India - Economics
What did the call centers change in India?
Agni Costa demystifies the “image of elephants” to introduce a modern India. For her, call centers illustrate the economic and social changes experienced today, namely salaries, social possibilities, marriage and traditions. From Marília.
Quite a few times we need to make use of customer service lines. To buy, complain, suggest, cancel, change and clear up doubts are just some of the services we carry out when we get in contact with the relationship centers that today, are the best means of communication with companies.
In Brazil, it is possible to state that we are communicating with someone who is in the same country as ours when we make or receive a call with a call center, and the most we can sometimes notice is the accent of someone talking from another region in the country. However, the outsourcing of this type of service to other countries is ever greater in the world.
Lower costs and skilled labor are some of the attractions of this outsourcing. The United States is one of the countries that most uses this practice and one of their main suppliers is India.
With a high level of education, above all due to the Indian Institutes of Technology, Indian labor is favorable for taking care of American needs due to various aspects. Having English as one of its official languages, India has by way of that, a great advantage in the offering of call center services.
With more than a billion inhabitants and a large part of its population of active age, India has always invested in quality education and that gives a great part of that active population a high level of educational qualifications, with a university degree.
The cost of living in the United States is high. Owing to this, the salaries to be paid in the country must cover this cost, and in the majority of cases, people who work in call centers have not had higher education, or that is to say, it is a high cost to keep employees without much education.
In India what happens is the opposite and it is because of this that other countries outsource their services there. The country, with many differences due to the “extinct” caste system, has been trying to ease these differences in the last few years. With a lower cost of living than the United States, India has been offering forms of social ascension by way of various policies. Their gradual commercial opening up and their incentivizing of education are examples of that.
With many differences due to the “extinct” caste system, India has been trying to ease these differences in the last few years.
Initially, the population got its education in Indian universities and went to work in other countries due to the lack of local conditions, which obliged them to adapt to other cultures other than that in which they had been brought up. Today, with the contracting of Indians in their own country there is an increase in the number of qualified people who do not need to leave home to work. That brings many improvements to the life of the Indian population and many changes in the cultural field.
Despite low salaries, when compared to those paid in the United States, the call center jobs offer the possibility of social ascension, since the amount paid is quite large for the low income population of India. An average of starting salaries paid revolves around US$ 500 and after six months reaches an average of US$ 700. By working in call centers, Indians receive special training in taking care of people from other countries. With lessons on the place they will service, they learn about tourist spots, and the traditions of the city, the accent spoken by the population and manage to make the customer believe that he is talking to someone in the next quarter, when receiving a call from another country, even with a very different time zone.
The impossibility of ascension caused by the caste system does not exist today in the more developed cities due to the creation of these and other jobs. Despite that, some Indians still have the caste system very much present in their way of life, and because of that, it is very important for change to occur and bring a new vision to the more traditional Indians and that is being done, to a certain extent, by the call centers, and the changes which happened are quite visible, mainly insofar as women are concerned.
For many years, Indian women lived in a society of a macho nature in which they were obliged to obey orders and they could not work. Families always dreamed of having male children, and when a girl was born, the father started to worry about putting money together to offer a good dowry to whomever he chose as the future husband of his daughter, who had to belong to the same caste.
After getting married, the woman had to live for her husband, obeying and pleasing all the time, apart from having “almost” an obligation to have a male child to show she was graced by the gods. However, in the present scenario of modern India, that is being transformed.
Many families permit their children to study and complete higher education aiming at their own future. Single women already work away from home in the call centers, including on night duty, not letting just the father to provide the family income. Something even more innovative is that those women already have left home and went to live alone, getting an independent life, overcoming the tradition of leaving home at a very young age only to marry. Those new generations of women present in India no longer want an arranged marriage and leave home at the age of twelve or thirteen. They want to study, complete a course of higher education and work to reach financial independence and be able to choose their own husbands, no matter what caste he belongs to.
Single women already work away from home in the call centers, including on night duty, not letting just the father to provide the family income.
However, it is not just the Indians who benefit from this relationship. In his book, The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman expounds how this has happened. He cites that, on entering a large call center in Bangalore, it can be observed that the “operational system of all the computers is Windows, from Microsoft. The processors are from Intel. The telephones are from Lucent. The air-conditioner is Carrier, and even the mineral water is Coca-Cola” (FRIEDMAN, 2009, p. 42). Or rather, despite the transfer of some American jobs to India, the United States still gains much in this relationship: they contract labor from Indian firms and sell their products to be used in the carrying out of the work.
Other countries are entering the branch of call centers and offering competition and the main one is South Africa. Colonized by the English, this country also has the advantage of the English language and has been standing out economically in the last few years, being one of the most developed of the African continent. However, this competition is still potential, not having shown itself in a way of threatening India in the sector and that occurs mainly due to the fact that salaries in South Africa are higher than those paid to Indian employees. Despite being a much smaller country than India and the competition not happening on a large scale, that makes the country always seek to improve the services offered.
The market involving the service sector is one of the most important today and the call centers are responsible for a large part of this market. As we can observe, India is a great power in this branch but it is not just in this that it is specializing. Call centers are just some of the services offered by a country that has been distinguishing itself economically in the last few years. Investments in the area of technology, which involve the development of software, hardware and computer parts, have been solid and India is enjoying great success in this area also and that is also applied to improving the call centers.
Thus, be it with call centers, technology or fine textiles, India stands out greatly today on the international scene and that only tends to grow, mainly in the economy. That India known for elephants is getting left being and what is remembered today are the modern computers, the call centers and Bollywood films.