Outsourcing The Hurricane Rita Relief Line

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by GotZoom, Sep 29, 2005.

  1. GotZoom

    GotZoom Senior Member

    Apr 20, 2005
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    Cordova, TN
    Until last week, Madhavi Patel came to work each evening at a western India call center, put on her headset and American accent and spent the night taking calls from Americans about their credit cards. Then, Hurricane Rita happened.

    The call center, run by Effective Teleservices of Lufkin, Texas, set up a hot line for victims of the hurricane, and Patel and more than 240 of her colleagues began long days and nights fielding thousands of calls from frantic, scared people affected by the storm half a world away.

    The employees at the call center in Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat state, are giving Texas residents information about relief operations and where to get food, gasoline and shelter, said center director Jim Iyoob, a former Texan.

    The center is receiving about 20-25 calls an hour, he said, adding that some workers had not gone home for days.

    One call came from a couple that drove about 60 miles with their children to flee the oncoming hurricane but ran out of gasoline and were stuck for six hours. The hot line directed them to a gas station a few miles away, Iyoob said.

    The couple later called back to thank the call center operators, he said.

    In recent years, hundreds of Western companies have cut costs by farming out software development, engineering design and call center work to countries where workers are paid considerably less than their counterparts in the United States and Europe.

    India is the undisputed king of outsourcing, receiving about 40 percent of the business _ a fact that has sown resentment in the United States and western Europe.

    Patel, 23, insisted that helping others was more important than any public relations benefit to the call centers.

    "We have taken up the responsibility to save people's lives, but we are not here to see our names printed in newspapers," she said.

    Iyoob, a member of the company's board, said employees were given two hours of training before the hot line opened.

    "Once upon a time, years back, I used to live in Texas and never thought that being in Gujarat in India, I would be able to give it something in return," he said.

    Iyoob said a friend from Texas asked him to start the hot line because the company's two call centers there were shut down temporarily. The friend then informed authorities, who publicized the telephone number on local television stations, Iyoob said.

    Effective Teleservices is paying all the costs of the hot line, he said. Iyoob also said he could not give names of callers or transcripts of conversations because it was against policy.

    Arindam Mukhopadhyay, 22, said he spent his entire weekend at the 500- seat center.

    "It was a great experience," he said. "It was an absolute team effort and I am happy that I was part of it."

    Patel said the tragedy gave her a chance to learn about a part of the United States she knew little about, and now she wants to visit. After days of directing people to gas stations and places to get food, "Now I know Texas like I know Gandhinagar," she said.


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