The World Cup cricket matches unfolding over the next few weeks could have posed a dilemma for India’s half a million business process outsourcing (BPO) workers, especially those who are die-hard fans of Team India: To call in sick or call outbound?
Luckily for them, many of the major BPOs have made arrangements so that employees won’t have to make such a choice. From installing large screens in the canteen to running tickers with the latest score in work areas, the attrition-plagued sector that often bends over backwards to retain employees isn’t missing the opportunity to lighten the mood during the World Cup.
At Bangalore-based 24/7, a large provider of call-centre services, plasma screens have been set up in the offices, along with the tickers. Each of the company’s 20 clients will have teams divided by the countries workers are backing.
“Whoever wins will get small gifts from the company,” said chief operating officer Shanmugan Natarajan.
Similar incentives will be offered at Mumbai-based WNS Global, which employs 13,000 people in Mumbai, Pune and Delhi. About a fifth, or 3,600 workers, do the night shift.
“We will be giving out on-the-spot gifts like key chains and squeeze balls to people whose team wins,” said Smita Gaikwad, WNS spokeswoman.
The company has also asked its event manager to paint employees’ faces. A 10x10 screen is being set up in the canteen, along with miniature bats, balls and world flags.
The festive atmosphere is common in many BPOs, bastions of young, partying employees, who jump from one employer to another in search of better opportunities, which could be an elevated job profile, higher salary, tastier food or more efficient transport. According to the industry trade group, National Association of Software and Service Companies, attrition rates at voice call centres can hover between 55% and 70%. Because the employees work on western schedules and calendars, they might get off for Christmas, but not for Indian festivals. So Diwali might mean a DJ dance party and Karva Chauth might mean fasts broken in front of husband’s photo. Human-resource experts say BPOs are trying to ensure their workers, especially those on the overnight shift, participate in the country’s World Cup mania.
“India is a cricket country,” said Santhosh Babu, who runs a training consultancy and works often with BPOs. “Whether young or old, they don’t want to be left out.” Others say celebrations will differ from office to office. ICICI Onesource has 11 centres in India with 11,500 employees. “Each of the centres has been given the freedom to celebrate the World Cup as the crowd there wants,” said Vrinda Walavalkar, spokeswoman of the company. “But we do have quizzes and lucky draws, etc.”
In cricket-crazy Kolkata, home of former captain Sourav Ganguly, Genpact is hosting an internal competition, known as the “War of the Selectors”. Participants formulate three virtual teams, and the employee with the most points wins.
HCL’s BPO division and its five centres in Noida have each been divided into teams and will actually play each other.
“We have booked a ground in Noida and will be playing day matches with our own teams on weekends,” said Shruti Shukla, an HCL employee. The employees also have a big party to look forward to at the end of the tournament in mid-April. Of course, some companies say they will sit out of the party: “Officially, I would not like to be involved in my workers all watching the cricket World Cup,” said Randip Singh, head of Entente Global Info Solution, an information technology outsourcing outfit in New Delhi. “If they do not concentrate, some companies could lose a lot of money.”