“You illiterate Indians have no brains. I have no time for the lot of you. F**k off!”
These are just some of the racist abuses hurled at BPO employees every day. Worse, they are expected to cheerfully wish their abuser a good day.
The world of the young and often straight-out-of-college call centre workers might be fast and loaded with money. But it also exposes them to the worst of racist slurs from the citizens of developed countries.
At the receiving end
“Racial abuse is a job hazard that most employees have to deal with,” a report on the Global South Research Group survey had said. “Either you live with it or opt out,” says Gurgaon-based call centre employee Rakesh Gulati, aka ‘Ricky’.
Vandana Raj Nath, who works with a Noida-based company, adds, “I have to Americanise my accent so that my client is comfortable speaking with me and does not guess that I’m Indian. Some of them don’t like dealing with Indians.”
But callers from the West aren’t the only ones who resort to racist comments. The director of Australian research organisation, allcentres.net, had said the same for Australians, too. An employee with Intellicom, however, says incidents of racist abuse are going down. “It might happen in outbound services such as telemarketing, but not in an inbound environment,” he says.
Rajnish Sawant, an operations manager with a Gurgaon-based BPO, says the reason is the resentment towards outsourcing, which has meant a paucity of jobs for people abroad. “Besides, telemarketing does annoy a lot of people, even at home. This irritation sometimes takes a racist tone,” he adds. Some call centres are helping their employees cope with this with a mute button. “By pressing this button, I can abuse right back and the caller won’t hear a word,” says Mumbai-based Deepti Gulati, 22. “It’s a good way to vent our anger,” she grins.
The other side
“A majority of these people wouldn’t dare say these nasty things in public. But here, they have the advantage of distance and anonymity,” she says . There is the other side too. “Customers who misbehave are in the minority,” says Allaika Arora, an employee with a Noida-based BPO. “Many tell you how fascinating they find India.” That, she adds, often makes up for the racist minority.