By Devika Jyothi
The International Trade Centre’s SITA – Supporting Indian Trade and Investment for Africa – project has facilitated a new joint venture in information and communications technology (ICT) in East Africa. Following SITA organized site visits to India and Kenya in 2018, India’s DesiCrew and Kenya’s HomeBoyz Foundation have agreed to set up a Digital Operation Centre in Kenya.
Signed in Nairobi on 14 November 2018, the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) establishes a partnership to set up a 100-seat Digital Operations Centre in Nairobi to provide employment opportunities for disadvantaged Kenyan youth.
It is a promising partnership. DesiCrew is a digital operations company that provides expertise to clients through efficient data processing and impact sourcing. Primarily a rural BPO company, DesiCrew’s strength lies in running IT-enabled service centres in rural areas of the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, uplifting local communities through job creation. HomeBoyz is a leading social entrepreneurial organization, which provides a platform for young people to access skills, tools and resources to develop their potential and empower themselves in professional fields of their interest.
SITA’s association with DesiCrew began in 2017 as part of its Indo-East Africa Internship Programme, a three to six month programme designed to enable high-potential graduates from East Arica to gain experience in Indian IT companies. Indeed, DesiCrew thereafter hired one such talented intern from Rwanda, Mr Cedrick Manirafasha, to manage projects in one of their digital operations centres.
In early 2018, DesiCrew floated the idea of setting up a Digital Operations Centre in Kenya. SITA then identified HomeBoyz Foundation, part of Homeboyz Entertainment Ltd, as a potential local partner for DesiCrew.
In September 2018, Mr. Myke Rabar, the founder and CEO of HomeBoyz, visited DesiCrew in India, where he was able to observe DesiCrew’s expertise in the digital space and its data processing capabilities. DesiCrew’s Digital Ops Centre at Kaup, a small coastal town in rural Karnataka, offers various services such as quality checks on AOL, transcription-audio to text conversion, data entry and video verifications, among others. The Kaup Centre seats more than 200 of whom over 70% are women. The visit convinced Mr Rabar that the Desi Crew business model could be replicated in Kenya through a joint venture.
Between 12 and 14 November 2018, DesiCrew visited the Homeboyz facilities in Nairobi, which include studios, a radio station, and a software development centre. The proposed 100 seat digital operations centre will be housed in the HomeBoyz headquarters at Galana Plaza.
Applauding the partnership, Mr. Rabar of HomeBoyz said, ‘Homeboyz is delighted to partner with DesiCrew and leverage its vast skills and experience in using digital jobs to bridge the youth employment gap that exists in the low income urban areas of Kenya.’
Mr. Mani Vannan, CEO of DesiCrew added, ‘DesiCrew is happy to partner with HomeBoyz of Kenya to explore business opportunities together. The MOU signed in Nairobi is the first step in starting the digital operations center, which would create not just jobs, but a secure career for Kenyan youth with high potential, but are constrained by their socio-economic conditions. We thank the SITA leadership team in Kenya, India and ITC headquarters who worked tirelessly towards this.’
During their visit to Nairobi, the DesiCrew team also made a number of field visits. The first was to iHub, an ICT incubation centre that offers entrepreneurship programs focused on growing innovative technology driven ideas. The visit demonstrated Kenya’s potential in the ICT space.
In line with a key objective of the MOU to identify entry points in the government managed Ajira Digital Program, the team visited Ajira Innovation centres in the low-income areas of Nairobi and the Kibera slum youth community centre.
Ajira aims to create platforms that facilitate digital work, enabling the government to outsource work to local youth in the areas of agriculture, digitization of land records and legal proceedings as well as automated services. Ajira also runs training centres in all public universities across Kenya to create awareness of online job opportunities among Kenyan youth.