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New Delhi, Nov 19: Rising real estate costs and high attrition rates in big cities are forcing BPO units to look at alternatives with companies such as Satyam Computer heading toward rural areas in a bid to maintain their productivity.

Satyam, Lason and Datamation have already set up their business process outsourcing centres in remote places such as Ethakota and Jalli Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh.

"The cost of operating is 50 per cent less in the rural centres compared to the urban BPOs. Moreover, productivity of the rural work force is higher than their urban counterparts," Satyam Computer Services Head, (Gram IT and High-End Services) Ravi Kumar Meduri told PTI.

He said the cost involved in setting up of a BPO centre in rural areas is low compared to that in urban areas due to two factors -- infrastructure and hiring costs.

Satyam has already built three centres in villages of Andhra Pradesh and is planning to open another 10 in the country by the end of 2008.

Another BPO firm Datamation, which has five centres -- Jaipur, Kanpur, Lucknow, Cochin and Guwahati, plans to open another 15 across the country by next year. Datamation Founder and CEO Chetan Sharma said work force in rural BPOs is more loyal and the instances of data stealing are almost nil there.

However, IT industry body Nasscom has expressed its reservations on rural BPO centres.

"Though I am very optimistic about the rural BPO concept, these centres will find it difficult to sustain if the Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) is not extended beyond March 31, 2009 by the government," Nasscom President Kiran Karnik said. MORE PTI PML MST BUN UPD 11181200 DEL The Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) scheme offers companies various incentives in the form of tax breaks. Due to the recent rupee appreciation, there has been an increased demand for extending STPI scheme beyond 2009.

The impact of removing sops on large companies will be less as they have already taken space at Special Economic Zones (SEZs). But it is clear that small IT and BPO companies will be unable to utilise the SEZ scheme, Karnik added. Rural BPOs will feel the heat as they have to pay more tax than their urban counterparts located in the SEZs.

Satyam, on the other hand, said there is a large amount of domestic work available in rural areas with respect to digitisation of hospital and administration, as a result there is a huge pool of work that requires low-cost solutions.

"Usually, we take projects like data entry, bookings where voice interaction is not required or is minimal," Meduri added.

Datamation has taken up projects like data entry, designing, digitisation and others where connectivity does not act as an impediment.

However, a great deal of training is required to enable individuals in rural areas to perform efficiently in a BPO.

"We provide training for 3-6 months to the youth. We usually, employ people who are mere matriculate. But now even graduates are applying with us," Sharma said.

However, though firms like Satyam, Lason and Datamation has taken the initiative, other big names are yet to take the plunge. The major impediment seems to be poor infrastructure, lack of basic amenities and low-skilled work force.

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