Are BPOs a good long term career prospect for India youngsters?
March 6, 2011
For many years now hundreds of thousands of Indian youngsters, fresh out of school are getting absorbed in BPOs who require of them passable English language skills, and some rudimentary computer skills. They are then trained and put to work handling petty back end work involving clerical functions on behalf of overseas clients. It may pertain to taking pizza orders from Missouri, or teaching a 77 year old American pensioner to shut down her computer.
Many of these youngsters pursue a college degree through a correspondence course or by attending evening classes hoping to use it to their professional advantage later. In the process they miss out on a normal college life which comprises of more than just attending lectures. At work they get peripheral exposure to overseas culture, and the nitty gritty pertaining to the operations of global outsourcing firms. There is no intellectual growth in terms of getting to know about the dynamics of one’s own nation-its emerging industries, its significance in global terms and the opportunities its growing economy may offer them. These youngsters are caught up in a vortex of what appear to be high salaries (at a young age), parties, rampant consumerism, short lived relationships, and work related pressures.
While they are certainly fuelling the growth of the BPO and its supporting industries (transportation, infrastructure, catering, etc.), and earning a good income for themselves and their families, what does the future hold for them? The smarter ones complete their college education, and make an exit from the BPO world into jobs with a more conventional profile- like Marketing & Sales, HR, Finance, etc. But not everyone gets commensurate offers and therefore many of them persist with the BPO industry without a firm game plan for growth. While it is certainly true that BPO jobs will always be around in India, as they have been in the West, where 3% of the workforce is employed in the sector, one has to ask if that is the career one wants.
Not all of the hordes of youngsters who work for this industry will be able to avail of the limited opportunities of growth that are available. Some of them will have to think of a new beginning at least in a few years’ time, when their needs will be greater than a seemingly high pay packet, free meals and occasional company picnics. Some of the more enterprising youngsters these days have started their own outsourcing modules, and now have their very own international clients! With technological improvements and consequent reduction in cost of operations such a thing is now possible, and there are quite a few examples of such small scale BPO start ups doing well for themselves.
The fact of the matter is that the BPO industry in India functions in a manner that is sometimes almost predatory in nature. Take the case of these companies now shifting focus to small time metros from the great cities of India realizing that the work force has wizened up in those centers. The good thing is that these smaller metros will see some influx of money, which will shore up the infrastructure and economy of these places. This is till the BPOs decide to shift town again. The point of the article is that youngsters should watch out for the sake of their own future and have a game plan ready.