In India, a BPO Center Coming up in a Jail

The Cherlapally Central Jail in Andhra Pradesh state in south India is setting up a business process outsourcing (BPO) center, with the aim of giving the prisoners skills that will help them better integrate into society after their release, a senior police officer said on Wednesday.

The prisoners will initially work on data entry and processing, and at a later date may be introduced to call center work, C.N. Gopinatha Reddy, Andhra Pradesh's director general of prisons, said in an interview.

Radiant Info Systems, an IT services and BPO company in Bangalore, is setting up the jail BPO center.

Radiant officials originally met with Reddy to sell him a jail management system and other software. But Reddy wanted to know how IT could be used to provide an occupation to the inmates, said C. Narayanacharyulu, director of Radiant.

"That is when we thought of setting up a BPO inside the jail," he added.

The opportunity for Radiant is that the jail has more than 200 prisoners who have completed school, while some of them have also have graduated from university, Narayanacharyulu said. "We found that with about two to three months training, we could use them for back-end processing work," he added.

The BPO operation at the jail is planned to start in about three months, and will initially address the local market. The jail is providing the space for the center and Radiant will invest in computers and communications infrastructure, Narayanacharyulu said.

For the prisoners, the BPO will also be an opportunity to earn money. Radiant plans to pay the prisoners working at the BPO between 100 Indian rupees (US$2.20) to 150 rupees a day, Narayanacharyulu said. Jail authorities pay prisoners about 15 rupees a day, according to Reddy.

A large number of Indian outsourcers have explored new opportunities to find staff, including setting up operations in rural and semirural areas, where costs are lower and it's easier to find available workers.

If the trial is successful at Cherlapally jail, Reddy says he will try it out in other prisons in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Radiant also views the BPO center at Cherlapally as a pilot for similar arrangements with other jails in the country, Narayanacharyulu said.

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