In 1998 Alison Saracena and Bryan Forst started Uddami Computer Training Centre. Uddami had a simple purpose – providing job oriented computer skills training to the many young women and men in Kolkata without the resources necessary to get that training on their own.
As Uddami grew and developed work for its graduates came through connections with local NGOs, well-wishers and businesses. Uddami graduates took positions as teachers, graphics artists, office staff and other IT-related jobs. Uddami not only taught practical computer skills but also gave graduates the confidence to reach towards jobs they had previously thought closed to them.
Around 2005 Uddami was graduating more people, the labor market in Kolkata was getting more competitive and jobs were not keeping pace with the population. There were several bright, deserving graduates who were having a difficult time finding work.
Job auction sites like freelancer, eLance and odesk were starting to become relevant. Why not see if enough work could be awarded from these sites to keep our graduates employed?
Bryan starting bidding on projects that best matched the skills of Uddami graduates. Whenever a project was won, Bryan would call in one or more graduates to work and finish the project. Bryan would act as project manager and communicate with the client while helping our graduate(s) complete the work.
At first the work was only part-time and as needed. Gradually we had several long-term clients who used our services on a regular basis.
With our initial success we realized we could create a company to benefit Uddami and its graduates. In 2006 we created Uran Software with to hire Uddami graduates at a decent salary – finding that first job is hard anywhere but especially in Kolkata.
Our plan for Uran Software:
- Provide real work in an actual business environment – help graduates move from a training environment to the business world, something most Uddami students had little knowledge of.
- Improve on the skill sets learned in Uddami – knowledge about what is required to do a project on-time and efficiently while keeping the client happy.
- Produce profits that would be funneled back to Uddami – thereby making the entire process self-sustaining.
- Learn more about the actual skills employers required – feed that information back to Uddami to keep their curriculum relevant.
We hired more graduates and built teams around clients as the work increased. Since 2006 we have worked with FXStreet, a leading online source for real time Forex analysis. In 2006, we were asked to take over the task of building customized reports from a Chinese team. Today our FXStreet team updates an average of 85 reports per day – in English, Russian, Chinese, Arabic and Spanish.
Over the years we have formed teams around client-specified needs for website updates, application and site quality assurance testing and marketing lead databases. As technical skills improved our staff also learned how to manage themselves, communicate with clients, run projects, produce quality work and, more importantly, stick to budgets.
Bryan and Alison always envisioned that someday both Uddami and Uran would be managed and staffed by the young people they worked with. This dream has become a reality – both the nonprofit and the for-profit are now completely run by Uddami graduates.
Always available as advisors, Bryan and Alison's opinions are still valued. However day-to-day decisions are made by the Uran core team based on what they think is best for their business, and by Rabia and her team of teachers for Uddami.
The competence of the Uran staff speaks for itself. They have done what no one thought they could do – manage and grow a company.