India’s call centres to invest in skills education

India’s business process outsourcing (BPO) and call-center industry is willing to invest in government programs that would increase the number of people it trains in skills relevant to the industry.

The BPO and call-center industry is already spending a lot of money on training staff, and is willing to give the money as well as the curriculum to the country’s government-run education system, Pramod Bhasin, head of the BPO forum of the National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom), told reporters.

Bhasin is also the president and chief executive officer of Genpact Ltd., a BPO company in which General Electric Co. has a stake and is a customer.

India’s BPO and call-center industry is estimated to spend an average of about US$600 per year on training each new staffer, said Ameet Nivsarkar, vice president for research at Nasscom in Delhi.

An additional cost for the company is the employee time spent on training, he added. The industry employed 553,000 staff as of March 31.

Staff attrition has emerged as a key problem for the industry, with attrition in some companies as high as 50 percent. The problem could get worse as India’s booming economy is creating jobs in the manufacturing and services sectors.

India’s BPO and call-center industry may start losing some staff to other industries like airlines and retail, said Kiran Karnik, president of Nasscom. Some BPO and call-center staff are already trained in handling processes for industries like airlines, he added.

Faced with a likely lack of staff across all sectors of the Indian economy, the BPO and call-center industry believes that the shortage could be reduced through an improved education system via cooperation between the government and private sector.

Currently, only 10 percent to 15 percent of graduates can be directly employed by the industry without intensive training, according to Nasscom.

Nasscom is setting up finishing schools in association with the federal Ministry of Human Resource Development to supplement graduate education with training in specific technology areas and soft skills. There is an urgent need to improve the entire education system, Bhasin said.

Nasscom also plans to introduce new guidelines and certifications for its member companies in ethics, physical infrastructure, processes and human-resources policies, Bhasin said. “We want to raise the bar for the industry as it enters into its next phase,” Karnik said.

The certifications will be administered by an independent organization.

Nasscom has already set up a watchdog organization that is focused on the introduction and monitoring of best data security and privacy practices in the country’s IT services, call-center and BPO industries.

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