Locals First: Mikro Grafeio's Mission to Provide Employment Opportunities in Tier 2 & 3 Towns

14 July,2023 02:00 PM IST |  Mumbai  |  BrandMedia

Mikro Grafeio`s primary focus for scalability lies in supporting startups and small to medium enterprises and creating a minimum of 500,000 employment opportunities in these small communities.

Can you share the inspiration behind Mikro Grafeio's mission to provide employment opportunities in Tier 2 and 3 towns?

Around two years ago, the outbreak of COVID-19 disrupted the traditional work environment, highlighting the significance of flexible physical dimensions in our work setups. It was during this time that Mikro Grafeio came into existence as a result of this disruption. At that point, I was heading the Captive Capabilities Center in India for a Dubai-based company. When the pandemic hit and we transitioned to remote work, I noticed that out of the 1200 individuals in my company, almost 800 had relocated to 130 smaller towns across India rather than the major cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, or Hyderabad. This reaffirmed the ongoing trend of graduates and job seekers migrating to metropolitan areas.

Nearly 28 years ago, I myself had to leave my small town and move to Bangalore in search of employment, and this trend persists today. The concentration of high-quality jobs in tier-1 metros remains significant, but individuals from smaller towns no longer have to migrate. The reverse migration that occurred during the pandemic demonstrated that remote work can be carried out without any loss of productivity or compromise on data confidentiality. The notion that we must physically gather in a specific location, be it Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, or Mumbai, is no longer a necessity. This realization inspired us to collaborate with companies in bringing work opportunities to smaller towns, benefiting both the companies and the graduates who would otherwise have had to relocate.

In 2021, we engaged with approximately 150 senior executives, discussing the potential of shifting work to small towns, especially since many employees were already working from home and spread across the country. We began exploring the concept of the "Mikro Grafeio distributed satellite office model," which involves establishing small offices in proximity to people's homes and dispersing them throughout the country. The name "Mikro Grafeio" is derived from the Greek words "Mikro," meaning small, and "Grafeio," meaning office. Our mission is to create small offices in various small towns, encouraging companies to establish workplaces there so that individuals can work closer to their hometowns.

This is the driving inspiration behind our pursuit of this vision.

How does Mikro Grafeio identify the right locations for setting up operations in these towns? What factors are considered in this decision-making process?

When Mikro Grafeio embarks on the task of identifying suitable locations for setting up operations in small towns, we employ a range of tools and factors in our decision-making process. Firstly, we primarily approach startups and small to medium enterprises as our clients, as they tend to show more interest in establishing their presence in small towns. There are two main reasons for this inclination: proximity to talent and lower attrition rates. Moreover, the offer decline ratio and competition are also comparatively lower than in major cities like Bangalore and Chennai, where a significant portion of the working population comprises individuals who have migrated from other regions.

When engaging with clients, we take into consideration the specific type of work they wish to undertake. For instance, if they are interested in establishing an Amazon Cloud support center, a service center, or a voice-based support center, we utilize our database of suitable towns to identify potential options. Presently, our operations are focused on towns and cities in South India. We carefully evaluate factors such as the employable population, the presence of educational institutions (particularly engineering colleges) in the area, and the quality and quantity of graduates in relevant fields. This enables us to assess the availability of a skilled workforce that matches the specific job requirements.

Based on these criteria, we recommend three potential towns to our clients, allowing them to choose their preferred location. Other vital considerations include the availability of employment opportunities, the social infrastructure to support the workforce, and the level of physical infrastructure development in the town. Some clients may prioritize proximity to airports for convenience, and fortunately, India has witnessed significant advancements in airport connectivity, even in smaller towns, over the past decade.

In summary, our location selection process involves considering factors such as the availability of an employable population in various categories, the presence of social infrastructure and favourable living conditions, physical infrastructure like airports and connectivity, and the potential for scalability. By carefully considering these aspects and providing recommendations based on thorough analysis, we assist clients in choosing the most suitable location and support them in establishing their centres accordingly.

Could you elaborate on the integrated workspace solutions offered by Mikro Grafeio? How do these solutions contribute to the goal of creating employment opportunities?

