The BPO Culture

Call CentresHow many of us have read ‘One night at the call centre’ by Chetan Bhagat? It was seen that most of the youth started working in call centers after this novel was published. It is a fairly new concept in India and many people join just to know what it is all about.

Traditionally, call centers were only voice based customer care centers that all companies liked to keep. Now the interaction channels have varied to email responses, web based text chat services and various other devices. The services of a call centers can be both ‘inbound’ and ‘outbound’. In inbound, calls are received from customers enquiring about a service or product that an organization provides; whereas in outbound, calls are made to customers to sell products or collect information/money etc. Call centre services can also ‘specialized’ say in business processing where calls are made from one company to another company. Some call centers stick to only domestic businesses dealing with customers within the country called domestic call centers, while others such as an international call centre mainly deal with clients from abroad say from US, Europe etc.

The only requirement to work in a call center is a good command over English. Yes, this means that even a high school pass out can join a call center, in fact many do join. It is an easy way to earn a little bit of pocket money. The services sector is showing better growth perspectives than the secondary/ manufacturing sector in India. Over 90% of the job creations since 2000 have been in services sector. And among the service growth areas, business services are the largest growth segment.

Call centers can be seen to have helped India develop. Almost 70% of its youth today are employed in call centers. They serve as mass recruitment organizations. As a fresher, one could start his career in an International Call Center as a call center Executive and earn highly attractive pay packages. The wide range of opportunities, there are comparatively well paid jobs for minimum qualification and the facilities the companies provide like to and fro transport, subsidized meals and medical facilities makes call centers a good option. But is it really that good?

When youngsters join these BPOs, most of them get night shifts. This means that their working hours usually vary from seven in the evening till around six in the morning. It is already eight in the morning by the time the call canter cab drops them home. They are left with no option than to try and complete their sleep in the day time. Scientific researches have shown that a good night’s sleep can never be compensated in the day no matter how many hours one tries to rest. You must have noticed that you are not that fresh after an afternoon nap like you are in the morning when you get up. An average youth of today needs at least seven to eight hours of sleep at night to function properly in the day. Can you imagine trying to get this kind of sleep in the morning? It’s just impossible. These call center workers need to change their whole body clock in order to adapt themselves to this call center culture. As a result they often get tired and exhausted and are not able to give their 100% to their jobs. They also lose out on all social events and commitments.

These call centers serve mostly UK and US companies. This explains the night shifts. Many times the workers of these call centers are not respected by the customers. They are rude to them and the workers have no option but to take it.

I feel that these companies have their call centers in India as Indian youth is the only youth who is ready to do this tedious and time consuming work. These jobs may be easy but they require tremendous amount of hard work and Indian youth is willing to do it. People who are not so fluent in the language also go through the training and start their jobs. The magnitude of the unemployment problem in India leads the masses to give whatever it takes to get a job. This is explained by the low-cost labour ($1.5-3 per hour) available to these foreign companies.

There is a great scope for Call centers in India, with a large population of educated English speaking people, and this has led to their the sky-rocketing growth in the current years. The costs and obstacles that were present before the BPOs, few years back are now minimizing. With global consolidation, digitalization and cost savings, we can expect greater expansion from these services in future.

Anjuri Nayar