Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Indian Mobile Company to Hire Call Center in Africa

By ORUOGHOR ALEN, Business Writer

25th Sept 2009, Lagos, Nigeria. A major player in the Indian mobile communication industry is reported to be in talks with a call center operator based in Nigeria. The plan is to outsource domestic calls generated in India to the call center in Abuja. Sam Obayojie the CEO of Capital Talk Systems, with offices in Lagos and Abuja, said, "We will give good training to our staff and inform them about India culture", in his broken English.

Capital Talk Systems plans to hire about 200 locals and train them to speak in fluent English and basics of Indian culture to help them effectively interact with Indian customers. To prevent a cultural shock for Indian's dialing the mobile companies call center, the Nigerian staff would be given Indian names and would say they are based in Mumbai and also mention they had "vada pav" for breakfast, a popular snack in Mumbai. Initially only customers who have opted of English as the language on the interactive voice response system (IVRS) would be transfer to the call center in Abuja.

With this move, the mobile company plans to save an estimated Rs 2 crore in call center operations currently situated in the expensive Indian city of Mumbai, where call center executives fluent in English command higher than average salaries and switch jobs every six months.

Repeated phone calls and emails to the mobile company's top executives remained unanswered. The PR company handling the mobile companies accounts refused to comment as they had no information about this deal. One executive when contacted commented, "yes, we are in talks with them", but refused to give any additional information about the deal, and declined to be quoted as he was not authorized to speak with the press.

Mr TVSSRCV Rao, president of Call Center Owners and Operators Association of India expressed is disbelief and displeasure when told about the move. He said more such deals would adversely affect the call center industry in India and said that his association would lobby with the government to ban such deals happening in the future. He feared that such deals will lead to large scale unemployment among English speaking teenagers entering the job market and would discourage students in school to learn English. He said that Nigerians would not be able to understand an Indians' English accent and Indians' would have problems understanding African accents. He said that there were a lot of cultural differences in India and Africa to make this work. When told that Indian call centers were doing good with business with US companies, which has a totally different culture than India, he said in an annoyed voice, Africans would take time to learn the Indian culture.

Shares of both the companies jumped upon hearing the news. Shares of the Lagos based company jumped by 5% in the Nairobi stock exchange and shares of the mobile company jumped 6% in BSE interday trading after rumors of the deal spread in the morning.

Analyst expect Africa to be Worlds next China and expect more such deals in the future. Another analyst of a leading stock broking firm following the mobile company said that he expects Indians dialing the call center to encounter the same frustrations US citizens encountered when they dialed the local numbers only to be transfer to an Indian call center. He said, it would take some time for the call centers to stream line their operations and reduce error rates.

(Oruoghor Alen from Lagos office, Deepak Roysharma and Rema Singh from our Chennai office also contributed to this story.)