Dial For Help, Valley Call Centre Answers
2 December 2006
The Hindustan Times
Srinagar: When you next call the local consumer helpline to complain about a faulty refrigerator or inflated mobile phone bills, your phone will ring in Kashmir. Outsourcing arrived in the Valley two weeks ago in the form of a 25 seat call centre that handles calls made across India to a helpline set up by the national ministry of consumer affairs. In another 20 days, calls are expected to begin from the centre's first American client, a financial services company. The operation comes in the face of several odds - the 17year-old insurgency, poor power supply and erratic Internet connectivity. 'Some of the staff, as well as the voice trainer, are from Mumbai. The rest are local youth. The outsiders were a little worried but are now okay,' Shantanu Gupta, who runs the call centre, told HT. The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) is trying to interest more companies in setting up business process outsourcing (BPO) projects as well as other information technologyenabled services in Kashmir. It has begun programmes, in collaboration with the tax and advisory services company PricewaterhouseCoopers, to help companies overcome their hesitation and set up call centres in the embattled state. 'Microsoft has agreed to bring faculty. Tata Consultancy Services has shown interest. We shall approach others also,' Sanjay Puri, CII's J&K chief, said. 'The IT business in J&K is not doing too well, but we are trying to kick-start it.' Earlier attempts to set up outsourcing projects in Kashmir have not been successful. Local businessman Riaz Ahmed set up an 80-seat facility in the heart of Srinagar and was negotiating with prospective clients. 'They wanted guarantees on the infrastructure, but we have a severe lack of connectivity here, and power problems. We could not make it,' Ahmed said. 'I changed my plans and converted the centre into a cyber café.'