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BPO: A Sweet Seduction


Can a sweet, chocolate coated figure appeal for the sweet and dreamy seduction?

…Probably not…

The evolution of new class in Indian society – ‘Educated labourer class’ is on the verge of asserting this fact. Recalling the days few months back, the lucrative job proposals rained by the BPO world at the doorstep of Delhi University was applauded not only through out Delhi but almost all the northern states like – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar Punjab, Haryana. In that scenario no one was in mood to spare his/her chances to boast on the matter of unemployment. Why not…, in fact the population which is going to caress 1.5 billion mark in future seems to be mammoth challenge before ‘we the people of India’. Currently, over 7% of the labour force are totally unemployed which comes around 400 million. Through the NREB (national rural employment bill 2004) the present UPA government tried to intercept the cyst of unemployment in rural areas. This bill was aimed to provide anyhow, at least the employment in the rural areas. But it is a matter of introspection of the psychology which was adopted while drafting the NREB how effectively that psychology will handle the educated labour force of India. No considerable measures have been adopted as yet to address the problem of improving the higher education status in India and positive resources to absorb them.

Every year, 2.1 million graduates and 0.3 million post graduates pass out of non-technical colleges. This figure, somehow, attracted and fetched the attention of those countries that were looking for the chance to slash their operational cost in business. Leaving millions of work force unemployed the top notch companies from the US, the UK, Australia and many other bourgeois countries started to outsource their parts of business in terms of services, data maintenance and so to the developing countries. Thus, the term BPO evolved and strengthened its position in the world market. On one hand where it started to boom the developing countries like India, on the other hand it received a curse of million of unemployed work – force of those countries who came on road overnight. The cause was evident and crystal clear – ‘Profit’. However, business is responsible for its impact on society also whether intended or not. But the origination of this consortium comes from the womb of curses, negations, hue and cries of millions of lamented populace. Naturally, the aftermath reflected in the US election which was contested on the center point of outsourcing, the Democrat defeated the Republicans with a great mandate and in addition to that William Greene (US international trade commission) had figured out the flaws related to the policies of outsourcing in his report heading “Growth in service outsourcing to India: Propellant or drain on the US economy” in Jan.2006. Thus, for how long booming BPO will keep booming us became a burning question in the countries like India.

Setting aside the speculation over the longevity and durability of the BPO, it is evident that BPO, in India, had significantly given a boost to the Indian economy by employing 4,00,000 people and having a bulk size of $9-12 million recording a growth of 37% of year on year basis. But it is expected that the BPO will face shortage of 2, 62,000 workers by 2012 which is currently facing the problem of quality human resources. Over 50-60% of attrition rate which is highest among all conventional or non-conventional sectors in India is also significant to be noted. The nine cities of India where 90% of Ites – BPO are located – Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, NCR (National Capital Region), Pune, Kolkata, Kochi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad are coincidently hub of academics and reservoir of quality production in India too. Thus companies in these are forced to complete for the same worker due to their need of more manpower which leads to wage inflation, saturation of market or knocking the door of fresh work force from the production house whether it is Delhi University or any other universities ignoring the result of stumbling block in the formation of GenNext. It was recorded that in 2004-05 the salary at the captive units have increased between 9.7%-14.3percent in comparison 4-5% growth with the European countries or Americans. In fact, they are not there for any charity or work force empowerment but preying for fresh on low wages in order to curtail their expenditure. If we analyze the background of fresher, they are either from the middle class or star class of the society. Around 70% – 75% are from the lower middle class or middle class. According to the social analyst “the front runners for catching job are the students hail from vast middle class of Indian society however undeniably they have been the only reservoir of knowledge and research works for the different walks of life.” Result – to show the back to the challenges of ‘how to nurture the reservoir of knowledge’ have been inevitable. The present studies say that the enrollment in American Institutes declined from around 80,000 in 2004-05 to 76,503 in 2005-06 and will continue to fall in the forthcoming years also. But the interesting fact is that the ranks of students are swelled by 32% over the previous year. Decline in the number of candidates dreaming for technical/semi-technical studies and rapid declining value addition at the vast majority of universities are also significant to be noted. Thus, this is nothing but the penetration of money in the honey of academics and no bees are available to safeguard them.