When engaging with clients, a common concern they express about setting up in a small town is the perceived lack of scale and apprehensions about sustaining their operations there. For instance, if a client desires to establish a presence in towns like Jabalpur, Kharagpur, Vijayawada, or Salem, they may worry about the workforce preference for job opportunities in metro cities in India.

These concerns primarily revolve around three or four key factors. Firstly, clients question whether they will be able to access the right talent pool in those towns. Secondly, they express concerns about securing a workspace with essential facilities, uninterrupted power supply, and reliable Wi-Fi for their employees. Thirdly, they wonder who will handle their HR-related support, compliance, engagement activities, and employee well-being, including medical issues. These concerns are relevant whether the client has a small team of 20 people or a larger workforce.

In our Integrated Workforce Solutions, we address these worries by offering a comprehensive suite of services. We not only assist clients in establishing their presence in the chosen town but also provide workspace, recruitment, training, engagement programs, shared services, and more. This way, clients can concentrate solely on their core business, with the assurance that peripheral activities are taken care of by Mikro Grafeio.

By providing an integrated solution that encompasses all these aspects, we offer clients the confidence that they have the necessary support in place when venturing into a small town. We understand that while such services are readily available in metropolises, they may not be as accessible in smaller towns. This is why our Integrated Workforce Solutions model is appealing to small clients. It goes beyond providing workspace; we actively become their partner, attending to their employees' needs and well-being.

To illustrate, we have a client in Tirunelveli, a city in Tamil Nadu, where 150 individuals are employed. We offer comprehensive solutions such as facilities management and HR services. Even if an employee falls ill at midnight, our Mikro Grafeio staff will accompany them to the hospital and stay until they recover. This level of support goes beyond being a passive partner and demonstrates our commitment to the well-being of all employees in the city. With our local infrastructure and dedicated staff, we ensure that our clients and their employees receive the necessary support, providing them with the confidence to establish their presence in small towns.

In summary, our objective is to create more employment opportunities by offering clients an active partnership where we take care of all aspects for their employees. This level of support sets us apart and provides clients with the reassurance and comfort they need to establish their operations in small towns.

What steps does Mikro Grafeio take to identify, recruit, and train the local workforce in Tier 2 and 3 towns? How do you ensure the workforce is prepared for the specific needs of the businesses you serve?

When it comes to talent acquisition, our primary focus revolves around individuals with 0 to 3 years of experience and those with 3 to 8 years of experience. This range encompasses fresh graduates as well as early-career professionals. To cater to these specific requirements, we employ campus recruitment to target freshers and utilize alumni databases to reach individuals with some experience. We also actively seek senior professionals who are interested in returning to their hometowns for work.

For freshers, we establish close collaborations with colleges and work closely with HR recruiters in different locations. We actively build a database of individuals who express a desire to move back to their hometowns, ensuring a readily available pool of candidates. This allows us to match their preferences with suitable job opportunities effectively.

Furthermore, we provide industry-specific training to candidates based on the requirements of our clients. For instance, if a client needs professionals skilled in Java application development, we offer comprehensive Java training through partnerships with industry experts. This equips candidates with the necessary knowledge and skills, making them 50% job-ready. The client can then focus on refining their specific requirements and the candidate's skills.

In addition, we have identified local training companies in small towns that offer instruction in local languages. This allows candidates to learn technical skills in languages such as Kannada, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and more. By providing training in the local language, the learning period is significantly reduced, enabling candidates to acquire knowledge more efficiently.

Our approach involves understanding the needs of our clients, collaborating with local partners to deliver relevant training, and ensuring that candidates are adequately prepared. We aim to provide candidates who are 50% ready for the client, facilitating seamless integration into their projects and future endeavors.

Overall, our process entails comprehending client requirements, working alongside local partners, and delivering industry-specific training to cultivate a skilled workforce that meets the demands of businesses in smaller towns.

Can you provide examples of essential services and support that Mikro Grafeio offers to businesses in these towns, such as facilities management, IT support, and HR operations? How do these services contribute to the success of businesses?

