How Call Centers 'De-Indianize' Workers

The allure of wealth drives call-center workers to shed culture
By Sarah Whitmire,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 10, 2011 4:50 PM CDT
An employee of business process outsourcing company Convergys Corp. speaks with a client, in Gurgaon, a suburb of New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2007.   (AP Photo/Gurinder Osan)

(Newser) – A salary of $5,000 per year may not sound like a lot, but in India, where per-capita income is just $900 per year, such a wage is highly desirable. That's why the systematic outsourcing of many customer service and sales lines to India, where US companies are more than happy to pay $2 per hour, has created a booming market for the possibly millions of applicants competing for call center jobs. New York native Andrew Marantz recounts his summer training to be a call center employee in Mother Jones, noting that prospective workers must shed their accents and abandon their culture.

Marantz experienced what he called a process of "de-Indianization" in his weeks of training. "Culture trainers" instruct call-center applicants to listen to American pop music, eat fast food, and choose a Western name for identification on calls. They learn to use American idioms and pop culture references, and to deal with hot-headed and sometimes racist callers. But surveys show the emerging Indian middle class is not necessarily happier, even after moving out of poverty, and Marantz found some of his co-workers to be disillusioned and "too westernized to be happy in India."

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