Call Center In India - Call Center Industry in India
Thursday, November 27, 2003
Dell to bring some jobs back home

AUSTIN -- In a surprising about-face, Dell is returning some technical-support jobs from India to the United States.

The new U.S. employees will provide phone-based tech support for business customers. Dell employees in India have been answering some of those calls. Calls from individual customers will still be routed to call centers in India.

"We felt a little noise and angst from our customers, and we decided to make some changes," said Gary Cotshott, vice president of Dell's services division. "Sometimes, we move a little too far, too fast."

Dell's reversal comes as many U.S. companies are rushing to outsource operations to Indiaand other nations with low labor costs. It suggests the savings some achieved by moving jobs overseas may sometimes be outweighed by the cost of antagonizing loyal customers.

It's unclear how many jobs the move might create in Central Texas, where Round Rock-based Dell operates several call centers for tech support and sales and employs 16,500 people. Dell's other U.S. tech support call centers are in Nashville, Tenn., and Twin Falls, Idaho.

Dell was among the first large U.S. companies to move tech-support jobs to cheaper call centers in India when technology spending plummeted three years ago. The list now includes Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp., Hewlett-Packard and Computer Sciences Corp.

English-speaking Indian workers are highly educated but earn a fraction of American salaries. Some customers have complained they can't understand Indian workers because of their accents and that tech support workers rely too heavily on scripted answers.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Dell Computers To Pull Plug On India Call Center

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Texas based Dell Computers says it will no longer send technical support calls to India.

Like many U.S. companies, Dell set up customer call centers in India to save money with lower wages.

But, U.S. customers say it's too hard to communicate with the Indian operators due to their heavy accents and scripted answers.

A Dell representative said all technical support questions normally taken in India will now be handled in Texas, Idaho and Tennessee.
Monday, November 24, 2003
Dell reroutes tech support out of India

AUSTIN, Texas, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- Dell has rerouted corporate technical support from its center in India to facilities in the United states because of customer complaints.

The Austin, Texas, computer maker said technical support for the Optiplex desktop and Latitude notebook computers will now be handled at facilities in Texas, Idaho and Tennessee.

"It's a re-distribution of tasks and calling queues," a Dell spokesman told the Wall Street Journal.

"Corporate customers were telling us they didn't like the level of tech support they were getting" from Dell's facility in Bangalore, India, the spokesman said. He did not give specifics of the complaints.

The switchover, first reported by the Austin-American Statesman, is not expected to cause layoffs in India because home PC users will be routed to the Bangalore call center.

Brooks Gray, of Technology Business Research Inc., a Hampton, N.H., market research company that tracks customer support, said Dell customers complained of language problems and delays in quickly reaching senior technicians.

Thursday, November 20, 2003
Sleepy City Has High Hopes, Dreaming of High Tech

CHANDIGARH, India — Thirty years after a "green revolution" turned the plains around this small city into India's breadbasket, a cadre of ambitious government officials, pricey consultants and local high technology entrepreneurs is trying to accomplish something almost as ambitious — transforming this sleepy farm state capital into the "technology hub of northern India."

"Chandigarh," glossy brochures declare to prospective investors, "the city with brains."

Chandigarh was designed and built by the Swiss-born modernist Le Corbusier in the 1950's as a replacement for the former Punjab capital, Lahore, which had been absorbed into Pakistan after partition. Now a city of 900,000 people, it is the joint capital of India's two most prosperous farming states and one of half a dozen cities and states furiously competing for the call centers and software parks that American and Indian companies are opening across India.

As tens of thousands of service jobs continue to flow to India from the United States and Europe, small cities like Chandigarh offer even lower labor costs than India's "first tier" technology hubs, places like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Bombay and Gurgaon, outside New Delhi.

Manisha Grover, a Bangalore-based consultant hired by Chandigarh to aid its marketing efforts, said those cities were running short of skilled workers. "It's maxing out," she said. "The pace of finding people is definitely slowing down."

Officials from Bangalore disputed that claim, saying the city's talent pool remained vast. But businessmen here said that wages were far lower in smaller cities like Chandigarh, where a starting call center operator makes roughly 7,000 rupees, or $150, a month. A starting worker in a "first tier" would be paid as much as twice that, they said.

