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The Great Talent Exodus
It is something one can't get in any traditional industry. Das of EMA Partners points out that many people are sceptical about the viability of e-commerce companies. Furthermore, Pru's Indian staff have fought off stiff competition to secure their jobs, she say. While Agarwal of Shopclues says that salaries in e-commerce companies are competitive, Dasgupta and Kherwal claim they made a lateral move to Pepperfry.
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The main difference in the training regimes is that Indian call centres tend to put their employees through speech and writing classes as well as including sessions on UK culture. At the Pru, for example, students are made to watch episodes of Coronation Street EastEnders was ruled out for fear of introducing too much slang to the employees.
There is also an internal radio station called Pru FM, which keeps employees up to date with all the latest weather and gossip in the UK.
What about recent reports which said Indian call centres are less efficient than those in the UK? Last month, a group call ContactBabel produced a report which said calls to Indian centres lasted much longer than those to UK-based centres.
Furthermore, it revealed that more than a third of callers had to ring more than once to get their query resolved. The Pru was reluctant to provide us with performance figures for its call centres, but it did confess that it was not perfect yet.
Like most Indian call centres, the operation is new and employees are still relatively inexperienced. Hence it may take time for efficiency to catch up with UK levels. The Indian centres do answer calls quicker, but this is offset by calls lasting longer. The Pru argues that longer calls may not necessarily equate to bad service, perhaps simply a more thorough one.
Direct Line constantly monitors its customer satisfaction rating, employing an independent market research company to call several of its clients every day, and to ask about how happy they were with the service.
Graham Ross, the group's managing director, claims the results tend to show that 70 to 80 per cent are either very or extremely satisfied with the service. Are UK companies exploiting those who work in their Indian call centres? Smita Nair, the director of Pru's Bombay call centre, says one of her staff once received a call from an angry customer who "refused to speak to cheap labour".
While Indian labour might be cheap in comparison to the UK, call centre operators are in fact far better paid than their UK counterparts - in relative terms. Nair says the high quality levels of staff along with a modern working environment ensure that her employees are seriously enthusiastic.
Furthermore, Pru's Indian staff have fought off stiff competition to secure their jobs, she say. Almost 40, people applied for the jobs in Bombay. However, firms such as Direct Line offer profit share packages and try to offer a good career progression to those who stay with the company.
The downside to working in an Indian call centre is the hours. Bombay, Delhi and Bangalore - where the majority of UK call centres are based - are some five and a half hours ahead of the UK four and a half ahead of British Summer Time , so most operators finish work at around Some shifts finish as late as 3.
This has proved to be more of a problem for US companies, as the time difference between America and the Subcontinent is even more severe and forces employees to work through the night. Dell, the computer giant, is one US firm that transferred its operations back to America, concerned that its plans had not worked.
In the UK, working in a call centre provides much more flexible working hours. Direct Line's call centre is open from 8am till 8pm, and staff are offered a range of shifts to suit their needs, such as three hour shifts a week, instead of five shorter ones.
I can't understand a word they're saying Strong accents can often be hard to understand - especially down a telephone line. Most Indian operators are given speech classes, to ensure that they can be easily understood by callers, while some companies go as far as encouraging their employees to develop regional English accents, or asking them to invent British names for their work.
The Pru, however, says its aim is simply to "neutralise" accents and it also allows staff to use their real names. In the UK, some customers complain about the difficulty in understanding regional accents.
However, Direct Line says it has call centres across the country, and each call is directed to the centre nearest to where the client is calling from.
This is certainly one step further than many UK financial services companies have gone. While Agarwal of Shopclues says that salaries in e-commerce companies are competitive, Dasgupta and Kherwal claim they made a lateral move to Pepperfry.
The e-commerce sector doesn't pay astronomically high salaries, points out Rekha Koshy, Partner, Accord International, an executive hiring firm. Most of them don't even consider salary as a reason to move," claims Radhika Agarwal, co-founder, Shopclues.
A management trainee from a top-ranking business school commands an annual salary of around Rs 25 lakh, while the salary of a mid-level employee in a large FMCG company is in the Rs 40 lakh to Rs 60 lakh bracket. Senior management salaries are upwards of Rs 1 crore. India Shining The Indian e-commerce revolution has not only attracted talent from the domestic market, but has also lured Indians working overseas.
The amount of logistics and supply chain infrastructure we have invested in, will be beneficial to the economy at large. Murthy, who has also done a long stint with Coca-Cola, says that the biggest pull for him to return was the huge excitement around the Indian market that he witnessed in the boardrooms of both GSK and Coca-Cola.
Ratia says he wouldn't have considered joining another e-commerce company had it not been for Amazon. Murthy also admits that he did have reservations initially. The investor community convinced me that Snapdeal was for the long-term especially since it had serious investors such as SoftBank.
While most of these companies refuse to admit that all isn't well for them on the people front, each one of them is making serious effort to retain their key talent. We will need business acumen too and it is natural for new industries to get talent from the established ones,' says Raj Raghavan, HR Director, Amazon India Most big FMCG companies, for instance, says Koshy of Accord, are offering increments in the region of 40 per cent along with an additional performance-linked incentive.
They are also offering them roles which they have never done before," explains Pallavi Kathuria of Egon Zehnder. A key reason for the talent exodus from traditional sectors, apart from lack of growth opportunities, is the entrepreneurial platforms that most new-age companies bring to the table.
To bridge that gap, Godrej Industries has launched an initiative called LOUD Live Out Ur Dream where the company funds its employees to fulfil their entrepreneurial ambitions and indulge in their passions.
So, the company offers them scholarships for a range of activities: Similarly, IT major Wipro has created a fund called Wipro Ventures, which funds start-up ideas of its employees which help Wipro at large. The company's Senior VP, HR, Saurabh Govil, says the company is trying to create enough opportunities for its employees to experience the start-up culture within Wipro itself.
Wipro in the recent past has had quite a bit of attrition in the middle management level. According to Harsh Kapur Pillai, Managing Partner, Terragni Consults, traditional sector companies don't make adequate investment on people. Anjali Byce, HR Director at bearings maker SKF, agrees that investment on employees has indeed been an issue with most companies in the manufacturing sector.
Byce says that her company had done an analysis on their high attrition rates four years ago, and the result it threw up was the desire in the employees to play a more meaningful role in the company. We are doing leadership foundation courses for them and are also exposing them to diverse functions within the company, so that they don't feel the need to look out for greener pastures.
Some are making a comeback to the traditional sector companies.