Call Center revolution in India

I would say that one of the biggest revolutions in the lives of Indian youth in the 21st century would be the call centers. If you don’t believe me, walk into a call center and you would be able to identify the greens from the veterans even if you have never worked in the industry before.

I am not talking about only lifestyle, dressing sense, language but also the demographics and mindset. It’s like a different world. Firstly the entire industry revolves around young graduates who are looking forward to make a quick buck by working 2-3 years in midnight shifts. Attrition is so high that most employees don’t bother even to put personal artifacts on their cubicles, and company policy (official or unofficial) prevents the rest from doing it.

Although ITES/KPO/BPO/call center etc. still constitutes a miniscule percentage of the Indian workforce, but in a way it is keeping India united. They provide an excellent opportunity for a college graduate to earn some decent wages and absorbing a large percentage of excess workforces that the country has. Lessons from Egypt/Libya teaches us that unemployment (esp. in educated class) and lack of socio-economic mobility is the precursor for a mass-revolution, civil unrest and anarchy. Hence Call-centers are uniquely placed to fill in as a stop gap arrangement before the country is able to fix its problems.

Unfortunately most companies have stopped using the word “CALL CENTER” and in their search for euphemism have migrated to words like BPO (business process outsourcing), KPO (Knowledge process outsourcing), voice processionals etc. Luckily as long as there is ample supply of English speaking cheep labor, the industry will continue to thrive and revolutionize Indian youth.

A plague called Indian Middle Class

A friend of mine recently confronted me with a very controversial statement:

“Indian Middle Class has a complete utter lack of ingenuity/innovativeness.”

He goes on explaining that Indian poor are very creative. Within minutes of start of a public gathering, you can see several hawkers set up their shop to sell beverages, chat, trinkets etc. Nobody needs to inform them that there is going to be an exam in this location, a procession or even a traffic jam. A visit to any bicycle repair shop will show you how these people fabricate their tools and crafts of the trade. A piece of scrap railway rail works as an anvil etc. No wonder recycling is a very profitable business in India and unlike the rest of the world does not survive on subsidies.

The rich are also quite ingenious. Hell any person who prospers under the tyrant dictatorship of Indira Gandhi has to be creative. If you look around, you will realize that they have not lost their touch.

In most developed countries it’s the middle class that created the most wealth. The reason being, they had the best of the both worlds. They had the aspirations of becoming rich which motivated them and the dedication of the poor which enabled them work long hours. They had the skills and education which helped them to be able to execute their ideas and manage it.

However it’s the middle class that is dragging the country down. They force their thoughts on their kids by cutting down on the playtime, reducing the social interactions and replacing all with a huge burden of books. Rather than pursuing their interests, the middle class goes for Engineering/MBA. The irony is that the best engineering/mba institute is not great because of the education/faculty/environment. They are great because of students who apply in 100s of thousands for the limited intake.

Although his arguments look convincing, I still have inhibitions before agreeing to his outcomes. After all MNCs are coming to India in hordes just to get a chance to cater to the worlds largest middle class.

Why India should make Conscription mandatory

I am no fan of conscription. However I cannot deny the benefits of compulsory military service have on the society.

1. Literacy: Modern army relies on tactical superiority more than numbers. Hence in order to make any productive use of any recruit, a lot of time, energy and efforts have to be spent to educate and train them. A boom in disguise for the country whose 1/3 of the population still cannot read/write.
2. Discipline: Every army takes great pride in the discipline it creates. Countries like Israel, Singapore, South Korea enforce this training in the late teens/early twenties. This is the time when the maturity kicks in and army creates the best environment to control it and channelize it for the good of the society. This makes them more dedicated, better in organizing themselves, following order without creating chaos even under little/no supervision.
3. Vocational training: Indian educational system (esp. college) is often criticized for draining the prime years of a youth’s life without imparting much which will make him/her employable. Armed forces on the other hand teaches you skills to operate/maintain machinery/electronics and encourage troops making modifications to make them better.

Mea Culpa

Most rational people are not out there in the world looking for the last drop of blood from all the people who have harmed them. What they need is a mere acknowledgement of guilt. A small token of apology to make them convinced that you know that you have knowingly/unknowingly harmed them and in future you would be careful not to repeat. Also a key baby steps towards mitigating the loss goes a long way in seeking forgiveness.

Recognizing and accepting the consequences of one’s action on others both materially and emotionally is what I guess makes us fit to live in a society, a human. Admission of guilt and an apology is a great way to start. Parents teach their kids the value of 3 magical words “Please, thank you and sorry” to infuse this habit very early on. However looks like in spite of being one of the most experienced and highly educated individual, our Prime Minister is not aware of these facts.

Livemint has correctly pointed out http://www.livemint.com/2011/02/16211114/Plumbing-a-new-low.html that the high handiness of the Prime Minister has resulted in our country reaching a new low. No wonder under his regime as a Finance Minister, the country witnessed the biggest financial scandal (Harshad Mehta) and under his regime as a Prime Minister we have witnessed the biggest scandal (Telecom).

What irks me is that how can he claim to have the Moral High ground?

Hello: There can only be 2 things possible: He was aware of these 2 scams or he was not.

If one truly believes that he was unaware of these developments then he is probably more incompetent to run this country than a blind, deaf and mute individual.

If he was aware of these scams, then he is an accomplice who should be tried like common criminals and lynched by the very mob that lost 50,000,00,00,000/-. After all he is no different than any common crook or con artist who charms the target before robbing them.

