AI’s Human Helpers

India has undoubtedly grown into an important force in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry. BPOs are the fastest growing segment in India’s Information Technology Enabled Services sector, credited to the easy availability of a large pool of skilled workforce. According to a NASSCOM study, the BPO sector in India achieved a 54 per cent growth in 2003-04, and created job opportunities for 74,000 personnel in the same year.

While BPOs are traditionally associated with low-tech services, the growing number of AI companies have driven BPOs across the globe to adapt and transform the services they provide. Leading BPOs now provide the human input for millions of images, videos, and audio files that act as the training data for machine learning algorithms.

However, usage of AI based technology has potential ethical and reputational challenges. Artificial intelligence technology that powers chatbots, for example, drives behavior from algorithms set by its human designers. Therefore, algorithms need to be trained and taught using data that refines performance, reduces bias, and continuously improves over time with human insights and user inputs.

As we look ahead, technology alone will not transform the world; human augmentation and intervention at key stages will be critical to artificial intelligence operations and management. Human beings will be the ones to design and augment technology that understands our perceptions, our emotions and our thoughts, and is effectively more human.

At IndiVillage, we try to leverage the power of technology and AI through a human-centric approach. Our impact sourcing model provides the platform for rural community members to work in 21st-century technology jobs. With growing demand for BPO services, the demand for workers who can train algorithms and power AI is increasing. IndiVillage provides support in all areas of training data, annotation, and web-based services. And our employees, who work each day to train and fine-tune algorithms in an ethical and sustainable manner, are the most vital part of our business.

IndiVillage is committed to ensuring a free and fair world for our employees and their communities. We create positive social impact by providing sustainable employment, a stable income and opportunities for professional skills development. The result is empowered individuals and families.

A Note from Our CEO, Smita

Hi Everyone,

I hope all of you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy.

It would be an understatement to say that these last few weeks have been a disruption to work and life as we know it. And there is still so much uncertainty everywhere – across countries and the worldwide economy.

During these testing times, I wanted to reach out and connect with you –  share what we have been up to and why I remain hopeful for the future.

At IndiVillage it is definitely not business as usual for us. These past few weeks have been focussed on how to best protect and support our employees, our customers and our communities in the face of this unfolding crisis. But we have embraced the next new and decided to turn the obstacle into an opportunity. 

Our team has worked hard to establish internet connections and provide computers in our employees’ homes to ensure a safe and stable work environment. As a result, our business is running without any major disruptions and impacts to our standards of excellence.

Beyond the business, we are also extremely focused on the safety and well-being of our employees and their communities. In partnership with Indian clothing brand Yashram, we are manufacturing both cloth and higher-grade face masks to distribute to employee families, vulnerable community members and frontline workers in Yemmiganur and Raichur. Plastic face-shields have been provided to those performing important functions including police and hospital workers.

Well-informed communities will also be central to beating this virus. Thus, educational leaflets with information on masks and personal hygiene have been given among employees and their neighbors. Educational workbooks for school kids have also been provided to employees’ children and their neighbors to keep the kids busy and reduce pressure on families to manage with their kids at home. And this is only the beginning. At IndiVillage, we are committed to our communities, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and after.

None of this would be possible without the incredible efforts of our employees. From supporting community outreach efforts, to going above and beyond for clients, they have consistently shown us what it means to be a part of a team. We are grateful to each and every one of them, from team leads to new hires, for the extra effort and flexibility that they have shown over the past few weeks. Each day we prove that we are all stronger when we support and uplift each other.

We may be a small business but we’re big on positivity and determined to see through this crisis.  And in such a situation our size is proving an advantage as we can take decisions quickly and work in a far more agile manner to ensure our customers and our communities get all the support they need and more. We are aware that many of you are also operating under similar constraints. The world as we know has changed for everyone. The old parameters will no longer hold. And being prepared is key.

To quote Charles Darwin, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change. “

Take care, stay safe and stay connected.

Smitha Malipatil signature.png

Smitha Malipatil

CEO,  IndiVillage Tech Solutions, LLP

Krishna and his growing local chai business

Krishna has been selling tea ever since he was a boy. Each day, he walks through the city and sells his hot and sweet drink to everyone who needs a small break. “I started selling chai, because it was also my father’s business and I always loved the smell of chai in our house.”

His passion for good chai made his business popular amongst a constant customer base in Yemmiganur. Still, selling chai also can be a very hard business as well. “I remember one time when people were not drinking so much chai. These times are hard for me as well, because it affects my life immediately.”

When IndiVillage opened the Yemmiganur Center and started growing his chai quickly became a very welcomed afternoon break amongst the employees. He realised quickly that IndiVillage’s office has a great impact on his business: Now his customer base has more than doubled. “My business grew rapidly. While I only had around 80 customers a day before, I am serving chai to more than 200 people today.”

With this development Krishna could start saving some money and be better prepared for times when business might slow down. His growing customer base also allowed him to improve his life at home and helped him to arrange a dream wedding for his daughter.

For his future he also has big plans. “I want to buy new equipment for my chai. As I get more and more customers, I want to make sure that the quality of my chai will always remain good.”

What does financial independence mean to you?

Financial independence and security are foundational parts of a stable life. Alongside its associated economic benefits, financial independence is often also a pathway towards further education, confidence and even empowerment. However, for many rural Indians, factors such as un- and under-employment and large financial debts keep financial independence far out of reach. Unemployment rates across India remain at a 45-year high. For youth in rural areas, jobless rates for men and women stand at 17.7 and 13.6 percent, respectively. Furthermore, a nationwide government survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) in 2013 reported that 31.4% of rural Indian households held some level of debt, with the average outstanding cash due standing at Rs 32,522. To address these needs, government and social sector organizations must work to create stable, well-paying jobs that keep families out of debt and allow them to build a stable future.

At IndiVillage, we work to provide employment in rural India and ensure that our employees are empowered with the financial means and knowledge to take control of their circumstances. To mark the beginning of the new financial year for many of us, we asked some of the female employees in our Yemmiganur and Raichur centers about the role that financial independence plays in their own lives. From allowing them to pay for their and their family members’ educations, to enabling them to feel self-sufficient, their responses indicated that financial independence means much more than simply making a living. Through our impact sourcing centers and profit-for-all community model we will continue to work to guarantee that an increasing number of residents of rural villages across India achieve financial security, whatever their definition.