How Indian BPOs cheat foreigners
It’s about 5pm. Backpack-laden young men and women pour out of cabs and auto-rickshaws and take a lift to the sixth-floor call centre of Saburi TLC, past a company motto inscribed in bright orange, “If you work only for money, you will never make it”. In 15 minutes, they diffuse into a maze of blue-and-white cubicles where they will spend the next eight hours with a computer, a desk phone and a pair of black headphones. There are hundreds of similar call centres in the neighbourhood. But Saburi TLC is different, a shadowy outfit accused of being among the biggest players in a thriving tech-support fraud that cons unsuspecting foreigners into buying expensive security software for their perfectly normal computers. The charges against Saburi TLC are just the tip of a growing rot in India’s $110-billion business process outsourcing (BPO) industry that is being potentially hollowed out by fraud businesses thriving in the absence of strong regulation and oversight. “Anyone doing bad things is not good for us because the impression gets generalised. In the mind of those affected by the scam it’s not a company or a person, it becomes a country,” says Raman Roy, chairman of India’s main IT industry lobby NASSCOM.