BagoSphere is micro-credit powered job training for the base of the pyramid. Founded in 2010 by NUS alumni Lee Zhihan (Faculty of Engineering and Faculty of Science), Ellwyn Tan (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences), and Ivan Lau (NUS Business School), the company provides vocational training for call-center jobs, inclusive of communication and IT skills development. Importantly, for Filipino youth, BagoSphere represents a pathway to a better life: the two-month programme has an 80% job placement rate, with graduates earning up to 4x more than their unskilled counterparts.
Inspiration for the start-up came from volunteer projects they had helped lead in the Philippines (Ellwyn and Ivan) and Laos (Zhihan), as well as the NUS Overseas Colleges programme, which all three founders attended. “In essence, the NOC programme provided me with an experience where I could explore and be truly empowered to become an entrepreneur,” said Zhihan.
Motivated to put their experience to work, the three focused their work on Bago City, located more than 400km from Manila and containing a population with a high jobless rate and few options for residents to attain further education or gainful employment.
With the support of the Social Venture Lab@NUS, Practicum Grant funding and partners in call centers and the local Filipino government, BagoSphere piloted its first training course in 2011. 15 computers were donated and three local teachers were hired for the programme, which reached an initial batch of 14 students.
Since then, BagoSphere has grown tremendously, helping approximately 300 youths be trained for the Business Process Outsourcing industry. In addition to increased earning power, graduates have expressed a sense of fulfilment and renewed purpose. This success is matched by the accolades the company has received- in 2012 BagoSphere won the social entrepreneurship category of the Start-Up@Singapore business plan competition, and in 2013 it was named one of Singapore’s twenty hottest start-ups by the Singapore Business Review.