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'Working in a call centre is bonded labour'

Customer care executives and other staff working in J&K's call centres are a frustrated lot, reports Faisul Yaseen.

india Updated: Nov 30, 2006 19:27 IST

The world of call centres in Jammu and Kashmir is not goody-goody like the one in different Indian cities. Midnight coffees, birthday bumps, accentuated English, dashing clothes, irate customers, FM in cabs, so much money, late night parties, mugs of beer, crush on colleagues, fight for appraisals, diehard friendship, tears for love, nothing missing, just everything, people call it call centre, we call it life.

This is how customer care executives and the other technical and non-technical staff working in call centres in different Indian cities proudly talk about their work. However, when it comes to Jammu and Kashmir, the youth working here have nothing to brag.

No promised meals, so little salaries, loads of work, extended late night shifts, no holidays on weekends, no regular pick and drop facility, everything missing, just nothing is all they get and add to it receiving irate customers for the pathetic services different Indian companies operating in call centres provide in J&K.

Aijaz Ahmad, a resident of Srinagar suburbs at Rawalpora, left a job in Wipro, a leading software company in India, at New Delhi, to return to work in his hometown when he heard one of India's leading telecom service providers, Airtel, was opening its call centre at Srinagar.

"Having an experience of working in Wipro, I knew I'll get through the initial screening. The interviewers selected me for my experience. But I was shocked when I learnt about the salary package on offer.

"A customer care executive in Kashmir is given a mediocre salary ranging between Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 5,000 in Airtel, which is one-sixth to one-eighth the salary the company offers in different Indian cities where they get around Rs 18,000 to Rs 25,000 and even more," said Aijaz, who turned down the offer. "I would better sit idle than be exploited and work for peanuts," he added.

Priyanka Mehta (name changed) is working at Jammu for Aircel, another leading telecom service provider in India. Since her four months association with the company she has developed stress related psychiatric ailments.

"I'm on a look out for a replacement job. As soon as I get one, I will quit Aircel. I will never work in a call centre. The authorities here treat us like bonded labour. We were promised meals during work hours, which we're not getting.

"We were promised pick and drop service from our homes. Instead today we're asked to foot distances upto bus stops wherefrom the cabs pick us. We were promised incentives for delivering quality work. Instead we get salary cuts for absolutely no reason. Besides, salaries don't come
on due dates," she alleged about the company.

Priyanka also informed that when she appeared in the interview for the Aircel, she was promised a basic salary of Rs 4,000 plus incentives.

"This we were told would make up around Rs 7,500 salary per month. Today they even cut, and I don't know what taxes are cut from our basic salary," Priyanka alleged saying she was getting frustrated working at the call centre.

The customer care executives are told not to let the average handing time (AHT) go beyond three minutes, talk nicely to a customer (caller) even if s/he is rude, take the diktats of the team leaders even if they are wrong and getting promotion all depends on those team leaders
and the quality analysts.

"Working in a call centre is bonded labour in the 21st century," said Deepak (name changed), another customer care executive working for Airtel at Jammu.

First Published: Nov 30, 2006 19:27 IST