The Indian takeaway based on Big Mac salaries

Artykuły


Artykuł pochodzi z pisma "Guardian"

As Norwich Union joins the growing number of companies moving their call centres to India Jobs & Money went to Mumbai to find out what life is like for the people on the other end of the line. Zoe Cacanas and Patrick Collinson report

Saturday December 6, 2003
The Guardian

When you next receive a sales call from cable company NTL extolling their products, spare a thought for the woman on the other end of the line before slamming down the phone. She's ringing from Mumbai in India, she's being paid as little as £2.90 a day and she has to work six night shifts a week.
With daily wage rates that wouldn't pay for a Big Mac meal in Britain, it's little surprise that UK companies are shifting call centre jobs to India at an alarmingly rapid pace.
This week Norwich Union joined the list, revealing that it wants to outsource 2,350 jobs in admin posts to India in a move union leaders condemned as "deplorable" but which prime minister Tony Blair called "the way the world is today."
Jobs & Money this week visited Mumbai in India's business capital, which with Bangalore is the twin hub of the call centre revolution in the country's economy.
The work is nocturnal, the six-day week is a norm and the total pay for an eight-hour shift can be below the minimum wage for one hour's work in Britain. And don't even ask about unions. Yet middle-class university graduates are queueing up to work at the call centres.
Twenty-one-year-old Ruchi Srova, a philosophy graduate told us of the "glamour" of the job. Young mother Geeta Punjabi told us of the independence that the job - on £27 a week - has given her.
Outside their call centre, on a hot November night in Mumbai, a group of young graduates are gathered in a sleek outdoor cafeteria where food, coffee and cardamom tea is freely dispensed.
The centre's workers are taking a break in their shift - which began at 8.30pm and will finish at 2.30am, when a van will arrive to take them to their respective homes across India's sprawling metropolis. Some are even playing on the internet.
All the workers we spoke to were thankful for their jobs and had few gripes about their employers. Perhaps this is unsurprising given the fact that their wages, while appallingly low by British standards, are double what a fully qualified local teacher can earn. But working at the call centre means unorthodox hours in a country where night shifts are rare.
National holidays like Republic Day and religious festivals like Diwali and Holi are steadfastly ignored by companies working UK and US hours.
We visited Respondez, a call centre in Mumbai's central suburbs, which employs 350 agents making sales calls for NTL. An NTL spokeswoman says the centre is contracted on a no sale, no fee basis to promote the NTL Freedom service in Britain and that NTL does not directly employ the individual callers.
She said: "I have no idea what the salary levels are. Our contract is with the company, not the individuals. It is a telemarketing contract only. NTL has 14,000 employees in Britain and we don't have any plans to move their jobs to India."
The outsourced call centre used by NTL is typical of hundreds that have sprung up across India, in Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi and in the smaller cities of Hyderabad, Poone, Ahmedabad and Jaipur.
The workers arrive by bus from all over the city, often gridlocked in traffic and smog, pick up their phones and start their six-hour night shifts. But they are happy earning significantly more than those in many other graduate professions.
Cassie D'Souza, assistant HR manager at Respondez says: "A complete fresher can earn between 6,000-8,000 rupees (£75-£100) per month here. I know teachers who only earn that amount at the age of 35, while a department store cashier earns 3,000 rupees (£40) a month."
Vivek Sontakke, 27, team leader at Respondez and a graduate of management and marketing from Mumbai University, says it has been a lucrative choice for him. "It's one third better paid than other jobs I could be in and it has sheltered a lot of people, many of whom have excellent communication and language skills but not good academic skills.
"Middle-class graduates come here to pad out life with things their parents would not entertain, like clothes, accessories and mobile phones. Almost everyone here has those motives."
With the right skills and experience, workers can soon double their wages, says Tim Bond, managing director of Launch Offshore, which helps Indian call centres to work with UK companies.
He says: "The fight is on for people with six months' experience and employers are paying a premium for good quality, raising wages to 15,000-16,000 rupees (£200) a month."
Agents selling NTL's products can double their monthly salary through commission. "That's fairly revolutionary," says Lee Hicks of Launch Offshore, who has a decade's experience in call centres in Britain.
"Call centres in the UK never had the same buzz as they do here. We're at the beginning of one project right now and the agents are already earning one third of their monthly wages in commission, whereas in the UK that rate is generally reached when a project is at peak success."
He adds that while new call centre agents in the UK earn on average £12,000 to £14,000 a year, ten times the rate in India: "the real difference in wages is not that marked, given local prices and conditions, and the hours work out the same. Free food and lifts home are less a gimmicky perk than a concession to the time difference. We wouldn't let young people go home alone in the middle of the night back home, and it doesn't happen here, either."
Most of the call centre's staff are aged between 19 and 27, many finding work through word of mouth. A referral scheme, through which almost half of the employees came to the company, pays 2,500 rupees (£32) for each new recruit. Recruits come from all over India.
Abhay Chauhan, vice-president of Mumbai and Bangalore-based outsourcer TransWorks, says: "We've hired people from Goa, where there's an excellent pool of English speakers and not too many job opportunities. We've got 20 Goan recruits who stay in apartments within walking distance of here. They come for at least a year, go home once a month and still make it worth their while."
Prema Rajshekhar, another call centre agent, is well aware of her value: "Demand for us is high - I was offered jobs from five of my six initial interviews before I came here and have had four more offers of work since I've joined. There were two or three girls from the area where I live doing this five months ago. Now, I can count almost 20."
But the work is not secure. If outsourced call centres in India fail to meet the expectations of their UK or US paymasters, the axe falls swiftly.
"It's very unstable," says Santokke, who has worked in several telesales outfits. "You never know what may happen and that really worries some staff. It's good to seek out a call centre with some renown - if not, you'll be taking a calculated risk."
Ms D'Souza claims the call centres provide secure career opportunities. "It's the best job for a first timer and after five years they may see themselves setting up a call centre. Others can move up very fast to team leader, then shift operator to shift supervisor."
But Mr Hicks admits some of the graduates pouring in to the call centres may eventually be disappointed. "There's a difference in the level of education of people who work here. They've all studied and they see it as a career, whereas in the UK it's seen as a stopgap. The danger in India is that people may expect more from a contact centre job than they will get."

to appal – bulwersować
axe – topór
buzz – ruch
to condemn – potępić
concession – ustępstwo
deplorable – godny ubolewania
gimmick – sztuczka, przynęta
gridlock – korek uliczny
gripe – zarzut
To extol – wychwalać
nocturnal – nocny
pace – tempo
to pad out – wypełnić
peak – szczyt
perk – korzyść dodatkowa
to queue – ustawić się w kolejce
renown – sława, renoma
shift – zmiana
to shelter – osłaniać, ochraniać
To slam – trzasnąć
sleek – elegancki
To spare a thought – poświęcić myśl
sprawling – rozciągający się
steadfast – niezachwiany
stopgap – coś tymczasowego
swiftly – szybko


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