Saturday, September 6

Return to the roots: BPOs now working to get Tamil, Bhojpuri accents right

Hire Anthropologists, Linguists To Equip Employees With Better Knowledge Of Popular Culture And To Develop Authentic Accents

Harsimran Singh NEW DELHI

SINCE the business started, BPO agents have been put through American, Italian, French or British voice and accent training. Now it’s Indian languages like Bhojpuri, Marathi or Tamil which the BPO agents are trying to master. With a boom in the economy, the $1.6-billion domestic BPO market is all set to offer better customer service in regional languages. BPOs are spreading to small towns like Surat, Bidar, Pondicherry, Ranchi, Raipur, Patna, Kochi or Hassan.
Also, BPOs servicing customers from metro cities like Delhi or Mumbai are tapping into cultural associations and congregations around festivals to hire regional language talent.
Domestic BPO Aegis has started a program called ‘Shiksha’ under which it teaches agents how to speak better Gujarati, Marathi, Bhojpuri, Punjabi, Telugu, Tamil or Kannada to serve customers. This includes stress on the syllables and correct pronunciation of words, given the diversity of Indian languages. As opposed to the international call centre where a person can be rejected because of thick accent, domestic BPOs happily welcome these
employees. For instance, the 16,000 employeestrong Aegis trains all its people in regional accents.
“We hire university anthropologists and linguists to train our employees who work for the domestic sector. The anthropologists train people in the history, popular culture and festivals of the state. The linguists and trainers, train agents to speak the popular language of a particular state in a correct and courteous way. We train staff in 14 languages currently. It’s important especially as we expand to smaller towns and cities,” says Aegis BPO Global CEO and MD Aparup Sengupta.
Some BPOs have gone the extra mile, literally, to tap regional talents. “We use the opportunity of Sunday congregations of Churches in North Delhi to hire Malayalam talent. Bengali and Assamese speaking candidates can easily be found in places like CR Park in Delhi.
While for Telegu and Tamil talent we use temples and cultural associations in Delhi’s RK Puram as a recruitment channel. Employee referral is also a good recruitment means,” says Omnia BPO business head HS Chadha.
India has 22 official languages and hundreds of dialects which makes it difficult for BPOs to customize solutions completely. But with all sectors
like telecom, banking, insurance, auto, healthcare on a rise, BPOs are taking no chance to grab a pie of the domestic outsourcing business which is growing at a CAGR of almost 50% for the past five years.
The 12,500-people strong Infosvision generally hires employees familiar with at least two languages — one regional language plus a capability in Hindi or English. “People with a heavy mother tongue influence are preferred. We operate in almost 16 cities in non-metros such as Kochi and Bhubhaneshwar, where regional language skills are required,” says Infosvision marketing VP Gitanjali Dhup Singh.
Migrant student population from states to metros along with congregations around festivals like Navratri or Durga Puja are a good source of talent for the BPOs operating in the metros. International call centres are facing the pressure with squeezed margins due to a slowdown in the US and a volatile dollar. Domestic BPOs are flourishing as they require lesser capital and garner the same margins at about 18%, as in exports. With the domestic market booming in the last two years, demand for regional language skills will grow for BPOs expanding to small towns.

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