Rural entrepreneurship in post-war Sri Lanka: Jobs for youth and ICTs

Her day job aside, Sandya Salgado is a Director of the Foundation for Advancing Rural Opportunity and approached Groundviews recently to talk with us about the organisation’s model for rural entrepreneurship in particular, and the prospects for BPO writ large in post-war Sri Lanka.

In this brief conversation, we first talk about FARO’s BPO model which supports rural entrepreneurship through ownership of shares in the BPOs set up in Mahavilachchiya, Seenigama and Uduvil, in Jaffna. Sandya’s point is much broader than FARO – she speaks of the need to nurture business intelligence amongst Sri Lanka’s rural youth, and encourage a culture where they become shareholders in the companies they create. We talk about the challenges facing the BPO industry in Sri Lanka including the shortage of skills, as well as English language impediments. Sandya talks about the advantages of developing entrepreneurship amongst the rural youth, and flags an interesting trend, that more women seem to opt to stay in rural areas than men, who when their skills are developed, tend to gravitate towards urban areas.

We talk about why corporate entities from the Western Province and Colombo in particular are not yet engaging with FARO’s model, as well as other BPO’s from Sri Lanka’s rural areas. We talk about the growth potential of FARO’s business model, and the BPO sector in general, and towards the end, also briefly touch on the impact of the government’s recent decision to not hold English and Information Communication Technology courses conducted for university entrants this year.

At the end, Sandya notes that it’s not philanthropy but real investment that’s needed to develop rural entrepreneurship and BPOs, and encourages particularly those in blue chip companies to engage not just with FARO, but with other rural youth employment and BPO models and initiatives.

In conversation with Sandya Salgado from Centre for Policy Alternatives on Vimeo.