Like the latest perfume from Christian Dior? Pick it up and head for the payment counter without flinching at the price. Hungry in the dead of night and not in the mood to rustle up something? Don’t worry, for your galiwallah bhaiya dishes out the most amazing omlette or paranthas at dirt-cheap prices. Welcome to the world of call centre lifestyle. Delhi’s suburbs are certainly thriving with the young and the restless taking advantage of the BPO boom.
Despite harbingers of doom crying out hoarse that business process outsourcing (BPOs) in India is just a phase that will fizzle out, those sky-rise buildings with tinted windowpanes beckon thousands of youngsters from all corners of the country and beyond.
Slowly, the urban landscape is changing. And how! Chai stalls became parantha and Maggi shops, designer stores flourish as cabs ferry youngsters to and from call centres day and night. Forget what they say about long hours and strict working conditions, health hazards and being stuck with colleagues all the time; it’s all about the money, honey! In a system where job opportunities don’t come easy, fresh graduates are earning nearly as much as their engineer or doctor friends.
Picture this: a starting salary of Rs 14,000, living with a bunch of friends, food on shifts, free conveyance and, to top it all off, belonging to an age group where parents don’t expect you to send money home. Now you see why youngsters make a beeline for this industry. Says Shouvik Basu, manager at one of the leading call centres, “For fresh graduates with no skills, call centres not only make them financially independent, but also give them self-esteem. No other profession or government job pays so much.”
“Hanging out with the same crowd is not as dull as many think. It is an added advantage,” says Sakshi Dua, who has been working at a call centre for over a year. “Networking helps. We get to know the latest openings and the current market rates. Even gossip.” For many, call centres are great for a transition period — a place to earn money while figuring out what the future holds for them. Some have stopped kidding themselves and are concentrating on bettering their performances to climb up the call centre ladder. “I plan to complete my masters in history, but have not gotten round to do it yet,” says another call centre worker.
Many may click their tongue in disapproval at these youngsters raking in the moolah, but do they want call centres to vanish from the city? Our Maggiwallah will have to shut down shop, which means no plate of steaming hot street food for late-night movie-goers. Shop owners at malls would be grumpy, your distant cousin from Amritsar would have to wait to graduate from medical college before earning a decent pay and parties at pubs and discos would drag on without those bursts of laughter and guffaws.
We live the change they have brought with them. We see them nodding off to catch some stolen winks, their sleepy faces plastered on the cab window; we see these well-dressed youngsters stalling the shopping arcades. And as for the prophets of doom who say there is no future for BPOs, clearly, they have not been to the suburbs of Delhi — Gurgaon and Noida — where life begins after midnight.