pop avata

BPO Journal

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

How Ivory is your Tower?

Amit Verma is not happy. In this post, he chastises the V.V. Giri Institute of Labor for its recent study of work conditions in BPO service centers at NOIDA, India. He views the article as an insult to the people who work in the BPO companies. His rationale is that a job at a service center is a rational choice of the BPO worker; however, the research study makes the offensive suggestion that BPO workers have made the wrong choices and that the researchers know better:

"I am a little tired of people equating BPO with the slave trade, and BPO workers with coolies...This kind of condescending, self-righteous mindset is, sadly, rather too prevalent these days...It is a pity that there are still regressive people around who, instead of wanting to expand those choices further, bemoan the improvements that have taken place. Ivory towers are a perfect environment for self-delusion."

I am not sure if Amit and acquiescent commentators on the subject are voting for no research on the plight of BPO workers or they disagree with the research findings and the exaggerated analogies or they just think the study is irrelevant in the context of macro benefits of BPO. His assumptions and exaggerated characterizations of the researchers and their objectives clouds the overall point of the post. First off, the workers at these centers were the respondents to the survey; so, given that they were the primary source of information for the research, I don't think it's offensive to them. Which also raises the questions whether these work conditions are indeed a choice of the BPO workers. When the workforce goes from not finding a job to finding one, it has not really expanded its choices, it has only limited its constraints, viz. unemployment. Choice is a more empowering concept and may be marked by a continuum of work conditions, employment practices and skill applications to choose from.

Finally, I think to conclude that the researchers at the V.V. Giri Institute are regressive individuals who bemoan the improvements that have taken place, oppose BPO and do not want to expand choices to the educated workforce is offensive to not only the researchers but the practice of research itself. I am not sure how Amit derives these conclusions from the study. If the findings are proven wrong, then the research is dubious at best. But, barring that, the study must be treated as an objective report that describes more than explains or predicts (of course, I do not agree with flagrant comparisons with slavery and the like). One cannot assume that they are the opinion of the researchers. For example, Levitt's famous study on the relationship between legalization of abortion and reduction in crime was not indicative of his personal opinion on the subject. He has indicated that the study actually changed his inclination to a predominantly pro-choice position.

Personally, I don't know enough of the study to comment on it. I am not in support of unionization of the workforce and I think the idea may be rejected by the workers themselves. But, the idea of an unhappy workforce is not a trivial one. Especially, when those disgruntled employees threaten to release sensitive customer data, etc. and have a potential adverse impact on firm competitiveness. Further, the percentage of the workforce at the periphery is also an indication of the industry's position in the value chain. As the industry moves up the value chain and begins to service more strategically important business processes, we may see an allied shift of the workforce from the periphery to the core.

Pranoy Manocha has a few credible comments on the post but I lost him at "Yes, all the 'India will be a superpower' believers will be proven correct". Obviously, I don't like characterizations.

Outsourcing news
Blogcritics: news and reviews Blogarama - The Blog Directory Blogwise - blog directory Listed on BlogShares

     Take this Offshoring Survey