Murali Vullaganti cofounded PeopleShores in the United States after having success with RuralShores in rural India. Both are social enterprises focused on job creation for unemployed youth in underserved communities. Specifically, PeopleShores’ charter is to bring technology-driven jobs to the “shores” of economically challenged communities in the United States through impact sourcing, also known as socially responsible outsourcing. This goal is achieved through the establishment of technology and business centers for companies looking to outsource these functions.
I spoke to Murali about the win-win idea behind his companies: that disadvantaged youth can be raised up while helping companies meet their outsourcing needs.
M.R.: Do you see the U.S.-based PeopleShores operation evolving in a different way than RuralShores in India?
Murali: Typically, in rural India, setting up a new center is always fraught with infrastructure challenges; be it with regards to getting an uninterrupted power supply or [a stable connection to] the Internet. Here in San Jose, we do not have such challenges. It is much easier to set up centers here and train the people; so, in effect, the ability to scale in the United States is much higher than in India. It took us 9 years to set up 20 centers in India for RuralShores. We hope to do the same in half the time here in the United States.
M.R.: Why did you start PeopleShores as a public benefit corporation (PBC)? What are the advantages of this status versus a nonprofit or a regular corporation?
Murali: PeopleShores was started as a public benefit corporation for two reasons. One, we wanted to run the firm on commercial principles, i.e., be able to scale, make profit and raise capital from the impact investors easily. But more importantly, we wanted to stay true to our mission for which the company was getting incorporated in the first place. Launching PeopleShores as a PBC has helped us achieve both these objectives. In fact, the social mission is mentioned in the articles of incorporation. So, for all practical purposes, we are run like any other for-profit C-corp, with a charter to provide employment opportunities to disconnected youth of America. And there are about 4.9 million of those across all the 50 states. Just in Santa Clara County alone, there are 13 thousand disconnected youth. At PeopleShores, we intend to create gainful employment pathways for the youth from this pool, who are aspirational for a career in the technology sector and are willing to work hard.
M.R.: What are the differences between U.S. trainees and Indian trainees, and between your U.S. business clients and those based in India?
Murali: RuralShores currently employs about 4,300 employees in rural India across 20 different village centers, and the employee pool is relatively homogenous. They are all young men and women from rural India and have similar backgrounds and upbringing. However, most of them, when they start their careers with RuralShores, are typically not proficient in English; so we have to start our training from that. Many of them also have not seen a computer before, so a lot of time gets invested in helping them build that familiarity. Here, in our San Jose center of PeopleShores, our employee-trainees already have excellent command over English and also have many of the fundamental skills of working on the computer, including proficiency on many of the applications and software useful in a professional context. What is common to both sets of employees, undoubtedly, is an unending hunger to excel with the opportunity they have been given.
One thing that is rather important to note about PeopleShores is that we don’t train the people and then deploy them on client projects; we are not a contract agency. We train our potential workforce, and upon successful completion of the training, hire them as our full-time staff. The burden of making each career successful is thus on the PeopleShores team.
For a typical PeopleShores employee, the desire to excel is extraordinarily high, as is the passion to perform and overcome the difficult life situation they might have been subjected to (homeless or foster youth). When you compare that with all the high-tech companies that are always in search of passionate and hardworking individuals, one cannot overstate the need for the likes of PeopleShores. Lastly, on the employee side, to ensure that our employees are committed, we do provide for essential support via designated social case workers. This could be in the form of emotional support or [something] more specific, like finding housing or childcare.
In India, RuralShores is getting a lot of traditional outsourcing work, but in San Jose, we increasingly are tapping opportunities across the domains of artificial intelligence and machine learning, cybersecurity, and robotic process automation (RPA). Just earlier this week, we opened the RPA lab in association with one of our core strategic partners in the RPA domain.