater focus on intelligent automation, and other technology and productivity tools that enhance the customer experience, Devadason notes.
In December 2018, RRD formally joined the Global Impact Sourcing Coalition (GISC) based on its partnership with B2R. It has used GISC’s Supplier Directory to identify potential Impact Sourcing partners and Impact Sourcing goals are now part of RRD’s objectives.
The partnership solves one of the biggest problems India faces in overcrowding in cities because of migration to urban centers, which has negatively impacted agriculture and played havoc on the social fabric of rural communities. Many of the flexible jobs fit into today’s gig economy, allowing Indian youth to work in offices and also help out in the fields during peak farming periods.
“Bringing tech jobs to where a young, very bright workforce resides has helped reduce migration to the cities,” Devadason says. “Youth are finding employment; families are staying together, and young women are joining the mainstream workforce instead of dropping out of school to get married and work in the fields. With financial independence, they have a greater say in their destinies. Community ties are extremely strong in the Himalayan foothills and we are very pleased to be able to make a difference.”
When measuring social impact, the statistics tell a powerful story. Each impact sourcing job provided is estimated to positively touch three to four more lives of family members and within the communities.
With the additional income B2R employees are earning through the partnership, it is expected that the marriageable age for young women will increase from 16 to 18 years old to the mid-twenties, paving the way for financial independence and progress. Currently, 50 of the extended team at B2R comprises women with a goal to have women in half of the leadership roles in the next 24 months.
But it’s the individual stories and relationships formed that are the most touching to RRD. One team member used to help his brothers after school on his parent’s farm growing potatoes, peas and tomatoes. The low income led him to get a job to help with expenses and has transformed his family’s financial situation.
“I didn’t even know the basics of a computer when I applied at B2R,” says Pooja Nayal, Team member-QC. “Working here has helped me to learn computers, Photoshop and other software. I understood the importance of quality and meeting deadlines. I am happy to work in an open environment, which gave me the confidence to speak. Support from supervisors and trainers helped me in achieving my targets.”
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