Lessons from the Edge: A Long-term View

Insights from a BAM Practitioner

Ajay co-founded an IT company in India 14 years ago and regularly coaches BAM practitioners.

Keep a long-term perspective
Having a long-term perspective about what you are doing helps when with dealing with challenges. You can’t just dabble! Having invested many years, we are not going to give up easily when we face problems. When you are starting a BAM company you have to be committed and keep the long-view in mind.

Don’t underestimate the importance of those you partner with
A good partnership has been vital to our company. My business partner and I are different from each other, but we have a long-term commitment to the company and to one another. Our team leadership and the way we are able to work together has made all the difference for our business. Staying committed and on the same page directly relates to sustainability – not only for the business, but to the people and relationships we have invested in.

Invest in your employees
The old adage goes that the customer must come first! While there is truth in that, we’ve found that when our employees feel valued and are thriving, then our customers get the benefit. So we put the customer first by pouring into our employees. When challenges come up with our staff, we see it as an opportunity to spend time listening and to model servant-leadership. Instead of being stressed about the challenge, we want to see it as an opportunity for the gospel.

Pioneering an IT Company in India: Interview with a Founder

It was after a survey trip to a small city in India 20 years ago that Ajay and colleague Jason saw a desperate need for someone to live out the gospel there. They both committed to relocate with their families and went about assessing the needs and opportunities there. One great need in the community was to provide jobs for the skilled IT workforce so they wouldn’t need to move away for work in the bigger cities, which was separating families. Ajay and Jason co-founded an IT business, and over the last 14 years their understanding about how God can use business has significantly evolved and expanded, along with their business model. We asked Ajay to share some of his experiences.

What is the goal of your company?

We say that our mission is to be the best IT company in our region. Ultimately our goal is to do everything with excellence, to exceed customers expectations at an affordable cost and for our staff to see their work as something that they can take pride in. They thrive in serving one another through serving the client. Through that process God is giving us amazing opportunities to share with them what it is to know God and to follow Him. For example, one of the key employees is going through a very difficult time emotionally, and we have the opportunity to share that healing and peace can only come through Christ. So our goal is to have an impact holistically: providing a service with excellence, giving the staff the opportunity to thrive, and being able to talk about life and family – and being able to point them to Christ in the midst of that. We are trusting that God will use the way we do business and build relationships every day in our company.

Why did you choose the IT industry?

The city where the company started is a relatively small city with very little direct influence of the gospel, there is no gospel ministry and very few believers. Even constructing a church building would not be welcome in this place. We saw a need for the gospel in this city so we explored the question, what would be an opportunity here? Read more

Tips for Hiring and Staff Training in the IT Industry

by Joseph Vijayam

Information Technology is a knowledge industry that relies almost entirely on the knowledge of people working in the industry. If you are setting up an IT company you will need to look for people with skills and experience that are aligned with the services you aim to provide.

If you are unable to find people with the right skills and experience, I suggest elevating the skills of people living in your region by setting up an IT training institute. I assume you are an IT professional and that you would have the skills required to teach. Additionally, you might want to recruit one or two staff members or volunteers who are able to teach IT as you prepare a workforce. IT training in itself can be a profitable business, depending on the ability for students to pay for courses, and you can ultimately benefit from your end product of trained IT professionals. From among this newly trained workforce you can recruit your staff for providing IT services in the long run.

I have seen the rise of the IT industry in India over a period of 30 years. It all began with the establishment of numerous IT training institutes across all major cities of India back in the early 1980s. Some of the same training institutes moved up the value chain in the IT industry and have now become global IT businesses. There is now no dearth of trained IT professionals in India, but it all started with a few entrepreneurs who set up institutes to train people who often ended up working with the same team responsible for their initial training. Some examples of Indian companies which followed this model are NIIT, Satyam (now Tech Mahindra), HCL, and so on. Read more

Want to Upgrade Your IT Skills? Useful Resources for BAMers

Whether you’re preparing for a career in Tech, looking for resources to train your employees or just need to upscale your own IT skills, here are some helpful tools:

Learn to Code

Treehouse
Treehouse delivers ‘tech education redesigned’. A huge selection of online courses are available for a fixed monthly cost. A free 14 day trial is available. Treehouse’s mission is to bring affordable, technology education to people everywhere, in order to help them achieve their dreams and change the world.

Code School
With a mission to help you ‘learn by doing’, Code School is very similar to Treehouse. Code School offers a whole range of courses, and directs you through various training paths. There is a monthly cost for unlimited access to courses, or try their free package with 10 courses included. Read more

God’s Technologists: Learning from Eighteen Years of Olive Technology

Interview with Joseph Vijayam

Joseph VijayamJoseph Vijayam founded Olive Technology 18 years ago. He is the CEO and Managing Director of the company, now based in Colorado, USA and Hyderabad, India. We asked Joseph what got him started, what are some pros and cons of being in IT, and what advice does he have for up-and-coming BAMers looking at the IT industry.

What got you started in business as mission?