When clients decide to establish themselves in small towns, their requirements go beyond just finding people and a workspace. They also seek comprehensive support throughout their journey. As mentioned earlier, we go above and beyond to provide exceptional HR services, including round-the-clock availability of HR personnel who facilitate staff needs, even during emergencies. We take care of various aspects, such as arranging visits from company leaders, organizing birthday celebrations, coordinating engagement events, and more. Essentially, we deliver everything one would expect from an on-site HR team.

At the core of our approach is prioritizing the well-being and experience of employees. We ensure uninterrupted power supply, maintain excellent facilities, and offer prompt IT support to address any computer-related issues. If any repairs are necessary, we have trusted local partners who can swiftly take care of them. Our goal is to create an environment where employees can focus solely on their core responsibilities while we handle everything else.

To provide an analogy, imagine being a journalist working for a media company, responsible for conducting interviews and producing stories. In such a scenario, an ideal working environment would encompass reliable resources such as functioning Wi-Fi, readily available coffee and tea, a supportive HR manager, and a dependable laptop. This is precisely the kind of support we provide to our clients. We take care of all the additional requirements, allowing them to concentrate exclusively on their core business operations. Our clients can trust us to handle these aspects, relieving them of any concerns or burdens.

This comprehensive support is the reason why companies feel comfortable working with us and choose to establish their presence in small towns. They recognize that they can rely on us to provide the necessary assistance, saving them the hassle of setting up their own teams in unfamiliar locations. Our presence and support in these towns make it feasible for companies to expand their operations with confidence.

In summary, our role is to offer holistic support to our clients, enabling them to focus solely on their core business activities. This level of support is crucial for companies to feel secure and confident when establishing themselves in small towns.

How does Mikro Grafeio customise options to help businesses scale in Tier 2 and 3 towns? What specific strategies or resources are employed to support their growth?

Our primary focus for scalability lies in supporting startups and small to medium enterprises. At present, we have not worked with larger companies such as Infosys or TCS, as they typically possess well-established setups of their own.

So, how do we facilitate scaling up? Our approach centers around the concept of micro-offices, which are small-scale offices distributed across multiple locations. Ideally, each location accommodates no more than 100 seats. For instance, even if we were to establish a center in Kanpur, it would consist of approximately 100 seats. If we have clients in another area of the town, we will create a separate center there. The goal is to minimize employee travel within a city.

In major cities like Bengaluru, traffic congestion is a perpetual issue, and the time lost during commutes can significantly impact productivity. Therefore, we advocate for the utilization of multiple small offices, even within a single town, allowing employees to work closer to their homes. As businesses require further expansion, we provide additional offices within the same town or in nearby satellite towns. We identify clusters of such small towns within a radius of approximately 100 km. This approach enables companies to scale by tapping into the local talent pool and establishing partnerships with educational institutions in the primary town and its surrounding satellite towns.

To summarize, our scaling strategy entails the establishment of several small offices within a metropolis or adjacent towns to ensure shorter commutes for employees. Additionally, we identify clusters of towns where scaling opportunities exist, such as the cluster comprising the cities of Nagercoil, Tirunelveli and Tuticorin. We offer the necessary solutions and infrastructure for businesses to grow within each cluster. This policy has not only created more job opportunities but has also attracted businesses to these clusters.

What impact has Mikro Grafeio made on the local economies of Tier 2 and Tier 3 towns where you operate? Are there any success stories or specific examples that demonstrate the positive outcomes of your mission?

Let's take an example… I hail from a place called Calicut, now known as Kozhikode. Tonight, I will be returning there to inaugurate the first center, which has already provided employment opportunities for 420 individuals in Kozhikode. By revitalizing job prospects in my hometown and other lesser-known places like Tirunelveli and Thiruvananthapuram, we have successfully established offices for a few clients, and their performance has been commendable.

We receive numerous inquiries from individuals residing in these towns seeking our assistance in finding employment opportunities. Just this morning, I received a message on LinkedIn from someone residing in a specific town where people are migrating to larger cities. They expressed their hope that we could do something to help them by encouraging companies to set up offices in that area. These stories of success and the creation of employment opportunities bring us immense satisfaction. Our mission extends beyond mere financial gains; it encompasses a broader vision of generating employment in these small towns. Witnessing individuals finding happiness by securing jobs in their hometowns, reuniting with their families and friends, and experiencing contentment in their work brings us great joy.

