What makes Indian call centres tick

first_imgWhat makes Indian call centres tickOn 29 Apr 2003 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article DeeDee Doke travelled to Bangalore and New Delhi to see how major operatorWipro Spectramind is using people development to deliver a competitive serviceand put the integrity back into business in IndiaIt’s no secret that call centres and business processing outsourcing (BPO)have become big business in India. So big, in fact, that the workforce of thecountry’s largest third-party remote processing centre grew from 50 to 5,000 injust two years, and is still growing. During the last three months alone,demand for its services has been climbing at such a pace that Wipro Spectramindhas added an average of 800 new recruits every month just to keep up. Its HR team can even afford to be selective as up to 150 applicants walk into each of its sites every day. Between 7,000 and 8,000 young men and womenrespond to every advert the company places. But only seven or eight out ofevery 100 are hired to work the eight-and-a-half-hour shifts, five times a week– serving UK and US clients – at the firm’s sites in Chennai, Mumbai, New Delhiand Pune. “We choose the raw materials – uncut diamonds,” said companychairman Raman Roy. “Then we cut the diamonds and polish them.” A June 2002 study by India’s National Association of Software and ServicesCompanies and global consultancy McKinsey estimates that the global potentialfor BPO’s in 2005 is £148bn, with India’s share worth £15bn. By 2008, thesurvey predicts, the country will need more than one million call centreworkers to meet demand. International clients Spectramind’s call centre clientele includes the Dell Computer Corporationand immediately recognisable brand names which the company will not publiclyreveal. Among its many BPO clients are the Scottish Parliament, Thames Water,ABN Amro, Allianz, NTL, Thomas Cook, Nokia and Microsoft, and many otherpotential clients have visited. “We’re very excited about the growthprospects,” said Roy. The New Delhi call centre operation lies within an industrial zone of thesprawling city where monkeys stalk past the windows and over the roofs. Inside,several floors are filled with operator cubicles, and a single floor may bededicated to a sole client. Banners cheering on the given team hang from wallsor the ceiling. With no dress code, a Metallica t-shirt is just as at home inthe office as a sari. The grand finale of a team briefing before a shift is arousing blast of cheers. While the attrition rate – said to be in the high 20s – is higher thanSpectramind’s management would like, the company aims to create a workplaceculture far from the sweatshop stereotype, building on the philosophies of suchpop management gurus as Ken Blanchard and the traits of the Generation Yworker. “Everything revolves around fun as a value,” said RajaVaradarajan, vice-president, talent engagement and development. Because recruitment is so critical to the business’s success, the concept offun in the workplace has been extended to involving staff in bringing in newemployees. Prizes such as motorcycles, trips, mobile phones and cash areawarded in special recruitment drives, which have led to impressive statistics.Recently, 19-20 per cent of new hires were recruited by existing staffreferences. “We want to increase that to between 40 and 50 per cent,”said Varadarajan. Rigorous processes The company’s recruitment process is rigorous. The first level of hiring isoutsourced, and only shortlisted candidates ever meet a hiring official fromSpectramind. If a candidate ultimately does not make the grade but seems tohave potential, the company invests in pre-hire training to try and bring themup to the desired level of capability. Last year, between 400 and 500 candidates received pre-hire training with asuccess rate of 60 to 65 per cent, Varadarajan said. Even those who fail are likelyto succeed elsewhere. “The pre-hires are often hired by our competition,” he added. Once hired, the battle is on to keep the new recruits who undergo intensivetraining in UK or US culture, intonation and call centre work itself beforemanning the phones. By UK standards, the pay is poor, ranging from theequivalent of £112 to £168 a month. However, it is reasonable by Indianstandards, and even more so for the young singles with an average age of 23,who typically work there. Traditionally they live at home well into adulthoodor share flats with friends if they come from outside the city. Development opportunities Ambitious workers can advance their careers if they choose to stay in thebusiness. Up to 60 percent of Spectramind’s supervisors come from within. “We’ll provide opportunities for growth. And career development is notvertical alone – it’s also lateral,” Varadarajan said. “We allowmovement across functions.” Innovative employee perks at Wipro Spectramind actually benefit the employeras well. A concierge service, available to every employee, keeps the worker onthe job while someone else handles the inconveniences of Indian life, such ashaving to pay household bills. Employer-provided transportation gets staff tojob sites on time and returns them to their homes – with the safety of femalestaff taken particularly seriously. A male employee is always the first to bepicked up and the last to be dropped off on the bus routes. The cost savings to Wipro Spectramind result in two ways: staff are sure tobe on the job when they are needed, and the firm invariably gets good pricesfrom the vendors for their services. “We negotiate based on scale, and it is always a win-winsituation,” said Varadarajan. With the shift of IT enabled services such as call centres and other BPOconcerns to India reaching floodlike proportions, Spectramind is mindful thatthe competition for both new business and qualified workers has gone beyondintense. “The shakeout has already started,” said Varadarajan. “Thebig players are in now.” Profile Wipro LimitedEmployees: Between 18,000 and19,000Headquarters: Bangalore, IndiaOther facilities in India: Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai,New Delhi, PuneOverseas locations: Australia, Canada, Finland, France,Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Sweden, UK, United Arab Emirates, US Net income in 2002: $170m, down 3 per cent from 2001Revenues in 2002: $902m, plus 28 per cent from 2001 History: First created as a cooking oil company. Cookingoil, along with other consumer products, is still made by the company, butWipro has gone on to embrace software, hydraulics, medical systems, callcentres, business process outsourcing and energyRecruitment: About one in every 100 applicants is hiredHR practices include:– Highly formalised succession planning at managerial levels– A requirement that 5 percent of the workforce’s time bedevoted to training and development– An annual technology forum for sharing information amongemployees about company projects– Identification of and strategies to retain ‘at risk’ talentthat may be planning to leave– An employee portal that, among other offerings, providesemployee self-service, promotes knowledge sharing and allows workers tonominate colleagues for recognition– Competency mapping – Life-cycle leadership training Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed. last_img read more