25 July, 2021

The Night-Errant

BPOs... Despite the screeching Qualises, fake accents and all, this sunrise industry gave us a bustling netherworld. The worry, though: what when it shifts house?

Tribhuvan Tiwari
The Night-Errant
Every evening, at 5.15 pm, the white taxis start driving, one by one, through the gates of Global Vantedge. Seven hundred smartly dressed young men and women get out, and get frisked. A sign on the wall informs them that iPods, cameras, diskettes and flash memory drives are not allowed inside this high-security world. By 5.30 pm, as America opens its bleary eyes, the employees of one of India's largest business process outsourcing (BPO) firms are at their desks, ready and waiting to dial.

Consider a life measured out in eight-hour shifts, finishing either late at night or in the early hours of the morning. Where one shift entails calling 300-400 Americans or Europeans, many of them furious at having to discuss their cellphone troubles or credit card bills with someone in India. You negotiate the unusual hours that your job demands, sacrificing your life with family and friends. Yet, outsiders perceive the work you do as somehow unskilled—a job anyone can do. The secretive nature of the BPO industry fuels these misperceptions. Few know what...

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