At the center of Chandigarh's effort is Vivek Atray, a wiry, smooth-talking 36-year-old electrical engineer, who is the city's new director of information technology. In terms reminiscent of the American Internet boom, he breathlessly predicts an explosion in jobs here.

"We expect 5,000 new jobs in the next six months to one year," he said, adding that he expected five new call centers to open. On top of the three that started up in the last 18 months.

Mr. Atray acknowledged that only one of those five companies, Indian-owned Infosys, had committed to opening an office in Chandigarh. It will employ 600 people in its first year, he said, with plans to reach 2,400 workers within three years.

When contacted, officials from two other companies that Mr. Atray said were on the verge of expanding to Chandigarh, Dell Computer and Convergys Corporation, said they had made no firm decisions yet.

In the end, whether Chandigarh can persuade these companies to open call centers here may depend on young men and women like Varun Sood, a short, boyish 20-year-old college student. To a business owner, Chandigarh offers 50,000 college students like him for possible employment, what Mr. Atray's brochures call a "ready availability of trained manpower."

Dressed in jeans, a stylish green shirt and baseball cap on a recent evening, he said he was eager to make extra cash at what he sees as a hip and exciting job. Young, open-minded and curious about the outside world, he talks cheerfully about a task many Americans might find anesthetizing: working all night cold-calling people in the United States.

"It's good," said Mr. Sood, who adopts an American accent and persona over the phone and uses the name "Boris." (After his favorite tennis player, Boris Becker.) "You get to speak to a lot of people outside your country."

He speaks English well, thanks to a strong local education system that includes a leading university, engineering college and medical school.

His 28-year-old boss, Anuj Mahajan, represents another asset in Chandigarh: local Indian entrepreneurs flush with cash. After traveling to Britain, the United States and parts of India to study methods and scout for customers, Mr. Mahajan, the son of a local textile mill owner, used family money to open the Kalldesk call center in September 2002.

A year or so later, he has quadrupled his work force to 80 people from 20, finished renovations on a modern, stylish office and is planning to expand to 200 workers. "It's all family owned," he said. "We borrowed a little, but we've paid them back."

An older business, IDS Infotech, represents the potential for broader growth. Partap Aggarwal, a software programmer who worked in Orange County, Calif., for seven years, opened the company in 1990. After struggling for years, it now has 1,150 employees, many of whom scan millions of pages of legal and medical documents on behalf of American law firms and drug companies.

For now, Chandigarh has only about 2,000 jobs in call centers and back offices, not enough to have a major effect on the local economy. Questions have also been raised about the quality of the work, which involves grueling hours and can be mind-numbing. The average call-center worker stays in the job for only four months, business owners said.

"No one takes it seriously as a career," said Kavita Deswal, 23, a law school graduate who was working as a call agent for several months while waiting for her law license to be approved.

But Mr. Atray remains optimistic. "We hadn't been known as a high technology center," he said. "With this knowledge revolution, it's been picking up."

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.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Attrition Rate : Wake Up 'Call' For Call Centers

At the CNBC-TV18 Industry Vector Series meet on Friday, industry leaders, consultants and independent experts came together to discuss topical issues key to the BPO/ITeS Sector.

Among several points on the agenda, BPO conglomerates focused in particular on the attrition rate in the BPO segment. The general consensus was that attrition can be checked by installing concrete measures on behalf of the management.

Ravi Ramu, CFO, MphasiS, said, "The issue of attrition needs to be addressed by the management of each respective enterprise. For example, encouraging pay scales, providing career mobility, flexible working hours, etc., can be uniquely implemented by each organization to check their prevailing attrition rates.'

However, Anada Mukherjee of ICICI Onesource begged to differ. He explained, “The present rate of attrition is what is prevalent in all sectors and it is nothing to be alarmed of.”

The panel, (which also comprised of Adi R. Cooper - Chairman Tracmail, and Sanjeev Agarwal - CEO Daksh e-Services, Atul Kunwar – Managing Director eFunds), agreed that to get the due share of the $20bn outsourcing industry in India, there has to be common playing field as far as infrastructure and resources are concerned.

Although panel members repeatedly probed the sensitive issue of one call center ‘poaching' talent from another by offering lucrative terms, the panel concluded that the problem wasn’t serious enough to call for a government statute on it.

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