There is growing paradox in the industry esp. the voice based call centers. Despite of the fact that the BPO firms have much innovation, flexibilities and freedoms, at the core, it denotes a relatively hollow form of life. Portrayal of ‘work as fun’ and ‘workplace as another campus’ is the central logic through which the potential workers are attracted to and engaged in the BPO sector. The superior façade of work in the sector and the vibrant ambience of workplace – with sweeping glass and concrete buildings, factory of jazzy computers, the company of smart and trendy peers -help in drawing educated and fun loving youngsters from urban middle class, who are fascinated with western ways of living and modern work environments. A review of advertisement of BPO reveals that preferred attributes of a call center are that of young graduates/undergraduates with English speaking and comprehension ability. The firm, in their profile and advertisements toss the bright ambience of workplace with lucrative offers as the prime aspect of attraction. The comparatively easy access to job, a good communicator, having little typing skills and a command over English is all that it requires. Though a newly hired agent engages in somewhat slightly elevated job of a receptionist/computer operator or a telephone operator, the firm are found labeling the job with very attractive nomenclature such as customer support associates, customer support officers, customer care officers, customer care executives and so on. All these cumulatively lead to favourable supply conditions in the labour market and the emergence of new genre of workers who stand apart from the regular workers of conventional manufacturing/service sectors in terms of socio-economic and demographic attributes. More or less, it fails to garner the prestige of “white collar job” among the youths now. The reason which can be summoned through the dialectic of data which reveals that the average year of education of the new breed of workers is16 years fills the qualified breeds to alienate from the main stream. It gives only the idea of work as fun rather than any seriousness and sincerity with professional touch.

This is really a conundrum to understand the BPO life-cycle. The average tenure at a voice-based Indian BPO is merely 18 months and 3-4 years for the other types of business process outsourcing firms in comparison to the normal service life of 25-30 years. Despite of all the positive features of attracting the young breed of ‘educated labourer class’ why the BPO is facing the annual attrition rate of around 50-60% needs an exigency of to be pondered over. The NASSCOM, National Human resource development network and ICRA in BPO report point out the cause of attrition as – wage inflation, expectation mismatch, job stagnation, lack of growth, quest for a better job, content and dissatisfaction with the company policy. But ultimately it gives inconsistency within. The BPO culture however, has resulted in the creation of a new class of workers with distinct features and differently conceived identity eroding even the basic rights at work. This class is not only squaring him from the education but willing to be trapped into the seduction of money and repent on their decision when their golden phase of learning comes to a permanent end. They joined initially for the sake of fun only but later, when they address the real challenges of their reel of life which is many more than the pharaoh monetary need, it becomes too late to move back. Either they are kicked off under the ‘push attrition’ measures of the company in order to save themselves from the long time commitments of their employee or voluntary attrition due to non-compliance of expectations which are natural due to nature of the work.

That’s why, the immediate challenge of the researchers and social scientist here is to delineate and explore the insecurities and vulnerabilities are so veiled in the organizational logic of the firm. However, every act decision and deliberation of business management has economic performance as its first dimension but if any firm or organization does not leverage the specific cultural heritage of a country and people, social and economic development is unlikely to take place. It is really an emergency of confining the ambits of hiring process in the BPO world as basic factor in economic development is the rate of brain formation not the employment guarantee. Any country can not afford to outsource its ethics in the name of economic development only. If we do not address the need to save the contraception of brain formation and quality production on time; this is appalling to say, but there will be no one to participate in the booming media sector which is going up at the rate of 19% per annum where real academic qualities are needed whereas the BPO does not require the academic qualification essentially. The poor status of research and development is again a different chapter. Science and technology on the basis of which any nation can represent it proudly on the world forum is still remained unaddressed. How long will we keep boasting on the pseudo victory where that victory is going to prove itself lethal for a balanced development? The tier division of educated class is the only way out for the ongoing enigma; of course, hunting for new scapegoats in the university campus is not justifiable.


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