Saturday, February 11, 2006

Reality show on call centers

Now there is a reality show on TV on the call center. This one, is from the Hindu (Metro plus, Bangalore edition). From the piece,

...Now a BBC reality show on the industry — simply called Call Centre — might help view the beleaguered service sector in a different light. The seven-part "observational business reality show" tracks two call centre employees, and through their personalised perspectives, hopes to offer a more humane view of the industry itself...

I havent seen this "reality show", but this is what the newspaper further goes on to say.

...The first episode of Call Centre seems to offer a rather rosy picture of the sunrise industry: of a newfound confidence and a dream coming true. But the "dispassionate" camera, through a series of juxtapositions, does manage to offer an interesting contrast between the somewhat naïve aspirations of a middle-class youngster and the clinical and calculative ways of his workplace...

I compare the call center employment today to the 70s that offered employment in huge numbers to typists, stenographers and so on. Those who migrated to Bombay, Delhi in those days will tell you about their life in those days. Their life revolved around South Indian meals, anti outsider campaigns, living 5 to a room, of a life behind the noisy clatter of typing keys. Werent typists caught in as much of a McJob as the call center jobs today, indeed more so? Many of them had tyrannical bosses. In those days "respectful workplaces" was still jargon, not what is seen today. Todays workplaces are so much more professional.

What would have happened if there were a reality show or a media explosion in those days? Pretty much the same thing. Typists would be derided for their McJobs and they would have been asked to return to farming. Very much like todays call center guys are asked to return to typing data into a computer in a cubbyhole firm or stand in the line in front of the employment exchange or be exploited by some unprofessional company for a low pay.

Reality shows are ultimately, a money making tool. So, reality shows will continue to happen, call centers or no call centers.

Isnt any industry clinical and calculative? After all they are a business. In IT, Indias
much hyped sector, does anybody read between the lines in annual reports of companies on how many employees are fired for low performance? Do people realise that despite the best intentions of the commies (and the AAI example) today work is not something you go to, but something you do? And do well? If you dont perform, you will be chucked out. It is true in every workplace, right from the hotel cook to the IT honcho.

...Niret and Manira promised that the coming episodes will offer a nuanced perspective, bringing into focus all the debates that the industry has provoked even within India: unearthly work hours, contentious modes and terms of employment and cultural ramifications of a profession that forces a foreign accent on an employee... These, said Niret, will come in the form of expert interviews with people such as Kiran Karnik and Brinda Karat...

Brinda Karat, of Baba Ramdev fame, will talk on call centers (I am somehow holding onto my
chair to keep me from falling off)?

Unearthly work hours, cultural ramifications - well why not. If I get paid for it, sure. They are far better than the "entrepreneur who ran a big factory" who after my engineering offered me a job paying me some 2000 rupees a month (I pay my maid more these days) saying "I cannot pay you much, but you can learn". My foot. Pay me well and the learning will take care of itself. These graduates who work in call centers would find themselves working for such "entrepreneurs" if it were not for the call centers.

Contentious modes and terms of employment. What terms of employment? Are they chained to their desks like the Roman oarsmen? Are they even kept on bond? (Very few call centers do).
They leave when they feel like it. Attrition rates are much as a freedom of choice, as they are about employee satisfaction or dissatisfaction.Call centers really, are, far far better than any form of employment we have had.

Reality shows or no reality shows, call centers are a reality. Much like typing jobs were a reality a few decades back. In things like jobs, there are certain jobs that are "big" in certain eras. Long ago it was typing, then it was the Gulf boom, then the MBA. Now it is IT and call centers, tomorrow it will be something else. For the millions who cannot become the hotshot pilot or a designer, it is the chance to make their livelihood. These jobs let youngsters make money, they let India make money. Youngsters make their money and get on with their lives (and higher education and prosperity), knowing fully well that the call center job is not the only thing in their lives. They will pass their prosperity on to the next generation, which, hopefully, will take India to the next level at which point, we can make another reality show.


Alka said...

GOOD analysis. I have never given a thought about this job. But read articles in magazines from time to time. But they too mainly concentrated on health hazards and biological clocks.

vishnuprasath said...

Hi Friends,
There is nothing to worry about getting jobs in Pune , so that a near future will ahead to your way.