Indigena Solutions was founded in 2011 with five employees in a shared office in downtown Vancouver. Four years later, the First Nations-owned IT and business services provider has moved to a 15,000 square foot location on Annacis Island and has grown to a staff of 60. President John Slater expects to have 100 employees by the end of 2016.
Indigena, which provides application maintenance, testing and IT support services, is growing at a time when more businesses contract IT help and customer services offshore to countries like India and the Philippines to save money. “We are working to keep jobs in Canada and increase employment levels for First Nations,” Slater says.
Indigena is owned by Tsawwassen First Nation Economic Development Corporation and Capital for Aboriginal Prosperity & Entrepreneurship (CAPE), an organization headed by former Prime Minister Paul Martin to increase business development among First Nations. Indigena is managed by Accenture, a global leader in management consulting, which formed a similar successful business model in Oregon.
The key to Indigena’s success is attracting clients with shared values. “We focus on companies that want to do business with Aboriginal owned companies and care about socially responsible outsourcing,” Slater explains. Clients, such as B.C. Hydro and Vancity, want to work with us and help us.”
Indigena’s purpose as a First Nations delivery centre is anchored in three priorities:
- Providing competitively priced high quality and onshore technology services for Canadian businesses
- Enabling jobs that allow people to live and work on or close to First Nations territories
- Leveraging technology to enable First Nations socio-economic development
Indigena is in discussions to start up additional IT delivery centers with the potential to hire more First Nations employees. “We are working on opportunities to open delivery centres in northern B.C and Port Alberni within the next year.” Eventually Indigena plans to open two more centres in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Indigena’s employees are a mix of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginals. Slater says the focus is on training. “We team up new employees with more experienced ones. That’s how we grow. First Nations employment agencies also provide training.” It’s a winning strategy that Indigena will continue to increase economic independence for First Nations.