Client Showcase - FiveS Digital

When hiring talent for your organization, you would look for exceptional qualifications and skill sets and possibly look for alumni from premium institutions.

And without a doubt, most of this population would be residents of bustling cities and metros.

What happens to the young talent pool with high potential in tier 2 & tier 3 cities and towns? Where can they seek this kind of opportunity?

Working towards generating livelihoods and deeply focusing on inclusivity is FiveS Digital, which was founded by Kapil Sharma and his sister Priya Sharma. 
FiveS Digital is a technology-led business management organization with a customer-centric approach. They partner with businesses in the areas of customer experience, digital transformation and content & data management. They do this by providing opportunities to underserved communities with a focus on diversity and equality. 
FiveS Digital is also one of our clients at FlexiBees, having hired a part-time and remote-working Tech Lead to assist and lead their existing teams. Kapil believes that this has been a very fruitful association and is looking to hire more flexible professionals. 
So we recently caught up with Kapil, Founder & CEO of FiveS Digital to understand their business and to know what worked well for them and why they choose to hire flexible talent. What ensued was an interesting conversation about how they hone talent and create opportunities for people in various demographics and how their real focus is on inclusion in the true sense of the word. 
Some excerpts from our conversation:

How did it all start? Tell us your story. 

I worked in various cities including the metros in India and abroad. 
But I am from a small town myself and often noticed that though there is a talented bunch of people, there aren’t too many lucrative opportunities. 
Most industries and organizations are clustered around big cities and metropolitan areas. So, the only option for people is to leave their hometowns to seek work. 
Secondly, there is a lot of untapped potential in smaller towns and cities. I realised they just needed some direction and handholding. 
So I took a bold decision to move back home to Udaipur and do what my peers thought was unthinkable! 
In 2009, FiveS Digital started as a pure-play BPO company based on a social model with about 12-13 people. 
Today, we are a team of 2000+ people and are becoming a technology-led BPM partner for our clients with reliability quotient being our topmost priority. 
But the truth is no one wanted to move to a small town even for a great opportunity and they had their valid reasons -no great infrastructure, no good schools, etc. 
In the initial days of our inception, attrition was a big challenge. 
But over the years, we’ve expanded our horizons and entered the digital technology services domain. And after 10+ years of providing quality business services, we have set ourselves as pioneers in the IT business solutions and services domain. 

Can you tell us something about the initial days? Why is this so compelling?

Our first experiment started when we wanted to support one of the women who worked at our home to help with domestic chores. She had dropped out of school after grade 5. At that time, she was the only earning member of her family and had 6 people to support. She was barely making 750 INR a month!
When we offered to help her financially, we soon realized that people with ambition (albeit with a lack of resources) who had high self-esteem would not accept our sympathy in the form of charity. 
So we decided to help her finish her education. And supported her on that front. 
Today, she works with German clients, although she doesn’t speak the language! And has been working with us since our inception and makes about 15000 INR. 
And this is only one such story. That was the first step. Over a cup of coffee and while chatting with a friend, I was wondering about what we could do as a family to create more opportunities for talented youth in tier 2 and tier 3 cities. 
My friend worked in the BPO sector and gave me first-hand information about how I could set it up and create opportunities. 
So, we thought, why not we do it right here - in Udaipur! 
As they say, the rest is history. We have seen so many life-transforming stories, examples and promising potential. 
Honestly, it is not about solving a problem but finding untapped promising potential that has the capacity to learn and deliver miracles! 

So how do you choose people? And how do you upskill them?

Our selection process focuses on choosing people from a certain demographic: we hire people with a rural background who actually need financial support and people who are motivated to pursue their education parallelly. We focus on hiring women, especially,  women who are the single breadwinner of the family, or a divorcee or a widow, people from below the poverty line, etc.  We also focus on hiring people who are differently-abled and are motivated to lead their own lives. 
And we look for motivation, self-starters and people who want to change their lives. 
This is called impact sourcing in global terms. We have been a part of the Global Impact Sourcing Coalition for the last three years. The idea is to look at diversity goals beyond norm or criteria fulfilment. We focus on inclusive hiring. 
We then partner with NGOs and other government agencies to help the chosen candidates upskill. This usually takes about 3 months and about 2000USD for them to come up the learning curve and to be absorbed into the organization. We are also in the process of starting our own training academy to do this internally going forward. 

