Call Center In India - Call Center Industry in India
Wednesday, November 19, 2003

More U.S. jobs, especially in Call Centers, headed for India

BANGALORE, India - On a dirt road leading away from Bangalore, thousands of India's 20-something technology graduates stream at dusk toward the future - past construction sites, around puddles, in faded blue buses and white SUVs - until they reach four silver towers that rise high into the bug-filled sky.

Here, they enter the realm of the call center 24/7 Customer, where in nine-hour shifts they help hundreds of Americans sort out bank card problems, order new phone services and install software on their home computers.

This is the new India, where the economy throbs with hundreds of thousands of technology jobs, a sign, India's optimists say, of tech's role in the country's future.

Critics, however, say the boom comes at the expense of workers in the United States, who often make four times what an Indian worker with a similar job would expect.

Sending jobs outside the United States isn't a new phenomenon, but the fact that these jobs were made possible by technology is worrisome to many Americans. Indian contractors are proving that just about any back-office processing job or customer service work that can be done over the phone or the Internet can be handled more cheaply and efficiently from their country than it can from the United States.

"It was the innovation of tech workers in places like Silicon Valley that launched the Information Revolution," said Marcus Courtney, an organizer for the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, a group that's opposed moving jobs overseas since Seattle-based Microsoft announced in July that it would begin moving customer service jobs to India.

"Where are you going to get skilled business people to keep these companies going if you take your rank-and-file employees away? They'll be gone, moving up a ladder somewhere else, in some other country."

How many jobs have left the United States for India is open to debate. Congress has ordered a General Accounting Office study, and the Information Technology Association of America, a trade group, has commissioned a Nobel-winning economist to do the same. Both reports are due next year.

But the number is high and is moving far beyond telemarketing and other low-level back-office work. Some of America's biggest technology names, from Oracle and Intel to Hewlett Packard and IBM, employ thousands in India and have plans to double and triple their offshore engineering workforces.

One company, Gartner, said information technology companies will move one in 10 jobs offshore by the end of 2004. Forrester Research said 3.3 million tech and service jobs will leave the country by 2015.

India's call center industry has added nearly 200,000 workers since March 2002 and will reach total employment of 350,000 by early next year, according to researchers at Stanford University. And some predict that more sophisticated work is on the way.

U.S. banks, brokerage firms, insurance companies and mutual funds will send 500,000 jobs, or 8 percent of their workforce, offshore within the next five years, according to consulting firm A.T Kearney.

At 24/7 Customer, one of India's fastest-growing call centers, 98 percent of the employees have college degrees, meaning they usually can solve customers' technical problems faster and more easily than call-center workers in the United States, who often have high school degrees or less. Yet Indian employees make $2,800 to $8,000 a year, compared with $30,000 to $45,000 for comparable American workers.

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