This is an anthology of short stories from the life of youngsters working in call centres. In the early years of this decade, if you were an Indian not working in the IT industry but wanting the pleasures of Western life, the best place to be in was an Indian BPO or call centre. With US slowing down, offshoring of business to India became a proven business model and Indian IT companies were too happy to find avenues to supplement their software work. Companies like GE and BA had already proved that back-of-office work from India was possible. The world had realised that here were millions of smart English-speaking Indians ready to work.
As we all know, the IT industry in India started off doing global find-replace during the Y2K times before gradually moving up to high-end work. But we now know that a significant amount of work is routine software maintenance and testing.
BPOs were portrayed as fun jobs where you took up work for a while, did some work in IT-like offices, met pretty women at night, travelled in the office-provided transport, earned good money, had a party and then moved on to other things in life.
The book has a mixture of stories – some good, some ordinary and some very dull. In one of the stories, a BPO agent, a girl, takes a call from Bernard Germain-Love who is never in a good mood. It is mandatory for every agent to address the customer by his last name. The agent tries to smoothen his ruffled feathers by saying his name often, “Mr Germain-Love, I am truly sorry…”, “Mr Germain-Love, I apologise again…” and so on to no avail.
There are many such stories to show how a TSR uses beer to solve a technical support issue; how a kind Christmas act by an agent gets her surprising results; why the agent faces the bomb disposal squad; how the BPO helps when the party runs out of food at 3 a.m.; how three female agents deal with their peeping-Tom neighbour; how five-rupee coins are worth much more when BPO folks go abroad; what are condoms doing in a cab; why mouse balls go missing in the BPO; when Henry meets Sally, the driver Gopal freaks out and so on.
This is a book which a call centre agent would enjoy thoroughly.
(Rupa & Co., 7/16, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110 002.)