Have you ever been put through to customer services and wondered how your call ended up at a call centre in India? The mass transfer of call center jobs from Europe and America to India is indeed increasing by the minute. It has demonstrated lower operational costs for companies and provided employment to thousands of Indians however; thousands are also made jobless in countries such as the UK where British companies choose to relocate their jobs. For instance in 2003, Norwich Union declared a cut of 2,350 jobs in the United Kingdom shifting them to India. As for the Indians who go into call centre employment long hours of poorly paid work in stressful conditions is being questioned with regards to their future. It is being considered a dead end with no capacity for individuals to grow and prosper; identical to the sweatshop scenario except people are working with computers and electronic equipment.
From the year 2000 to 2003 the number of call centres in India rose from 50 to 800 with an estimated 50% reduction in operating costs for MNC’s as compared to Europe and America. According to many, call centres are a form of exploitation where English speaking Indians with an undergraduate degree are trapped in low-value-addition work. A large number or workers suffer from sleeplessness, anxiety, depression and ear infections. Despite India’s English speaking traditions the demand for a neutral global accent is causing Indian workers in the call centre industry to be suffering from a crisis of identity. Primarily, workers in the Indian call centers were trained to speak in specifically British or American accents but a more neutral global accent is being emphasized upon which would allow workers to serve a large range of markets making them more versatile without extra training. This mandate for a globalised accent has led to specialized institutes which generate the neutralization of accents. Many are arguing that such practices are leading to a loss of culture amongst Indians and creating a globalisation booster which only benefits International companies at the expense of culturally displacing its workers.
Titles are changed as workers replace their Indian names such as Akhil to more Western names such as Sean. Locations are altered as workers are told to proclaim to customers they are calling from California and not India. What an animating paradox of international companies reaping the benefits of low cost labour whilst stripping them off Indian culture and their actual identity. This form of Western imperialism has managed to improve employment statistics in India but failed to recognise the losers who are made jobless in home countries along with no tangible future for Indian call centre workers.