For the past week a few things have been tickling inside my head, but somehow i never managed to find the time and/or inclination to put it down in writing. Durga Puja came and went, I hardly wished anyone the mandatory “shubha bijoya”. Same for diwali. Its like a whirlpool inside my head and the thoughts keep slipping inside it and all my efforts go into making them hinge by the sides until i find the time to pull them back again onto dry land.
It started when I spotted Chetan Bhagat’s new book “One night @Call Centre” and read the review along with a small interview of the author in the India Today (31st OCtober 2005 issue). He says there “It is a surreal sort of life, not a career as much as an income-earner and executing it as a novel was tough, given that everyday is almost like the other”. He adds, “…We have so many young people and yet a government run by old people cannot provide real jobs for them”. Alongside it came the outroar on the findings of a report from V.V.Giri National Institute of Labour, which reportedly said that the working conditions inside Indian BPO’s and Call Centres were “worse than Roman slave ships.” The debate continues, where in people present/erstwhile employees from the named sector are sharing their experiences.
Nearly one and a half year back, I was struggling to find a job…umm well lets make it a decently acceptable job. Unemployment was biting at every core of my human self and slowly but surely I was losing my faith in my abilities. More so the economic independence that I had felt during my first job was like tasting blood and the feeling never went away. During such a time, one of my friends called me up for an interview in a call centre. When I told my dad he promptly shot down the idea. Late night shifts and the monotony of the work was not for me he said. Perhaps he was right, it wasnt my cuppa. But it is for a whole lot of people.
Whenever I hear things like “call centres are temporary jobs”, ” its for losers” etc. it sort of sounds unfair to me. Or for that matter, (re)quoting chetan bhagat “We have so many young people and yet a government run by old people cannot provide real jobs for them”. The keyword here is “real jobs”. Well…are call centre jobs “just a joke” as unreal as a doll’s wedding ceremony by 7 year olds? I think not. There are people with different requirements and qualifications…not just academic but as per their pshychological build up. Not every one grows up to be eintstein but they are no less human than others. Same goes here… you dont need to work for JPMorgan Stanley if you pass out with a Management Degree. One can very well manage the operations of a chain of fast food joints. Its the work that matters. And as far as the Call Centre/BPO industry goes, it has generated vast ..rather unthinkable amount of job opportunities and economic stability. What are “not real jobs” by one individual’s standard maybe the dream job of a lifetime for 20 others, coz thats what they can do with a satisfied heart.
Ok.. i do see a large number of young ones coming out from the doors jingling their pockets, with an attitude and probably potential health hazards due to upside-down bodyclock timetables. Yet no denying the fact that if not for these jobs a large number of these youngsters would have been miserably unemployed. Also one gets to see middle aged housewives who are probably working after a long time and looking beyond other stereotyped job opportunities like teachers, which were the chosen few of their generation. My argument here is not for the economic freedom and/or creation of the huge consumer market, but against the blacked out picture of the “type of jobs”. This is something I felt from my own personal experience. Finding one’s calling is a very difficult task and the ones who have found them are the blessed lot. Perhaps a huge chunk of people inside these mammoth glass palaces have found theirs. Otherwise denied respectibility or economic freedom we see a self-assured lot rising up to walk tall.
Perhaps a lot of stories about the working conditions inside the call centres are true, but then lots of jobs come with their own share of cons. The answer lies in efficient managing of the operations. As well as the attitude of the workers. Jobs at nights are not a new thing.. ask a sentry. But perhaps the huge numbers involved in these operations is drawing the eyeballs.
Whatever be the case, I never forget the blessing in the guise of customer care numbers and the voice of an angel at the other end. Perhaps a tad bit mechanical, but all the same helping the wheels of the industry both theirs and mine running.
Btw… I do not work at any kind of a call centre, but yes… I know what a dream job feels like. Gives you peace of mind at the end of the day.