|Tucked away in a narrow lane off SV Road
in Goregaon in a three-storey cream-coloured building is a 950-sq
ft business process outsourcing (BPO) unit.
A spacious room in the building is filled with eight bays-files,
computers, and knick-knacks on each of the 64 desks.
The 256-odd employees are busy replying to customer calls. But
instead of speaking English in the much-ridiculed firang accent,
they are actually interacting with customers in India's regional
languages. The buzz in the room is a mix of Marathi, Gujarati, Assamese
This BPO unit is no pathbreaker. It is one among many that are
now looking at tapping the domestic market, thereby opening career
doors for millions of educated Indians from non-English speaking
Take the case of 20-year-old R Rukmini. The bespectacled, gangly
second-year arts student works in a BPO in Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu.
For a monthly salary of Rs 8,500, Rukmini spends her evenings Monday
to Friday taking customer calls, expertly balancing her work with
But before she joined here, Rukmini was worried about the restrictions
her Tamil-based education placed on her job prospects. She thought
she would have to go for extra coaching to polish her rudimentary
English and become employable.
Soothing her worries, the domestic BPO gave her the opportunity
to build a career in the language that she has been familiar with
for the last 14-15 years of her life. Till recently, fluent English
was required for a decent call centre job. Those with fluency in
foreign languages such as French, German, Korean and Spanish, among
others, were in greater demand. Much has changed, with the BPO industry,
growing at 35-40% annually, now taking seriously the 15 Indian languages
printed on any Rs 100 note.
Driving this trend is a surge in sectors such as telecom, banking,
insurance, financial services, and retail, which are the top clients
of domestic BPOs.
N K Srikanth, the head of operations at domestic BPO MphasiS, says
the telecom industry adds millions of subscribers annually. "These
companies need people proficient in local languages to deal with
customers across regions within India. So the demand for people
well-versed in regional languages is increasing," he adds.
Customers from non-urban areas prefer speaking in their local language,
points out Radhika Balasubramanian, the chief operating officer
(domestic BPO), Intelenet Global Services. "People fluent in
regional languages ensure a better rapport with customers."
Intelenet has about 15,000 employees in 13 centres. Estimated at
$1.6 billion, the domestic BPO market has over 50 big and small
players. It employs more than 5 lakh people, a workforce that the
industry experts see swelling by at least 50% annually in the near
future as domestic BPO players are fast expanding their base.
The $200 million Aegis Services BPO, which has nine centres, is
planning three to four new units annually in the next few years.
Managing director and chief executive Aparup Sengupta expects the
company's client base of 78 to grow at 30-40% every year. "This
means a monthly addition of an average of 500 people to our employee
base of 16,000," he says.
This fiscal, Infovision Group would add about 5,000 people to its
workforce of 10,500. According to founder and MD Aditya Gupta, this
fiscal, the company would add four new centres to the existing 23.
MphasiS domestic BPO operations, which has 7,000 employees, would
grow its workforce by 50% annually over the next few years, says
Srikanth. "We have six centres, and will add more in tier-III
areas such as Indore, Bellary and Hubli in Karnataka."
This means opportunities for regional language speakers with minimum
10+2 education and basic English and computer skills in tier-III
and IV towns. Srikanth says that as much as 40%
of its employees are non-graduates, mostly from non-English backgrounds.
The catch, however, is that these regional language-speaking employees
get lower salaries compared to their English-speaking counterparts.
The billing rate for domestic clients is about 20% lower than that
for international clients, says Infovision's Gupta. "Hence,
the salaries of employees servicing domestic clients are 20-40%
lower than those who service international clients." Not that
the employees are complaining. A starting salary of Rs 7,000-10,500
for customer service executives in domestic BPOs is no chickenfeed.