The Sunday Times - World
The Sunday Times March 19, 2006
India’s call-centre staff tune in to decadence
Dean Nelson, Delhi
THEY are the young faces and polite voices of India’s economic boom but the country’s growing number of call centre staff handling British and American customer inquiries have a guilty secret.
According to senior police officers and pollsters they are also leading a social revolution against traditional Indian values by having extramarital affairs and taking party drugs.
A survey found that one in five of those questioned had had a workplace affair and that the majority of those were married. In another recent poll one in four call centre staff said they regularly had casual affairs.
The figures present a serious challenge to traditional social conservatism. The revolution is unfolding in India’s high-tech cities, including Delhi, Bangalore, Madras and Chandigarh, where young well paid graduates and newlyweds work long night shifts.
More than 30 large British companies, including Lloyds TSB and Norwich Union, use Indian call centres to handle customer inquiries.
According to insiders the centres are generating a work-hard, play-hard culture where liberal attitudes to sex and club drugs are thriving. The staff work under high pressure and are rewarded with “team-building” parties.
One of India’s most senior police officers said the western companies behind the call centres were causing a breakdown in the fabric of Indian family life.
“The companies should insist on certain standards,” said Shankar Rao, deputy commissioner of Delhi police. “I want to make sure these call centres do not become dens of evil.
“There should be counselling available to make sure the staff live in conformity with society, and not indulging in drugs and sex. They should make sure they do not work more than three nights a week. It’s causing mischief.”