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The Colombo Vibe

Jan 30 2014, 6:32am CST | by

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The Colombo Vibe
 
 

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The Colombo Vibe

Virtusa is Sri Lanka’s largest employer in the IT sector and the largest tenant in Colombo’s Orion City IT Park, with 150,000 square feet, on the edge of the city. Virtusa’s 2,200 employees spill out of a six-floor building into other space there.

Tuk-tuks, or motorized rickshaws, as well as buses and Prius taxis, line the streets outside the compound. Inside, Virtusa’s neighbors include publishing company Pearson, outsourcing company WNS and MediGain, which processes medical bills and reimbursements.

Using the standard IT open floor plan, Virtusa has what it calls chill-out rooms on each level. These are actually used for brainstorming. Hot pink, gold and black beanbags, couches, coffee tables and big exercise balls are scattered across the brightly painted rooms.

The two office cafeterias, which sell food at subsidized rates, display another side of the company. Some walls are covered with large posters–a smiling young girl in a school uniform, a boy planting a sapling–displaying social work that Virtusa and its employees have done in Sri Lanka, including donating computers to the poorest schools.

Roger Keith Modder, 49, in glasses and a monogrammed shirt, is Virtusa’s chief operating officer, out of his native Colombo. He joined in 2001 from John Keells Group. He says that despite state efforts to boost the tech sector, hurdles remain.

“A key challenge is getting sufficient numbers of high-quality IT graduates,” says Modder. About 8,000 students graduate from Sri Lanka’s IT programs each year, but not many match Virtusa’s needs. Because it could never compete with India’s IT sector on numbers, Virtusa has focused on building products as opposed to doing work that requires a large head count.

“For the IT sector 40% to 60% hires are campus hires,” says Modder. “When you have [so many from] that age group, you need to understand them.” Virtusa is trying to do that internally even as it offers its clients clues to understanding the younger demographic.

For instance, like many companies, Virtusa has banned, internally, social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. But it’s built a platform for its employees that merges all these sites’ features. Known as V+, it looks like a regular Facebook page–and lets you comment, “like” and “reply”–so that their millennial employees can express themselves more honestly.

“With a V+ kind of ecosystem, you can hear what’s going on in the company, what the millennials are thinking. And in the process you’ve put an idea from an engineer’s head onto a platform,” says Modder. –M.B.

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