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BPO Work-Ex

Worked at a BPO? Hoping to get into a great BSchool? Well your CAT score better be phenomenal as top schools don’t consider BPO work-ex as, well, work-ex. Surya Ragunaathan explores.

The BPO/ITES sector is only expected to grow larger, and more profitable, over the next few years. Most young people are eager to jump on the money-making BPO bandwagon. Working in a BPO not only has
monetary advantage but also a thorough ‘work experience’ like any other job.

But for years together now, BSchools and companies in our country have been ignoring this sector when it comes to the point of ‘required work experience ‘duringrecruitment processes. Many undergraduate and PG students who work with call centres have been increasingly claiming that companies and the top 10 -15 BSchools do not consider call centre jobs as work experience.

Says Girish Rohra, a 22-year-old BPO employee,I completed my B.Com in ’06; wanted to work until November so I could prepare for CAT. But since I was primarily working in a call center and am not an engineering graduate it has definitely affected my future plans. I was denied the two marks that one gets in CET & CAT for work-ex as I was not doing a mainstream job like many others. I had to switch to another company for a year and try again.

This is definitely a matter of concern as more and more students every year join call centres in order to earn good money at a young age. But as they say, no job in this world is bad. Every job, at the end of the day, gives you a learning experience. Then why this discrimination? Says Mr Parimal Merchant, Admissions officer, SP Jain Institute of Management Studies,Call centre jobs do not give exposure at a managerial level. To do an MBA, you need to have experience at a managerial and more corporate level. Though at SPJIMR, we don’t have any rules, call centre jobs are not too relevant in the context of an MBA in Marketing or Finance.

Jyotsna M,currently employed with Deutsche Bank, once worked with a call centre for over three years. Jyotsna could apply to a bank even after working with a BPO simply because departments like Employee Engagement and Communications are essential. They test your communication skills and one needs to be very good at it. Yes,call centre jobs are not given any weightage in companies. This is because in a call centre you do not learn at a corporate level like six-sigma or things which are managerial. You need to get better exposure; you need to do something besides process oriented jobs which is more relevant. Like in case of KPOs, they train employees in a more advanced fashion and this sometimes helps.

But what about those who do voice-based tasks in BPOs? A call centre employee on an average takes over 350 calls in a day, works different shifts and communicates tactfully with customers. They are also trained in a specific process which means technical knowledge is also one of the attributes. Says Mr Alan Collacco, former General Manager (HR), Aventis Pharma,It’s more of what else you do and learn on-the-job. Something more noteworthy. Taking 350 calls a day is sure hard work. Having technical knowledge with respect to just one process is not useful. But yes, if I am recruiting someone for a PR job, I would perhaps consider a call centre experience. Not anything more.

“Says an employee from a prominent Financial institution, (also one of the rapidly recruiting companies from campuses)” -,I have to train you in certain financial aspects irrespective of whether you are from a call centre or some other job. Yes, if you have a finance background, it makes a difference to me as you tend to learn faster on-the-job. Call centre jobs make you a better communicator and builds your confidence. I don’t have anything against them but they don’t have any related experience.

But then what about Software Engineers who do coding jobs in IT companies? Do they get the luxury of those two marks denied to call centre employees during an MBA entrance exam? Says Mr Chitnis, Professor, KJ Somaiya Institute of Management Studies (Mumbai),Even a coding job is irrelevant to say an MBA in Marketing or Finance. I don’t deny that. But then again, there is a certain level of exposure attached to it. For example, a person who works with an IT company is technically sound and I mean overall in handling computers, systems, software, etc. Whereas a call centre employee learns technical aspects only with respect to a certain process.

Another reason for this hostility towards call centre employees is the so called ‘bad culture’ they reap from their jobs. Says Reitesh Joshi, an employee with a leading BPO,People think we while-away our time; we smoke, we drink and we have girl friends. When I applied to a company for a Marketing job, which was in fact much similar to what I did at the BPO, I was asked about these things in the interview. They look at a call centre employee as someone who just works night shifts for money, takes calls, eats, fags and gets back home. He enjoys all the perks given to him by his company. What they don’t realize is the fact that we are seasoned with a particular thing; we have the patience and perfection to learn any kind of job and it’s not just money but also experience and hard work that counts. Another major point is that we are given strict targets and we achieve them on time.

Responding to this Collacco adds,Yes, it’s true that some people in companies have wrong opinions about call centre employees. It’s more because of their socio-cultural behaviour. It has nothing to do with merit. But they must also understand that companies have their own rules and limitations. Anyway, I don’t think anyone can be rejected just based on this factor.

Under Maharashtra CET there is a rule that for work experience marks, an MBA aspirant must have worked with a BSE listed company. So, we have to abide by these rules. I can’t comment further.

– Prof Amit Dhund, visiting faculty at many colleges in Mumbai.

Its great to win ‘star of the month’ and motivate team members but the fact is that a call center work experience or environment is very different from a regular back office process; very different from a normal day-job like in a bank. I think the exposure to various process and skill sets that one develops in a specific domain is what matters, something like derivatives, equity and insurance claims. It’s about knowing everything in an organization or at least in a particular sector of the organization.

– Manushi Paul, HR, ICICI Bank

The creative field does not care where you are from. Whether you are an engineer or banker or a call centre employee, we’ll take you if you are creative, have good ideas and think differently in life. Even 12th failed students join here. In fact if you are from a call centre, you may have good communication skills and maybe admitted in client servicing.

– Gururaj Rao, O&M

I think definitely a BPO experience is very useful – it’s the way you look at it. Unfortunately BSchools in our country do not see it through. Just think of it – we are so flexible, we have the ability to teach, retention power (the entire process knowledge!); we have patience, are confident, great communication skills. Most of all, we are exposed to global businesses.

– Narendran, an employee with a leading BPO

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