Courage Doesn't always roar. Sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying,"I will try again tomorrow".
Courage is the discovery that you may not win and still trying when you know you can lose.
The BPO industry started
operations in India somewhere around the year 1999. Some of the major players
in this industry at that time were WNS, Spectramind (now WIPRO BPO) and
MPHASIS. They set up base in most of the IT hubs in India namely, Gurgaon,
Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune.
The BPO boom however hit India
around the year 2003, when employees were hired on a mass scale and suddenly
BPOs mushroomed everywhere. In fact the growth of this industry in a way caused
an economic boom in India. Besides bringing job opportunities, it brought
business to small time vendors like transport facility providers, security
staff providers, caterers. This industry also brought in a massive social
change. The conservative middle-class Indian parents suddenly allowed their
daughters to work in night shifts. Jeans and t-shirt became the accepted attire
and you would find every other youngster working in a BPO. The number of
college dropouts increased and also the number of students preferring long
distance study over traditional college study grew in number.
Youngsters had more pocket money
and women who had dropped out of the work force due to marriage or pregnancy
found they had a job opportunity open for them.
What was it about BPOs that was
attracting so many? There were many factors that contributed to the mass scale
acceptance of this profession that involved long working hours and night
shifts. One was the better pay package that was offered, better facilities. All
BPOs had great infrastructure-well lighted work place, clean cafeterias, clean
bathrooms, pick and drop facility and an easy life style. You did not require
an MBA from IIM or a software engineering degree to work in a BPO. In fact a
college dropout could work here and get a decent pay package.
When everything was so good why is
this profession looked down upon? Initially when the BPO industry started
knowledge of good spoken English was a must but later when the requirement for
employees grew and hiring was done on a mass scale standards went down. The
transport facility was a major lacuna in the otherwise excellent management of
facilities. The other problem area was the food facility.
The average age of a BPO employee
was around 20-30. Some of the employees were even 18 and even the management
was relatively younger. This brought in age discrimination in the work force.
Suddenly there were headlines about BPOs and almost always for the wrong
reasons. It all started with the health problems associated with long work
hours and the biological clock getting affected due to night shifts; to reports
about drug abuse and sexual harassment and discrimination.
When BPOs started hiring on a mass
scale they started an employee referral scheme where you were encouraged to
refer your friends and family to work with you and for each referral the employee
was offered an incentive. Seemed like a great idea but what actually happened
was that employees would request their friends to join and split the referral
fee. Later the new joinee would leave the company after 3 months (that was the
period required for the employee to get the referral fee). All this went on
with the HR’s knowledge as constant new hires ensured their incentives as well,
however the management had to grapple with the problem of attrition.
Why were there problems in such a
perfect arrangement where everybody should be happy? The problems began because
there was no background check done. Often by the time background check was done,
the employee had already completed three to six months in the organization.
Transport, which is a major
concern area, actually caused lot of security problems. Often there were
reports of girls who were molested, raped, murdered and usually it was linked
to the driver of the cab she traveled in. Susan (name changed) always had to
call her team leader, as the cabbie would never report to her place. She was usually
alone in the cab. Anita always found herself alone or with other transport
employees in the cab. Her cab was once stopped by four men and when she
complained the transport department did not take any action.
Another issue was security. Many
BPOs did not take the no paper policy inside the operations area very seriously
and many employees used customer account information to siphon money out of the
customer’s account. A major case was reported in Pune and according to other employees,
the unit manager was hand in glove with the employees who took money out of a
This industry also brought in
phenomena of permissive behaviour and binge parties, which later on spilled on
to the work place. Most of this happened due to the non-serious attitude of the
management towards such behaviour. Hiring youngsters and having a lenient
attitude resulted in a work force that was less focused on work and more in the
fun that they could have at the work place.
All these factors resulted in the
BPO industry being considered a work place for social outcasts and people who
were not serious about work.