Over the next five years, our goal is to create a minimum of 500,000 employment opportunities in these small communities. While this may seem to have a limited impact on the overall economy, it holds significant significance for these emerging startups and small-scale businesses. The resulting effect, akin to a mushrooming phenomenon as opportunities spread, brings prosperity to the youth and the entire area.

In your opinion, what are the main challenges or obstacles faced by small and medium businesses, including startups, in Tier 2 & 3 towns when it comes to setting up end-to-end operations? How does Mikro Grafeio address these challenges?

When a company decides to establish its presence in a small town, their requirements go beyond just finding office space. They also seek skilled professionals and comprehensive assistance throughout their entire journey. As a reliable partner, we understand the importance of providing support in all essential areas. Startups encounter numerous obstacles beyond securing physical workspace; they face concerns regarding talent development, HR support, facilities management, IP protection, firewalls, and managing accounting and finance matters, including potential issues such as double taxation. These aspects demand significant time and attention, extending beyond the realm of code delivery.

At Mikro Grafeio, we tackle these challenges by taking responsibility for these support activities. By doing so, we enable our clients to focus solely on their core operations and delivering their services. We become their trusted partner, ensuring that they receive the comprehensive assistance they need to thrive in their journey of establishing themselves in a small town.

Looking ahead, what are the future plans and aspirations of Mikro Grafeio in terms of expanding your impact and reach in Tier 2 and Tier 3 towns? Are there any specific regions or sectors you are targeting for growth?

Currently, our presence is well-established in South India, and our plan for this year is to expand to Maharashtra. Looking ahead to the next year, we have set our sights on further expansion into several additional cities. We have received inquiries from various states in India expressing interest in replicating our successful model. However, due to bandwidth limitations for scaling up, it will take some time to fulfill these requests. Nevertheless, we have already initiated outreach efforts to clients beyond India, particularly in the United States.

In the months of April and May, we embarked on a journey to 5 cities in US, where we had the opportunity to meet with over 600 entrepreneurs, including startup CEOs, CXOs, and small and medium-sized business owners. These interactions revealed their keen interest in exploring opportunities in India, attracted by the abundant talent available at a lower cost. They recognize the immense potential of the Indian market and its readiness for collaboration. However, they do face challenges when it comes to establishing their operations here.

This is where our proposition holds significant value. We offer comprehensive support throughout the entire process, which has inspired more entrepreneurs to explore opportunities in India. Furthermore, we aim to encourage Indian business owners who are currently operating abroad to establish back offices in India. We believe that adopting this strategy will further increase job opportunities. To achieve this, we plan to conduct roadshows in Malaysia, the Middle East, and possibly Europe. These initiatives will entice business owners to choose smaller towns as the location for their back offices, thereby enhancing job prospects and promoting economic development.

Finally, how do you measure the success of Mikro Grafeio's mission? What metrics or indicators do you use to assess the effectiveness of your strategies in providing employment opportunities and enabling local economies to thrive?

We have successfully assisted numerous startups and small clients, resulting in the generation of 2000 to 2500 job opportunities in small towns. Although this figure may appear modest compared to the large-scale employment offered by bigger companies in a single location (5000 to 10000 jobs), our primary focus lies in the journey. We are eager to collaborate with clients who initially require maybe 10 employees starting off, as we firmly believe in their potential to expand and employ 50, 100, or even more than 150 individuals.

Our main metric of success revolves around the number of employment opportunities we can create in these small towns. While we also strive to generate profits, our central objective is to encourage more companies to establish their offices in these towns, thereby augmenting the available job prospects. At present, we have garnered a clientele of over 60, fostering the creation of 2000 to 2500 jobs within the past 18 months. This year, with our existing pipeline, we anticipate surpassing the milestone of approximately 10,000 jobs being generated in these towns. Our objective for the upcoming year is to achieve even higher figures.

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