Indian call centers: cracks begin to show
High rate of attrition
India's business process outsourcing market is expanding rapidly, but cracks are beginning to show. Concern is growing over a tightening supply of skilled IT workers, and a high rate of attrition among workers in the sector, particularly in offshore call centers.
The situation in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry relates to low levels of staff loyalty, particularly in call center operations. "The current average rate of attrition faced by the industry is between 30% and 35%," said Ashu Calapa, vice president of BPO company ICICI OneSource. "If you compare attrition rates for a voice and non-voice process, then attrition rates are significantly lower in a non-voice process."
This is a serious problem, considering that India's call center industry accounts for a quarter of all software and services exports from the country, according to industry association Nasscom, and Indian call centers employ 160,000 professionals.
Job disillusionment is perhaps the most general way to describe the problem facing India's call center workers. According to Manesh Mathew, director of HR consultancy PeopleEquity, "A number of unique factors peculiar to the call center work environment impact the call center professionals and their perception towards their work. These range across a gamut of human issues which include peculiar working hours, working days/holidays determined by geographic considerations, assuming pseudo identities, learning foreign accents, operating in alien business environment, altered social and family life, besides harboring the risk associated with working in a nascent industry."
One problem particular to India is that the country's call center workers are all highly qualified, and many have MBA degrees. Unfortunately, as Mathew said: "The inherent nature of the job is such that it is monotonous and lacks challenge." Moreover, the BPO boom in India has meant that employees trained in western languages and cultural skills to provide call center services can much more easily move to a competitor.
The supply of IT services staff is another HR issue beginning to hurt companies working in India. Although there is still a large pool of qualified programmers, staff costs are slowly increasing due to growing competition for trained professionals.