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Sunday, Oct 06, 2002

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Call centres lift the age bar a little

Ajita Shashidhar


FROM young and energetic college pass-outs to mature 35-plus individuals, the IT-enabled services (ITES) industry seems to be taking a re-look at its recruiting strategy.

Slightly older people with some work experience are now being increasingly sought after for the call-centre business in India. The reason for this is simple - to cut down the high attrition rates prevailing in the industry.

"At this point of time, what the industry actually needs is stability, which we can get from the 30-35 plus age group," says Mr Deepak Dhawan, Vice-President, Human Resources, EXL Service.

EXL, in fact, has advertised for people saying that age was no bar.

"We have received applications from people who are above 50 and are actually in a dilemma what to do," he says.

Mr Ashish Gupta, Head, Hero Mind Mine, says that call centres are also looking at recruiting housewives and disabled people for part-time jobs. "Apart from high attrition rates, there is soon going to be a dearth of fresh graduates also. Hence, the ITES companies are forced to expand the profile of their recruits," he says and adds, "This move will control attrition and also increase the stability of the industry."

However, Mr Debashis Das, Business Head, Team Builder, the HR services division of Parsec Technologies, says that the trend of recruiting older people for this industry is definitely picking up, and will, to a certain extent, dilute the industry's focus on fresh graduates, but it will definitely not shut its doors on the younger crowd. "The youngsters will continue to be the preferred lot as this industry requires lot of rigour," he says.

On the other hand, Mr Sunil Mehta, Vice-President, Nasscom, looks at this trend as an opportunity to provide alternative employment. "At the same time, senior people also bring in domain skills as well as access to new customers."

Mr Mehta noted that the emergence of domestic call centres and BPOs have also created a need for experienced middle management people. Therefore, the industry is re-skilling its manpower to ensure long-term career opportunities.

Apart from widening its recruitment criteria, Mr Dhawan of EXL says that the ITES companies are taking steps to motivate their employees and drastically cut down employee turnover rates.

"EXL, for instance, has implemented a number of employment retention strategies based on the feedback of an employee satisfaction survey. On the softer side, we continuously have incentive programmes such as a pay-for-performance programme. We have just concluded a perfect attendance week, at the end of which there was a lottery and the winner won exotic prizes."

Asked about the career prospects in the industry, Mr Dhawan says that a stint in the ITES industry will enable a person go to the hospitality industry or in the financial services sector. "The ITES industry is doing a great service to its employees by making them more confident and enabling them to handle any kind of pressure at the workplace.

Similarly, Mr Gupta of Hero Mind Mine feels that ITES industry equips its employees with communication skills, customer relations skills and people management, which are required by any service industry. Hence, there are abundant career opportunities.

Mr Mehta of Nasscom says that the ITES industry on India is well on track to achieve the 65 per cent growth focussed for this year.

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