English is one of the official languages of India, and there are a large number of people in the big cities and towns of India who possess a good command over the English language. Today, call centers employ a large number of students and young people from cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Bangalore. Delhi is a major BPO hub of India, and call centers provide employment to almost a million people in India.
America and India are located on the opposite sides of the globe, and there is a major time difference between the two countries. Call centers operate in the night, and so people engaged in BPO jobs invariably need to work during the night and sleep during the day. People working in the BPO industry, especially call centre employees, live in a world of their own, and as they are employed by American firms, they try to be as American as they can.
Call centre employees drop their Indian names like ‘Ravindra’ and adopt conventional names like ‘Ron’. They take a long course in American history and spend months trying to master the American accent. Most well-educated Indians speak British English, but the British accent is not acceptable to the US firms and Indians working for BPO companies work hard to speak like an American. They read American news, try to understand American sports, and follow the lives of Hollywood celebrities. This training helps them build a rapport with the American consumers.
The corporate culture of India is very different from that of the US firms: elders are usually respected in India, and employees in Indian firms rarely call their superiors by their first name. But once you join a BPO firm, you are part of an American company. So, the lowliest employee in a BPO company addresses his boss by his first name, and in most cases, the name is an Americanized version of the Indian name.
Most BPO firms do not insist on formal dresses, and so most employees wear jeans to the office. Employees of BPO firms are paid well (by Indian standards), and they spend their money on US products: Coke, McDonalds burgers or KFC chickens, Levis jeans, Dell laptops, and iPhone mobiles. Also, as they are technically working for US companies, they don’t get holidays for India festivals, but they get a day off whenever a public holiday is announced in America.
BPO jobs pay well, but they take a toll on one’s body and mind. As a call centre employee in India, you are an American during the night, but you are an Indian with a headache when the sun rises.