My inspiration is Paul in the Bible. Like Paul I wanted to be involved in evangelism and had a plan to use IT as my “tentmaking skill”. With that in mind, I studied Computer Science in college. I started out in the workforce as an employee in a company, but the constraints of my job made it impossible for me to be involved in the kinds of ministry activities that I was interested in. I decided then to become self-employed as a software consultant. The first project I signed required a team of three programmers in addition to myself. Now, I had to incorporate a business entity to employ the other programmers. The first project led to another and then another and soon the team size grew and the business became established.  Since my goal was to be a tentmaker, I started to ask the question, “How do I use this company as a platform for ministry?” That led me down a path that eventually positioned Olive Technology as a BAM company. Read more

Seven Keys to Finding Hidden IT Aptitude in Developing Countries

by David Stone

I think there are seven keys to finding the right people with an aptitude for IT in an underdeveloped country:

  1.           Keep relationships primary
  2.           Share your motivation
  3.           Develop a very close Friend
  4.           Be a close friend to Christian expats and their NGOs
  5.           Know the owners of other local IT companies
  6.           Serve the head of the IT department at local education institutions
  7.           Empower nationals to hire other employees

I co-founded an application software company in the USA in 1991. We’ve been ‘impact sourcing’ programming jobs in Afghanistan since 2007. We currently have six programmers in Kabul helping maintain and customize our application.

My journey to Afghanistan began in 1978 as a college Senior. In August of that year, I felt that God called me to business, missions and Afghanistan. The first two calling unfolded immediately after graduation. I had to wait 24 years for Afghanistan. Read more

CrowdTech: BAM on the Virtual Assembly Line

by Jayne Jaderholm

CrowdTech is a growing company based in the region of South East Asia, now expanding to other parts of the world. The company began in 2009 with the idea for a business model that could grow quickly and would provide South East Asia with virtual jobs in computer work.

Martin Bruin first established a software development company, Leaf Technology, three months after arriving in South East Asia. His original mindset was for the company to be a side job as he did other ministry work in the region. Just prior to moving to Asia, the Bruin family was forced to leave the Gulf Region after living there for a year and a half. Martin remotely managed an American software company while his wife Amy worked as a finance director at a local school. Martin and a friend also reached out into the labor camps filled with men from South Asia. They took 12,000 bibles in 12 different languages along with food donations to the camps during the last nine months they were in the Gulf.

They noticed the demand for data-entry jobs from developed countries and the supply of talented workers desperate for these types of jobs.

While back home visiting family, three church pastors in the USA challenged Martin and Amy to see where God was working in Leaf Technology. Shortly after returning to South East Asia they noticed the demand for data-entry jobs from developed countries and the supply of talented workers desperate for these types of jobs. As an established software company, they realized they could build software to connect the talent to the demand. Martin could already see the brokenness in the growing crowd-sourcing industry, especially a lack of accountability that resulted in poor-quality work. In order to solve this problem, CrowdTech looked for inspiration and found some in the Grameen Bank’s solidarity group model and different church planting movement (CPM) models that focused on small healthy teams that promoted accountability. Read more

What Got You Started? Software Development in Vietnam

Ben and Yumi co-founded an outsourcing and software development company in Vietnam, joining Vietnam’s rapidly growing tech industry. We asked them what got them started, what are some pros and cons of being in IT, and what advice do they have for up-and-coming BAMers looking at the IT industry.

What got you started in business as mission?

After working and living abroad in Costa Rica for two years, we weren’t interested in returning back to North America to settle back down into a comfortable lifestyle. We felt that God had greater plans for us but were unsure of what that was. We both had extensive work experience in IT and a strong interest in starting a business in Asia but our desires were divided and we were stuck. So we stopped and dedicated time to pray and worked together on creating a mission statement for our family. God began to speak through this process and we went from building a business that would make us rich and glorify us while trying to be intentional, to wanting to build a business that was about relationships that would glorify God. We wanted to make Him known while being profitable so that we could meet the real needs of the people – and our needs as well. The business ideas went from us-focused to ‘God and the people He loves’-focused. After further seeking, we had the peace and go ahead to go to Vietnam to start an IT outsourcing business. Read more

Ask a BAM Mentor: Hiring and Training for IT Companies

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

I am hiring in a more deprived, less developed context, how do I find the right people with an aptitude for IT? Any other tips and ideas you have for hiring and staff training?

~ IT Starter-upper

Dear Starter-upper,

I think there are seven keys to finding the right people with an aptitude for IT in an underdeveloped country:

  1.           Keep relationships primary
  2.           Share your motivation
  3.           Develop a very close Friend
  4.           Be a close friend to Christian expats and their NGOs
  5.           Know the owners of other local IT companies
  6.           Serve the head of the IT department at local education institutions
  7.           Empower nationals to hire other employees

I co-founded an application software company in the USA in 1991. We’ve been ‘impact sourcing’ programming jobs in Afghanistan since 2007. We currently have six programmers in Kabul helping maintain and customize our application.

My journey to Afghanistan began in 1978 as a college Senior. In August of that year, I felt that God called me to business, missions and Afghanistan. The first two calling unfolded immediately after graduation. I had to wait 24 years for Afghanistan. Read more