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My summer with an indian call center


The NZA
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Call centers don't trust Indian infrastructure, as well they shouldn't, so the company cab—typically a white Toyota Qualis—has become a standard industry perk. This morning a class of 24 new hires, myself included, will be ferried from all corners of the city to the offices of a small firm named Delhi Call Centre. For three weeks, a culture trainer will teach us conversational skills, Australian pop culture, and the terms of the mobile-phone contracts we'll be peddling. Those of us who pass the training course will graduate to the calling floor. Our first job at DCC will be to interrupt Australians at dinner and ask them to switch phone providers. In the Delhi area alone, maybe 100,000 call-center agents make their living selling vitamins to Britons or helping Americans troubleshoot their printers. I am almost certainly the only one who acquired his conversational skills accidentally—by being born in the United States.

 

Call-center employees gain their financial independence at the risk of an identity crisis. A BPO salary is contingent on the worker's ability to de-Indianize: to adopt a Western name and accent and, to some extent, attitude. Aping Western culture has long been fashionable; in the call-center classroom, it's company policy. Agents know that their jobs only exist because of the low value the world market ascribes to Indian labor. The more they embrace the logic of global capitalism, the more they must confront the notion that they are worth less.

 

Most customers are well-behaved, they assured me. Still, each agent had a stockpile of best- and worst-call anecdotes. "I remember quite well this guy who just called me up and said out of nowhere, 'You fucking Paki,'" Arnab told me during a break. "We don't take those things personally; it's part of the job. So I just said, very calmly, 'Yes sir, if I am a Paki, then this Paki would be helping you fix your computer.' By the end of the call, he apologized and gave me a five-star feedback rating."

 

Arnab told me he had come to view culture training as an inept attempt at brainwashing. "Yes, we were asked to hate everything Indian and love everything Western, but we never really took it seriously," he said. The trainers asked him to eat American fast food and listen to American music, even on weekends. One BPO installed an American-style water fountain, which confounded the employees. "But that hardly took the Indian out of us."

 

"Just stating facts, guys," Lekha began, as we scribbled notes, "Australia is known as the dumbest continent. Literally, college was unknown there until recently. So speak slowly." Next to me, a young man in a turban wrote No college in his notebook.

 

"Technologically speaking, they're somewhat backward, as well. The average person's mobile would be no better than, say, a Nokia 3110 classic." This drew scoffs from around the room.

 

"Australians drink constantly," Lekha continued. "If you call on a Friday night, they'll be smashed—every time. Oh, and don't attempt to make small talk with them about their pets, okay? They can be quite touchy about animals."

 

"What kind of people are there in Australia?" a trainee asked. "What are their traits?"

"Well, for one thing," Lekha said, "let's admit: They are quite racist. They do not like Indians. Their preferred term for us is—please don't mind, ladies—'brown bastards.' So if you hear that kind of language, you can just hang up the call."

Thus ended our lesson in Australian sociology. We moved on to geography. Lekha drew a circle on the board and carved it into portions. "Now, I suppose we all know Australia is divided into six states?" I was the only person, it seemed, who did not know this. After 10 minutes, everyone except me understood Australia's geography, so we moved on to brainstorming "English aliases." At work, Lekha explained, we would answer to non-Indian names—"except Andrew can stick with Andrew."

 

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They really nailed the place, except that some of them can afford nicer phones as long as they're financially supported by their wives. I take for granted that it's illegal for people to randomly call you and sell you shit here. No-call list muthafucka.

 

But yeah, Outsourced. The show and movie illustrate this weird western culture indoctrination thing.

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Agree to it being better than the movie, which was a bit of a RomCom. Because of it's time slot I ended up watching every episode, but it just didn't feel up to par with the other shows around it. Apparently it had quite a following (according to the internets and the outrage at it's cancellation).

It was much better than that Olivia Munn sitcom that they played like half a dozen times. But that's cancelled too. In a move that's in and of itself hilarious, they replaced it with The Paul Reiser Show, which after 2 episodes was their lowest rated show of all time, and was promptly pulled.

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:weep:

 

I rather enjoyed it and liked it better than the movie...oh well, it was nice while it lasted, I guess...

Yeah, I dug the show at first as well. I watched the film based on the show and it was rather meh. I kind of lost interest in the show as well though. I've still got 8 or 9 episodes left unwatched on my HD. :/

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I caught the Halloween episode of Outsourced once and it didn't do anything for me. Kinda like a poor man's Parks & Rec (which is just a poor man's Office). I did remind me of that scene in Slumdog, though.

 

Shut your whore mouth! PNR came later, but it's leagues ahead of The Office, which was spinning it's wheels from about season 4 right up til Will Ferrel walked in. Anything involving Ron Swanson is automatically better than 85% of anything else on tv or in cinemas.

 

Re subject at hand though, yes we're drunks, haven't seen outsourced and am about to read the article.

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Shut your whore mouth! PNR came later, but it's leagues ahead of The Office, which was spinning it's wheels from about season 4 right up til Will Ferrel walked in. Anything involving Ron Swanson is automatically better than 85% of anything else on tv or in cinemas.

 

Re subject at hand though, yes we're drunks, haven't seen outsourced and am about to read the article.

 

co-signed.

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