Friday, May 13, 2005

Adding some zig to your zag

BPOs are roping in foreign students to work for them in India, reports the TOI. "Sources said this was being done to overcome the accent problem faced by Indian call centres".

And especially so in case of European clients who require French or Spanish speakers.

The foreign students are paid the same salaries as their Indian counterparts. The bait: a chance to live and travel in India. "We try to attract students who are just out of college by showcasing India's rich cultural heritage," says Liam Brown, president and CEO, Intergron - a US headquartered BPO.

Live to learn
It's not clear what culture or heritage these students will experience if they're working on night shifts and sleeping off their days. But that in itself will be an experience and firangs are big on experience. They aren't as concerned with the 'destination' (as in 'yeh karne se kya fayda hoga') For them, there is a great deal of pleasure in the journey itself.

Of course, these foreign workers will round off the BPO experience with one grand 'Bharat darshan' tour in which they will see and do more than most of us have in our many long years of residence in this country.

When I was at IIM A we had a bunch of French exchange students. Their main objective was to travel the length and breadth of the country and that's what they managed - in the 3 short months they spent here. Now, students of many more nationalities come down - and they are, I'm told, actually attending classes.

Yet, I'm sure they're here mainly for 'cultural immersion' and not to get gyan and fundas from Indian b school profs.

Break ke baad
In the UK there is a concept known as 'Gap Year' - which is a 1 year break many students take between leaving school and joining college. Part of this year is often spent working - the money thus earned is used to finance a trip to India or Africa or south east Asia.

The more adventurous go further - a British girl I know spent 2 months in a Kenyan village on a water harvesting project. Just for the experience, no pay.

In India, taking a year's break is still unheard of. Folks worry about being 'left behind' as their batch from school or college gets ahead in life. 'How will I explain it on my CV' is the other big question.

The idea that random, unpurposeful experiences can result in personal growth is still a new one for Indians. David Ogilvy, after flunking out of Oxford, held a succession of jobs, from chef at the Hotel Majestic in Paris to door-to-door salesman for Aga Cookers (a British oversized kitchen range) before he got his first job in advertising.

And I think all these experiences made him the creative genius we know him as today.

That's the way
Instead of a linear life path where we hop from KG class through school, college and then an MBA, you might want to consider adding a little zig to your zag.

I see a few young people doing it - there's a guy I know who's currently in Poland on an AIESEC exchange program. And a few who went to work at a BPO for a few months, just to know what the hype is all about.

But there still aren't enough such folks out there. And there are still only foreign backpackers in Rajasthan and Himachal and the rest of India.

It's not about 'not having enough money'. Because many of these firangs travel on shoestring budgets.

Perhaps Indians think they know 'enough' of India already and would rather explore foreign lands. Although villages in Bastar or Uttaranchal are more foreign to residents of Mumbai or Delhi than NY or London!


  1. Nice post...I just feel the IIMA thing comes too often in your writings :-)

  2. I disagree with this post. "Foreign" is such a universal term. You are being a little harsh on Indian's here--
    A major reason why Indians are not out there globally "experiencing" without pay is because of the economy. American, British and even Italian students for that matter start working when they are 16. And ofcourse the the Dollar, the Pound and the Euro weigh more than the rupee. It's not hard/nor is it a big deal for teenagers to have saved up as much as $5000 before they hit college. And with that much money, ofcourse they can stay in India, Indonesia or even Kenya for as long as 3 months or more.

    It's unfair to imply that Indian's worry too much about their CV's than gaining global exposure- it's the country's environment that does not allow that. Given a chance, I bet, Indian students too-- like the foreigners- will take the plunge...

    Thought-provoking post though!

  3. Anonymous7:35 AM

    hey angry woman, it's good to hear ya write! in the end it all boils down to dosh. It's cheaper to go to Singapur than Kalipur (wherever that is!). things are always fine here in the US. People talk abt americana, they should go and visit mid-america that team up to keep dumb people presidents


  4. i agree to the anonyomus and Jinal's post to certain extent. At the same time i am living with a dream of living a bag pack life for one-two-three(depends!!) months. I'v always dreamt of doing that to get some fun out of life and to observe things first hand.
    For sure i'll live up my dream!!

  5. Hey you are right.Before we explore India we want to visit foreign lands-By the way why dont you reply to comments

  6. I went on an AIESEC exchange to Hong Kong and my then boss offered me a job after the internship was complete. I threw up an offer with CNN and the Deutsche Bank as well.

    I came back to India, instead of backpacking in China or Indonesia.

    I wanted to work in India for me coming back to India added zig to my zag.

    Hey backpackers or staying in poverty stricken Asia/Africa is not such a trendy or hip concept as you make it out to be.

    If I had the dosh, I'd make the :lonely planet" trip,

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