IT - Call centers (BPO) and cultural changes
When the IT boom happened in India it was thanks to the effects of
globalization. Multi-National Corporations noticed India's English
competency and came in full swing, mainly from Europe and America. The
first boom of its kind started with the rise of dot com industry. The
Y2K boom and and the ensuing bug closely followed the fall of dot com
industry. The American software industry was full of Indian techies
working in all sectors from NASA to AT&T.
The success of
Hotmail and Subir Bhatia the Indian brain behind this venture was like
a landmark case study for the entire Indian IT segment. The amount of
money he made overnight was like a carrot behind which the Indian IT
industry ran. When the dot com bubble bloomed there were millionaires
in every nook, and on every corner, of Indian cities.
Now the Indian IT industry, which made its mark in the global arena
has seen another boom. The boom of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO).
The increasing customer focus led customer service to unseen heights.
The customer was the king and needed to be attended to 24/7 so the need
for call centers was raised. With the Indian subcontinents ability to
speak the English language and to talk politely to the customer even
when they are screaming at them with abuse!
Other IT Support
positions which needed a strong technical background, like an
engineering degree were a little difficult to get in, but with call
centers even an undergraduate who knows English well would get a job
and earn five figure salaries. This came as great news to all students
and job seekers. Within no time the number of students sleeping in
class doubled. College dropouts increased.
For those who do not
know the scenario when United States of America work India sleeps there
is a 12-hour time difference between the two countries so these call
center workers need to be up in the night to answer calls. With this in
mind, the habits of such employees have changed and they are now known
as the night owls of Metropolis. Their work has changed, so too their
eating habits, sleeping pattern, and even their socio-cultural
According to Vishwas a call center team leader
although he is financially independent he misses hanging out with his
friends during evenings and late night outings. There are many like
Vishwas who become Vish or Val or even Chris when the take the phone
calls and start servicing the foreign clients. This has seen a change
with legal regulations on outbound call centers from USA to stick to
According to an estimate done by a Non
Governmental Organisation 20% of the current generation of kids coming
out of school are going through this BPO boom and joining call centers.
Firstly, this is damaging the education levels in metros and big cities
and also impacting heavily on their behavioral pattern. The saddest
thing is the fact that when they want to opt out of their business of
BPO they will not be able to find another job since their skill and
educational level will not be on par with the available talent in the
job market. Also the pay scales will not even be interesting since the
pay at a call center is on a par with a technical engineer in a
software services company.
With such repercussions this article
just tries to make the point to these executives and their potentially
bleak future. With the shifting mindsets of international governments
and the basic survival question of outsourced work it really is a
hanging sword on the millions of call center employees in India.