Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Saturday, Feb 11, 2006
Google



Metro Plus Bangalore
Published on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays

Features: Magazine | Literary Review | Life | Metro Plus | Open Page | Education Plus | Book Review | Business | SciTech | Entertainment | Young World | Property Plus | Quest | Folio |

Metro Plus    Bangalore    Chennai    Coimbatore    Delhi    Hyderabad    Kochi    Madurai    Mangalore    Pondicherry    Tiruchirapalli    Thiruvananthapuram    Vijayawada    Visakhapatnam   

Printer Friendly Page Send this Article to a Friend

Who's calling?

BBC's reality show on call centres brings into focus the human side of the industry

Photo: Shaju John

NEW VIEW Call Centre is the first reality show on the service industry

"I say a company with outsourced customer support only proves to me that it tolerates providing poor service. On top of that they are willing to delegate their relationship with me to a third party," says one respondent in a survey reported by news.bbc.co.uk, conducted across 166 call centres in 24 countries and five continents. Yet another talks about how, when her car was hit by a joyrider, she had to move heaven and earth to get help because the call centre staff did not understand the term "joyrider". Among the sample of responses presented on the site, you won't find a single one that has something favourable to say about the outsourcing industry.

Now a BBC reality show on the industry — simply called Call Centre — might help view the beleaguered service sector in a different light. The seven-part "observational business reality show" tracks two call centre employees, and through their personalised perspectives, hopes to offer a more humane view of the industry itself.

Lifting the veil

At the preview of the first episode of Call Centre, Niret and Manira Alva of Miditech talked about what prompted them to produce a first-of-its-kind reality show. "We wanted to lift the veil off what happens in big, exciting buildings, apparently out of sync with the rest of the world," said Manira. While this "urban tribe" was material for a good anthropological study, all the hot debates that surrounded the industry made it extremely newsworthy too.

Call Centre focuses on two professionals in the Bangalore call centre, 24/7 Customer — Shalini Kalra, a manager, and Karthik Rangan, a new recruit. The first episode opens with Karthik, an electronics engineer by qualification, going for a job interview. After brief chats with his family members (who talk about what a fantastic cricketer he is), the camera follows him to the long interview queue at the call centre, which has even a practising dentist along its winding route.

Shalini, meanwhile, is finishing a few household chores, which seems to involve watering plants and feeding her pug. Trained to be a civil engineer, she, the narrator says, is the "new face of Indian workforce": female, single, focused. As the rest of the world gets ready to return home, Shalini is all set for office and whatever challenges might come her way through the night and early morning hours: wrong accents, irritable bosses, hurricane in the U.S...

The camera cuts to show Karthik face a tough accent-testing session ("Yellow, not yellow) and aptitude test discussion (where he talks about how the Internet has helped alleviate illiteracy and poverty in India). The episode ends with an ecstatic Karthik getting the job.

The first episode of Call Centre seems to offer a rather rosy picture of the sunrise industry: of a newfound confidence and a dream coming true. But the "dispassionate" camera, through a series of juxtapositions, does manage to offer an interesting contrast between the somewhat naοve aspirations of a middle-class youngster and the clinical and calculative ways of his workplace.

Niret and Manira promised that the coming episodes will offer a nuanced perspective, bringing into focus all the debates that the industry has provoked even within India: unearthly work hours, contentious modes and terms of employment and cultural ramifications of a profession that forces a foreign accent on an employee... These, said Niret, will come in the form of expert interviews with people such as Kiran Karnik and Brinda Karat.

Miditech originally planned a show with a sociological perspective, but finally settled for a slot on the business loop (it's part of the India Business Report strand). Did this mean sacrificing an entire range of explorations? "No, no, we haven't sacrificed anything!" Niret was quick to say. "And we haven't given up on the idea of making the sociological documentary. That too might happen, some day."

(The first episode of Call Centre will be on BBC tomorrow at 11 a.m. and again at 10 p.m.)

BAGESHREE S.

Printer friendly page  
Send this article to Friends by E-Mail



Metro Plus    Bangalore    Chennai    Coimbatore    Delhi    Hyderabad    Kochi    Madurai    Mangalore    Pondicherry    Tiruchirapalli    Thiruvananthapuram    Vijayawada    Visakhapatnam   

Features: Magazine | Literary Review | Life | Metro Plus | Open Page | Education Plus | Book Review | Business | SciTech | Entertainment | Young World | Property Plus | Quest | Folio |



The Hindu Group: Home | About Us | Copyright | Archives | Contacts | Subscription
Group Sites: The Hindu | Business Line | Sportstar | Frontline | Publications | eBooks | Images | Home |

Comments to : thehindu@vsnl.com   Copyright © 2006, The Hindu
Republication or redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of The Hindu