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Turbocam India: A Stand Against Corruption

The Beginnings

Like many small business stories, the story of Turbocam India involves the spark of opportunity, mixed in with a great deal of perseverance and one or two major breakthroughs that have set the course of the company. But perhaps the most important ingredient of all has been a firmly held belief from its inception that Turbocam was to be a ‘Kingdom company’, existing as a business for the purpose of honouring God.

Turbocam International was founded by Indian Marian Noronha in New Hampshire, USA in 1985. Turbocam’s core business revolves around manufacturing specialised machine parts for turbines and turbochargers, using sophisticated software to machine very high-precision, delicately balanced parts. Right from its earliest days Marian envisioned the company would be used in the service of God. The ideas of creating jobs and generating wealth, supporting Christian service and manufacturing high quality turbo machinery products have all been integral to the mission of the company from the beginning. Read more

In Business for Freedom: The Red Light District of Kolkata

The company ‘FBA’ is located in the largest, and most infamous sex district in Kolkata, India. Within a few square miles more than 10,000 women stand in line selling their bodies to thousands of men who visit daily. Many are trafficked from Bangladesh, Nepal and rural India. For others poverty has left them without options. The cries of hungry children drive them to sell their bodies. FBA opened its doors in 2001 starting with twenty women who were desperate for an opportunity to be free. It was hard work teaching uneducated and unskilled women to sew jute bags at a quality acceptable for the export market. Some could barely use a pair of scissors and in those early days the average daily output per person was less than two bags. It was particularly frustrating when bags were sewn upside down and inside out and nobody noticed. Slowly these problems were overcome with much training and patience. Today, while many of the women are still not the fastest sewers, the business produces around 1000 bags a day made from jute and cotton material.

FBA entered a new market in 2009 by offering fair trade organic cotton tees (t-shirts). Girls showing ability in bag sewing were given the opportunity to train and learn new skills sewing t-shirts. Although smaller than the bags unit, FBA Tees is capable of producing 400 tees per day.

In the first few years all screen-printing was outsourced locally, however print quality and timely supply was out of our control. To overcome these problems and take advantage of the opportunity to create more jobs for freedom, FBA now has its own screen-printing unit supplying two customers, FBA Bags and FBA Tees.

Read more

Moving into the Neighbourhood: Up Close and Personal with Freedom Business

Discovering Freedom

For more than 14 years I’ve had the privilege of living out life with women who have been given the choice of freedom.

It seems this freedom business thing does work. It provides hope where there was hopelessness, a choice when there was no choice at all – the chance of a new life that leads to freedom.

A life journeying with women discovering freedom, what can I say? There’s nothing else like it in all the world and, to be honest, I’ve discovered my freedom is tied up with theirs too.

However, there have moments in my life when I’ve realised I’m a bit slow to pick things up.

For a number of years I thought the way to more freedom was growing one business as big as it could get, until I ran a few numbers around in my head.

Sonagacchi, our neighbourhood, potentially home to 10,000 women trapped in prostitution would simply not be transformed by Freeset, and the other amazing freedom businesses in the area, growing as big as they could.

Between us we employ around 3% of the total women there which means there’s a big number to go – around 9,700 at least.

You see, I still believe in a God who wants justice. The one who came to set the oppressed free. I still believe he wants to do this today and that this massive problem is not too big for him. I believe he weeps for the women of our community as he weeps for many communities like ours around the world. I believe he calls those of us claiming to be his followers to be involved in his kind of justice in his world. Read more

Purchase with a Purpose: Creating a Sanctuary for Survivors of Human Trafficking

Neither of the founders of iSanctuary expected to be engaged in business as mission, particularly not in the area of helping victims of the commercial sexual exploitation industry. However, after spending time in India, Stephanie and Wendy saw needs that they could not turn away from and decided to act. In Stephanie’s case, a magazine article about sex slaves captured her heart. Wendy first visited India and “fell in love with the country and its culture, but was haunted by the incredible poverty.” The two met on this trip and found a common desire to be a part of providing hope and facilitating freedom for these women in whatever way they could.

