She's amongst the 40,000 Sri Lankan youth employed in Sri Lanka's sprouting BPO sector.
“It just that I like the atmosphere in the BPO industry,” she says of her job which is to carry out back office processors at a legal firm in London.
“They send voice tapes regarding various cases. We document them and send it back to them,” explains Kathuri.
Primarily driven by human resources business processing outsourcing is the art of transferring one company's back–end operations to another company to cut costs.
Industrialists say there is high interest among the youth to join the BPO industry, Sri Lanka's fifth largest exporter.
However the sector is yet to reap its full potential due to a dearth in qualified professionals.
“India has 100 thousand graduates, so Sri Lanka cannot compete with th numbers," says Ravi Abeysuriya vice president of Sri Lanka Association of Software and Services Companies (SLASSCOM), the governing body of the BPO sector.
SLASSCOM is trying to push a higher number of professionals into the industry and also equip them with external qualifications.
Sri Lanka has the second largest pool of UK qualified accountants which helps to compete in the financial and accounting BPO market but is challenged in areas like call centers and analysis where fluency of English is required.
“We need proper university curriculum to support the demand. There has to be a collective effect from private and public sector to generate more numbers and quality people,” added Abeysuriya.
“The number matters but mostly people need to be employable,” says Omar Fatharally, chief executive at Hellocorp, a leading BPO operator which claims 30 percent market share and employees about 200 people, mostly graduates.
“Although they are graduates but they are unable to cope up when it comes to writing and speaking in English.”
There are nearly 300 IT BPO companies currently operating in the island.
hey include global firms like HSBC, WNS Global Services, Aviva, Microsoft, Motorola, Industrial & Financial Systems (IFS), Amba Research, RR Donnelley, Quattro, Virtusa, eCollge, Valista, Millennium Information Technology and Innodata Isogen.
The industry generates 300 to 400 million dollars of export revenue annually to the country. The workforce is growing over 20 percent year-on-year.
The industry is now looking at attracting small and medium BPO firms in to Sri Lanka to counter the capacity issue.
The industry has set a target to generate a revenue of two billion dollars by 2015 and create another 100,000 direct and indirect jobs within the next 5 years.
Accounting, Banking, Financial Services, Insurance, Software and Services, telecommunication and Travel & Aviation are expected to lead growth.
“Previously it was the larger multinational companies that were looking at out sourcing,” says Abeysuriya.
“Next year the SME sector will be looking at out sourcing in Sri Lanka to reduce cost . Sri Lanka is ideal for firms of that range.”
He said that SLASSCOM has already approached UK to attract small and medium British companies.
Sri Lanka's IT-BPO industry alone grew 23 percent in 2006 and 2007 prior to the global recession, despite the ongoing conflict. Now the industry is pitching for a 25 percent annual growth, targeting niches like legal, accounting and financial services. Abeysuriya says the sector is looking at attracting investors from the Sri Lankan diaspora.
“They can identify opportunities for our local companies and bring business,” said Abeysuriya.He says 95 percent of investments in the existing companies have come through diaspora connections.
“Diaspora can influence the decision makers a lot,” agrees Fatharally.
“It may be industry analysis, industry brokers or consultants. We go and pitch to them what is happening in the BPO industry Sri Lanka and it has worked well because clients will trust them,” Fatharally expressed.
Rathnayake said that Sri Lanka needs create global awareness and build a brand for the country to attract investors.
“People don’t know about Sri Lanka as a place they can do business in BPO and IT,” Rathnayake said.
"We need to have a strong focus branding programme to help us to be known.”
The industry is calling for government support to encourage investments in the sector. “Building a brand for Sri Lanka cannot be done by one company or two. It really needs a national level focus," Rathnayake said.