Tuesday, August 14, 2007

This article in the Times of India talks about the new breed of domestic call centre employees, some of who due to their hardworking habits and loyalty are even hired by global call centres.


Savita Kamble has stopped talking at home. Her mother, who is looking for a suitable boy for her, is worried about the girl's behaviour. Every day, the 23-year-old returns from work with aching fingers, ringing ears and a dry throat. Though her new job is not as physically demanding as the old one, by the end of the day, Savita is tired of faking excitement or listening to any more people. Two months ago, her life became a series of rehearsed lines about products that she does not relate to in any way. Till then, like her mother, Savita too, was a simple maid servant.

"It feels like a job," she says. It's this feeling that draws many like Savita from their gloomy little homes to this glamourous air-conditioned world. Among them are girls from small town beauty parlours, farmer's sons and kindergarten teachers. The phenomenal growth of domestic call centres all over the country is creating unique call centre jobs for impoverished boys and girls who do not speak fluent English. Their poverty, in a way, is their asset.

The lure of the call centre, which promises an increment of almost 20-40% within a year, is more widespread than suspected. When Gaurav Pandey was caught by a constable for drunk driving, and he introduced himself as a call centre employee, what followed was unbelievable to him. "The constable took us to a nearby restaurant and started pitching in for his son." Abhishek Gadi, manager of operations in a Faridabad-based call centre, says that aspirants from small towns in UP were willing to pay Rs 20,000 for recruitment.

Unlike the English-speaking variety who join call centres for temporary financial gratification before moving on to higher education, the youth from middle India are compelled by circumstance to treat the nocturnal job as a career. This is an aspect that is fast endearing them to even global call centres. They are not transient. They are loyal and hardworking. They don't watch porn in the office or bunk work. They can endure the rigours of training, insults and culture shock.

Brijesh Singh came to Mumbai from Varanasi chasing the dream of becoming an actor. Nine years down the line, he has forgotten the dream and is now happily employed in a Belapur call centre. For the training sessions, he used to take the last train every night from Andheri to Dadar and wait for two hours at the station for the company vehicle to arrive at 3 am. The sessions were tough for the Varanasi boy. Once he was asked to say, "Barbie, there's a call for you." He said, "Bhabhi, there's a call for you". Now, he doesn't fumble when he speaks, nor travels by train. "I have an Accent now," he says, without intending the pun.

Notes to Self: Language, Discipline, Translation

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