Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Yet Another Article on BPO (Washington Post)

There's an article on call centers in yesterday's Washington Post.

Nothing terribly surprising -- mostly lifestyle oriented. The one newish feature for an article in the U.S. media is the new awareness of the backlash against the industry within India (i.e., it's good pay, but not necessarily good work).

We spotted one possible error/exaggeration in the following:

The Long Island iced tea plus an order of fish and chips totaled $13, a bit more than the average weekly income in India. But Pundir, the daughter of mango farmers, earns about $20,000 annually. "It is good money at the end of the day," said Pundir, who abandoned her MBA studies because she saw a better career path in call centers. "In 4 1/2 years, I've risen through the ranks."

My understanding was that the starting salary for a call-center worker is about Rs. 40,000 a month (about US $12,000 a year), so this seems a little high.

Still, she's been there for 4 1/2 years -- a lifetime in the BPO world -- so it's probably not impossible that she's making Rs. 70,000 per month. If so, good for her, I guess (the Talking Heads' song Once in a Lifetime" comes to mind...)


Matto said...

I'm a little intrigued by the figures here too; as far as I know starting salaries for base level customer service associates are anywhere between Rs.8000 to Rs.15,000 a month. A 4 year position might be close to a gross 60,000 a month at best. But I guess, salaries are going up. The part I loved best was the 'daughter of mango farmers' bit!

11:28 AM  
Suhail said...

matto is right. Even for a fresh BE CompSci 40K p.a. is slightly on the higher side. Starting salaries of Wipro/Infy were around 25-30K ....until 9 months back. I don't know what it's now, but still they wouldn't be as high as this.

5:58 PM  
Tacrolimus said...

Figures seem suspicious. I doubt that even with 4 year seniority one would earn those amounts.

Then again, with India's huge pickle industry, I always thought mango farming was a lucrative affair.


7:29 PM  
Amardeep said...

Wow, very different numbers!

I have family who have worked in BPO (though not in call centers), so I'll inquire with them and maybe do an update at some point.

There might be some confusion in the article between BPO consulting types of positions (higher paid) and straight-up call center work.

11:37 PM  
Suhail said...

oops..that should read 40K permonth in my prevs comment.

12:11 AM  
Samuel said...

I left Chennai immediately after my Bachelor's Degree, but from what I heard from my friends back there, they were paid around 8000 when they started in 2003.

Some of those still sticking around make around 20K -30K. I do not know of anyone who gets 70K a month. I work with a friend on an L1 visa and he gets paid 55,000 rupees a month. He has three years of experience as a programmaer and not a call center employee so a figure like 70,000 sounds really big to me

3:10 AM  
AMD said...

Managers at Call Centres are one of the hardest vacancies to fill. The employee needs to know about calling, and at the same time, needs to be able to manage. 70k a month is not at all too high for a manager at a large call centre. the 40k as starting seems to high though. What Iv seen in the last 7 yrs since I started my business in India, is that people start out at low salaries, but the salary jumps are a lot faster that evne the 15-20% increments people assume

5:54 AM  
pH said...

Just to set some bearings, a typical Call Centre Customer Service Officer takes home about Rupees 15k per month. A Tech Support Engineer (typically a BE or MCSE- certified prifile) takes home about Rupees 25-40K per month.

One would become a Team Lead with about four and half years of Call Centre work-ex, earning Rupees 25-50K per month.

20k USD @46 Rupees to the USD is about Rupees 920,000 that's what a Call Centre Manager would earn.

1:32 PM  
Brunda K said...

Freshers start with 8-10K depending on the company. I would like to hear the opinion of the group on the Call Center stuff..To me it does look like most of the students are paying little attention to their education and are happier working at call center (no offence intended at all). Assuming that daughter of mango farmer finished her degree, the situation probably would have been different.

Not long ago, the salaries were directly proportional to the level of education. These days, thats not required. In call centers, freshers are trained to hone their spoken English and accent. Then they are given an identity (random names) to make sure that they are western enough.. With that they are in job..

I understand, to some families the industry is a boon.. but I still cannot overlook the fact that quite a few of students are quitting education right after their Bachelors...

4:51 PM  
pennathur said...

Backlash against the industry? What sort of backlash are you talking of?

10:08 PM  
Amardeep said...

I specifically meant call-center work, not BPO in general. Sorry if there was any confusion on that point. (The article itself is somewhat confusing on this...)

My own knowledge of the growing dislike for call-center work is basically anecdotal, but there are some examples of that in the article as well.

12:05 PM  
Kamla said...

In the last two years I visited call centers and spent time talking to people in Bangalore, Delhi and Bombay for a couple of stories that I wrote. Besides call center reps I also spoke to CEOs, VCs, drivers, team leaders, caterers, bar owners, etc. The whole nine yards.

Here is what I discovered. The pay scale for call center workers varies depending upon the company they work for. For instance, smaller companies tend to pay Rs. 6000 to Rs. 8000 for freshers, and bigger companies tend to pay a bit more. If you factor in the work experience of a call center worker then their salary tends to go up. For instance, people who migrated from the hospitality industry to call center business start off as managers and team leaders and these folks get paid Rs. 50,000 and above per month. I met a couple who had migrated from the hospitality sector and were pulling in over Rs 1 lakh per month between them.

The point is that you need to disaggregate the catch-all phrase/ term call center worker and look at other variables like education, prior experience and language skills (English) that influence their pay scale.

In the last few months the salaries for many call center workers have gone up. I am trying to find out by what percentage it has gone up.

Many of these young workers live with their parents. So they don't pay any rent. Most of them don't pay for transportation since companies provide it. But, day workers have to find their own transportation. Many companies have canteens and cafeteria that provide food. The point is that the disposable income that these young workers have is high. Therefore going to pubs, bars or discs (as discos are referred in Bombay) are popular hang-out places. If you go to any five star hotel with a disc don't be surprised if you see a long line of young BPO workers waiting to dance the night away.

But, like in any group there are some members who are very responsible and save their money for higher education or buy homes.

It is a mixed bag.


10:20 AM  

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