International Sanctuary (iSanctuary) was founded in 2007 and began working with young women in shelters in India. The organization aims to live out its name by being a sanctuary for survivors, a safe environment that contributes to their being able to transition from surviving to thriving. They generate revenue through the sale of jewelry and also offer educational and support programs to survivors of human trafficking in both India and the United States.

The founders of iSanctuary visited India, as a part of separate missionary-type journeys. Each felt a pull toward taking action that lasted well after their scheduled trips. They determined early in their business life to avoid an outward label of being a “Christian organization” and many of the individuals who have served their organization faithfully have been volunteers who do not share a common faith with the founders. However, throughout their journey, the leaders of iSanctuary have sought God’s direction. They share that despite a lack of previous experience, God has shown them way and provided guidance. He is also central to their business ethics and choices. Read more

3 Types of Prayer for the Business Context

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

Dear BAM Mentor,

What prayer habits have you found helpful in your business? How have you experienced prayer and hearing direction from the Lord fitting alongside ‘normal’ business practices and hearing from advisors and others?

~ Exploring Prayer

Dear Exploring,

Prayer in a business context can be divided into three types. First, there is personal prayer for strength and guidance from God in matters relating to the Business. Second, there is corporate prayer by those who work in the business, a group of colleagues who are committed to praying for the business and all its stakeholders. Third is engaging individuals or groups outside the business who are well-wishers, family or friends and are committed to praying for the business and/or the people who work in it. I want to share some thoughts and personal experiences for all three:

I believe that the entrepreneur’s dependence on God is no different from that of a missionary working in a hostile environment. The world of business is fraught with dangers, temptations and opposition. We live and work in a fallen world that embraces values which are contrary to those of God’s Kingdom. Besides the constant onslaught of the enemy, there are ups and downs in any business over a period of time. To hang in there during hardship requires nothing short of total dependence on God. I have had to lean on God and He has carried me through difficult seasons in a manner that seems most often found in the lives of missionaries I read about. An incident that I recall of such an experience is when one of my colleagues took away important company information and a few relationships as he went and joined a competitor. I remember feeling crushed by the betrayal of trust. I became bitter and guarded in my relationships with others in the company. After a couple of weeks I was on a long flight and read the biography of Adoniram Judson. I realized that he was betrayed multiple times but each time he went on with his work with joy and resolve having been strengthened by his disciplined prayer life. One of his famous quotes is, “Our prayers run along one road and God’s answers by another, and by and by they meet.” As I took this matter to God in prayer I felt the burden roll off my back. Read more

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

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

Embracing the Call to Business

An Interview with Joseph Vijayam

Joseph Vijayam has had many years to think about how to integrate his Christian faith with his business life. He started Olive Technology in 1996 with a vision to support himself to do ministry, much like the Apostle Paul did when he made tents. Since then, Joseph’s understanding of ‘mission’ has developed to embrace ‘business as mission’. He describes this process as a journey, a voyage of discovering what it means to glorify God through his business life. I got the chance to talk to Joseph as he shared some of his reflections on being Kingdom-minded in business and the role of Christian business people in bringing transformation to India.

What are you most passionate about as you think about business as mission and your company today?

Well I am obviously excited about what we are doing through Olive as a company and how our own business is growing. But these days I am also thinking more and more about how we can get greater numbers of business as mission efforts started in India and around the world. I am focusing more of my energies on being a catalyst for multiplying business as mission enterprises.

If we are to see growth, I think we need to help Christian business owners understand the impact they could have, to become more Kingdom-minded in their business life. We also need to mobilize others to initiate new business as mission enterprises of every shape and size. Although of course we do need large business as mission companies, I personally think that any size of company can make an impact. Read more

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