And how do they do? Are there any challenges?

Of course, there are some candidates who drop out during or after the training period. They realise they are not cut out for it. They prefer to go back to their village or hometowns and to farming. 
But we have also seen many promising youngsters who have outperformed even our expectations. 
One example is of one of our Product Managers who recently took part in a forum that was trying to generate revenue for Twitter. He is not an MBA graduate. I am sure he doesn’t even know what it stands for! But he won a consolation prize at this seminar. This only proves that there is tremendous potential in these towns and smaller cities and all they need is a break. 
Sometimes, we get a push back from the clients as well. At the end of the day, we are fighting biases, prejudices and mindsets. But we have a special team (We Care Team) that deals with issues raised and focuses on the candidate’s part of the story - we make sure we fight for our candidates and nudge the clients to retain them. 
This is what drives us at FiveS- knowing we are making a difference and creating livelihoods. 

Please tell us about your awards and recognition. How do they help you deliver better services?

We were awarded the Social Change Agent award by the World CSR Congress in 2015. 
We were one of the few changemakers that were recognised for our effort on the mission Global Action on Poverty (GAP) being run by Head-Held-High foundation, supported by Tata Trusts in 2017.
We have been a part of the Global Impact Sourcing Coalition (GISC) for the last three years and have been recognized by the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP)
We are the only WEConnect certified diverse BPO company in South Asia, that is largely women-owned (more than 60%)!
I think these kinds of recognitions then open doors for us to create opportunities for these young people to work with Fortune 500 companies!

What are your future plans?

We are in the process of building an all-inclusive delivery centre in Navi Mumbai. This centre will focus on real inclusion: the entire centre will be run by women, the third gender and the differently-abled. This would be a 100% diverse unit - right from the leadership teams to the lower rungs. We are looking to hire about 500 people to get this off the ground. 
We are looking for a location that can accommodate their needs - we are even ensuring that the washrooms are gender-neutral!
We want this centre to be driven by women and want to bring equality in terms of roles and positions. In fact, this year, on Women’s Day, we declared that for some of the positions where we feel women can contribute a lot more, we will be paying women more than their male counterparts and offering more pay if there is a relocation involved. 
We are incentivizing it as women might find it more difficult to relocate to tier 2/tier 3 towns, and we are going that extra mile to enable them to seek these opportunities.

What made you opt for flexible talent and FlexiBees and how has been your experience? 

We hired a Tech Lead from FlexiBees. We are really happy with Vibha. She has been a great addition to the team. 
There is always some kind of scepticism around remote working due to the lack of governance. Or candidates having multiple employment with no declaration. 
But FlexiBees took care of all the checks that we would have invested time and effort in. And having Vibha onboard actually boosted my confidence in hiring flexible and remote talent. She has had zero escalations so far! We have extended her contract and are looking to hire more from FlexiBees!
This also naturally ties into our philosophy of providing opportunities for talent pools that don’t make it to the mainstream. I absolutely support the cause of providing women flexible work options, so they don’t fall off the job markets. 
It is always a pleasure to work with people who share your vision and are creating these opportunities for another talent pool. 
And it is so convenient. I have, in fact, recommended FlexiBees to many other organizations - even large organizations. I told them, ‘Why do you want to hire full time when you can hire from FlexiBees?’
And the quality and flexibility that FlexiBees offers are absolutely amazing! The experience has been great so far! 
Moreover, with remote workers, we need zero infrastructure. It works out economically better with great benefits for everyone involved. 
If you are looking for innovative solutions to streamline operations for your business, do reach out to FiveS Digital.