Correction: As per the law Prime Minister is the Leader of the cabinet of ministers who are collectively responsible for their actions. So this makes him the head of the gang of criminals (which apparently he handpicked)

Driving in India

FROM AN EMAIL FORWARD

    This hilarious article was written by an Expert from Baan, Netherlands who spent two years in Hyderabad.

Driving in India For the benefit of every Tom, Dick and Harry visiting India and daring to drive on Indian roads, I am offering a few hints for survival. They are applicable to every place in India except Bihar, where life outside a vehicle is only marginally safer.

Indian road rules broadly operate within the domain of karma where you do your best, and leave the results to your insurance company. The hints are as follows:

Do we drive on the left or right of the road?
The answer is “both”. Basically you start on the left of the road, unless it is occupied. In that case, go to the right, unless that is also occupied. Then proceed by occupying the next available gap, as in chess. Just trust your instincts, ascertain the direction, and proceed. Adherence to road rules leads to much misery and occasional fatality. Most drivers don’t drive, but just aim their vehicles in the intended direction. Don’t you get discouraged or underestimate yourself except for a belief in reincarnation, the other drivers are not in any better position.

Don’t stop at pedestrian crossings just because some fool wants to cross the road. You may do so only if you enjoy being bumped in the back. Pedestrians have been strictly instructed to cross only when traffic is moving slowly or has come to a dead stop because some minister is in town. Still some idiot may try to wade across, but then, let us not talk ill of the dead.

Blowing your horn is not a sign of protest as in some countries. We horn to express joy, resentment, frustration, romance and bare lust (two brisk blasts), or, just mobilize a dozing cow in the middle of the bazaar.

Keep informative books in the glove compartment. You may read them during traffic jams, while awaiting the chief minister’s motorcade, or waiting for the rainwaters to recede when over ground traffic meets underground drainage.

Occasionally you might see what looks like a UFO with blinking colored lights and weird sounds emanating from within. This is an illuminated bus, full of happy pilgrims singing bhajans. These pilgrims go at breakneck speed, seeking contact with the Almighty,
often meeting with success.

Auto Rickshaw (Baby Taxi): The result of a collision between a rickshaw and an automobile, this three-wheeled vehicle works on an external combustion engine that runs on a mixture of kerosene oil and creosote. This triangular vehicle carries iron rods, gas cylinders or passengers three times its weight and dimension, at an unspecified fare. After careful geometric calculations, children are folded and packed into these auto rickshaws until some children in the periphery are not in contact with the vehicle at all. Then their school bags are pushed into the microscopic gaps all round so those minor collisions with other vehicles on the road cause no permanent damage. Of course, the peripheral children are charged half the fare and also learn Newton’s laws of motion en route to school. Auto-rickshaw drivers follow the road rules depicted in the film Ben Hur, and are licensed to irritate.

Mopeds: The moped looks like an oil tin on wheels and makes noise like an electric shaver. It runs 30 miles on a teaspoon of petrol and travels at break-bottom speed. As the sides of the road are too rough for a ride, the moped drivers tend to drive in the middle of the road; they would rather drive under heavier vehicles instead of around them and are often “mopped” off the tarmac.

Leaning Tower of Passes: Most bus passengers are given free passes and during rush hours, there is absolute mayhem. There are passengers hanging off other passengers, who in turn hang off the railings and the overloaded bus leans dangerously, defying laws of gravity but obeying laws of surface tension. As drivers get paid for overload (so many Rupees per kg of passenger), no questions are ever asked. Steer clear of these buses by a width of three passengers.

One-way Street: These boards are put up by traffic people to add jest in their otherwise drab lives. Don’t stick to the literal meaning and proceed in one direction. In metaphysical terms, it means that you cannot proceed in two directions at once. So drive, as you like, in reverse throughout, if you are the fussy type. Least I sound hypercritical; I must add a positive point also. Rash and fast driving in residential areas has been prevented by providing a “speed breaker”; two for each house.

This mound, incidentally, covers the water and drainage pipes for that residence and is left untarred for easy identification by the corporation authorities, should they want to recover the pipe for year-end accounting.

Night driving on Indian roads can be an exhilarating experience (for those with the mental makeup of Chenghis Khan). In a way, it is like playing Russian roulette, because you do not know who amongst the drivers is loaded. What looks like premature dawn on the horizon turns out to be a truck attempting a speed record. On encountering it, just pull partly into the field adjoining the road until the phenomenon passes. Our roads do not have shoulders, but occasional boulders. Do not blink your lights expecting reciprocation. The only dim thing in the truck is the driver, and with the peg of illicit arrack (alcohol) he has had at the last stop, his total cerebral functions add up to little more than a naught. Truck drivers are the James Bonds of India, and are licensed to kill. Often you may encounter a single powerful beam of light about six feet above the ground. This is not a super motorbike, but a truck approaching you with a single light on, usually the left one. It could be the right one, but never get too close to investigate. You may prove your point posthumously. Of course, all this occurs at night, on the trunk roads. During the daytime, trucks are more visible, except that the drivers will never show any Signal. (And you must watch for the absent signals; they are the greater threat). Only, you will often observe that the cleaner who sits next to the driver, will project his hand and wave hysterically.

This is definitely not to be construed as a signal for a left turn. The waving is just a statement of physical relief on a hot day.
If, after all this, you still want to drive in India, have your lessons between 8 pm and 11 am-when the police have gone home and The citizen is then free to enjoy the ‘FREEDOM OF SPEED’ enshrined in our constitution.