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Indian call centre workers are better: UK Rail Enquiry CEO

Soggins said Indians are better than UK workers, writes Vijay Dutt.

business Updated: Nov 13, 2003 17:28 IST

The row over the shifting of call centres to India by the National Rail Enquiries (NRE) echoed in the House of Commons Transport Sect Committee, where its chief executive Chris Scoggins asserted that the Indian staffers do a better job than those in the UK. This has outraged the Unions but the Rail authorities showed no signs of relenting.

Scoggins giving evidence to MPs on the select committee said that at least half of all the inquiries could be answered in India in the near future. He rubbed salt in the wounds of the British staff when he said: "So far it (the shifting to India) has been very successful.

"The quality is as good as, or in some cases better than the quality of our existing service." He said that this was because the call centre work in India was relatively highly paid and attracted "very high quality staff".

Hindustan Times has learnt that a pilot project in India began eight weeks ago and soon enough most calls will be routed to Bangalore. The Indian staffers are paid less than a sixth of the staff in the UK but in India they are mostly graduates and more qualified than the average operator here.

The Chairman of the NRE told the MPs that the company was under pressure from the Strategic Rail Authority to control costs and the move to India would save £25 million over the five-year period of the contract that starts from next April. But he also said that apart from the financial considerations the other factors included better quality service and reliability there.

But the unions are not convinced. They said Britain's 1700 rail enquiries workers were being treated like "cannon fodder". A passenger group said call centres in India could not possible deal effectively with detailed inquiries about routes in Britain.

An official of Amicus, a major union here, described the move as "idiocy". But the movement of call centres to India would continue with full speed. HSBC announced 4000 job losses in the UK recently with the closure of its call centres in the country. Like it many other major and middle rung companies have moved there call centres to India

The Government's view, as expressed by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, is that if the shifting of call centres to India helps improve the economy and gives better competitive edge to the companies then adjustments to changed business environment and better technology in India will have to be made.

First Published: Nov 13, 2003 14:07 IST