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Transformed Workplaces (2:27) Excerpt from film "1-800-INDIA" September 2005
A new influx of young, mostly female workers into India's outsourcing industries is transforming the Indian workplace.

Country: India
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    Guiding Questions
    1. What is a BPO business?

    2. Which aspect of India's colonial legacy is now advancing millions of Indian workers into the middle class?

    3. How has employment with a BPO created new roles for Renuka and Santosh?

    4. What does this film clip suggest about the ability of economic forces to bring about social change?

    Background Essay
    About half of all Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) workers are women. This clip follows two employees of Gecis, a BPO in India, as they discuss the circumstances that brought them to their positions and the advantages of working for a BPO.

    A major component of India's rapid economic growth at the turn of the 21st century is its emergence as a leader in the global market for "outsourcing" jobs. Outsourcing refers to a business practice whereby certain business functions are moved out of a company and instead are supplied by external businesses. These external suppliers can be in the same country as the head business office, but often they are located in other countries - particularly in countries where labor and real estate is relatively inexpensive. The widespread outsourcing of jobs to less industrialized countries has spurred economic growth in many areas of the world. Starting in the late 20th century, thousands of outsourcing businesses - providing services as varied as customer telephone support, product design, and manufacturing - have expanded across the globe.

    In India, companies that provide services to multinational corporations are commonly referred to as Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies. India's past and future are connected by these BPO businesses. India was formerly a British colony, and the colonial legacy of English-speaking education has produced millions of English-speaking Indian workers. These young Indians are now securing BPO jobs and moving into the middle class. And they are changing the face of the country.

    A dramatic and personal film, "1-800-INDIA" explores the experience of young Indian men and women who have been recruited into these new jobs requiring long hours, night shifts, and westernized work habits. The film reveals the human and cultural impact of a sweeping global trend, exploring its effect on Indian family life, on the evolving landscape of Indian cities and towns, and on the aspirations and daily lives of young Indians, especially women, entering the work force.

    "1-800-INDIA" highlights an effect of globalization, illustrating how "factors of production" (the labor and resources needed to produce goods and services) can be dislocated from their intended recipients. In the United States, outsourcing has come under debate, as some Americans have argued that the practice harms the domestic economy by taking jobs away from American workers. There are other criticisms of outsourcing, including complaints that it exploits lower-paid workers and that the quality of service is sometimes poor. On the other hand, there are arguments to be made that outsourcing brings down company costs and thus prices, benefiting everyone. This practice also spurs growth in underdeveloped parts of the world, and can bring fresh talent, insight, and knowledge to a company.

    Transcript
    NARRATOR:
    India's past and future are connected by these BPO businesses. The colonial legacy of English-speaking education is advancing millions of Indian workers into the middle class. And they are changing the face of the country.

    NARRATOR:
    About half of all BPO workers are women. Renuka Chibber Khot is one of many Indian women whose lives have been transformed.

    Before she joined Gecis, she was a doctor working at a government hospital.

    RENUKA:
    Basically what I am doing is nothing related to my qualification of being a doctor. It's managing people and ensuring that whatever work that we are supposed to do, we are delivering that on time.

    RENUKA:
    You wanted to get promoted, you want this, you want that, but please be ready to then pitch in for initiatives like these.

    So if you're doing your processes and you're delivering on your CTQs, that is nothing great that you are doing. You are getting paid for that.

    NARRATOR:
    She makes more money here than she ever did in medicine, driving her team of mortgage insurance processors who work for American clients.

    RENUKA:
    This is a very, very fair company. I will support you the day you start questioning. But question with decency. Do not be offensive.

    RENUKA:
    I will say even my education and my exposure at hospital did not change me as much as this place has changed me. It has given me so much confidence. I was a girl who used to stammer. I have never stood up in front of 10 people and spoken. They look up at me; that's a great feeling.

    NARRATOR:
    Her colleague, Santosh Kohli, is not the typical Gecis employee. Born into a poor family, she is still struggling to learn English.

    SANTOSH (subtitled):
    No one in my home speaks English, nor did I go to an English school.

    We had English as a subject at school, but we never used to speak it.

    NARRATOR:
    A community organization recommended her for a clerical position at Gecis.

    SANTOSH (subtitled):
    When I started here, I was afraid to speak to anyone, so no one talked to me.

    Renuka told me that my work was okay, but there was one problem.

    "You don't speak to anyone. Why not?"

    "You should speak to everyone, mingle with them, that's how you'll learn."

    Renuka has helped me the most.

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