Business Today

BPO's young & troubled

An alarming number of young BPO workers are sinking into a world of crime, drugs, and promiscuity. It's an unprecedented workplace phenomenon that's testing their employers. Here we take a look at what actually goes on in the lifes of those working in BPOs.

By Pallavi Srivastava        Print Edition: July 15, 2007

Nitin is 22 years old. He is a process trainer in a Gurgaon-based BPO and has been in the industry for three years, though with the current employer he's spent just two. In the last six months, Nitin, who hails from Delhi, has resigned 11 times. And each time, his employer has refused to accept his resignation. Nitin says, he has issues with his superior (an assistant manager) and wants to move out of his team, but the human resources (hr) department doesn't seem bothered. He even tried the 'skip' channel and spoke directly to his boss's boss, but since the former is the latter's blue-eyed boy, Nitin's request for a transfer was turned down. So, why doesn't he simply quit? He says no one else will employ him without a reference letter from the previous employer. Meanwhile, the stress has made him double his alcohol and cigarette intake and is affecting his sleep, too. He desperately wants to leave but feels trapped.

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Sanjay is 25 years old and lives and works in Bangalore. He went to college in his hometown of Kanpur, but moved to India's Silicon Valley two years ago when a BPO offered him a job. He smokes a pack of cigarettes daily and does weed during his 'sutta' breaks with his colleagues. He goes back home once a year and doesn't remember how many girls he has dated (read: slept with) in the last couple of years (he stopped counting after he hit 12). Sanjay had initially planned to send money back home, but instead ends up borrowing from friends and colleagues, since he can't keep up with his expenses.

Tupur is 26 and lives in Kolkata. She got into a live-in relationship with a young man who worked with her in the same BPO. Even though Tupur could make out that her partner wasn't serious about the relationship, she persisted as she felt emotionally committed. Soon, she got pregnant and had to abort the child. She conceived again, but this time around she could not abort the foetus early enough and married her partner in the fifth month of her pregnancy. Immediately after her child was born, she left it with her parents because she did not have the time to look after it. She has since changed her job to take care of the baby, but continues to face problems with her marriage. She says she wants her marriage to work, but feels so 'bored and stagnant' that she doesn't even want to go to a counsellor. However, she wants to hang on to the relationship for her child's sake.Plane in the air

Partho is 24 and has been working with the BPO of a multinational bank in Kolkata for the last one year. He is currently on his notice period that ends in August. He has vowed never to return to the industry and considers it a den of promiscuity.

He says he will take time to relate with a normal workplace where everyone is not going around with everyone else. He says sleeping around for promotions is quite normal and goes up to the Assistant Vice President level. Partho also got propositioned by an older married female colleague just before he resigned, but he declined. Just the same, he had to dump his girlfriend when he found out that she was two-timing him just for kicks.

But that's not where the tragedy ends for Partho. His old school friend and also a former colleague, Arnab, died of drug overdose a few days ago. Arnab's wife had earlier left him when she caught him during one of his 'night stands'. According to Partho, the BPO management was quite aware of Arnab's addiction to drugs but decided not to interfere since he was a top performer. Arnab did go into rehab once, but that didn't help. "There is so much pressure from the management to meet numbers and after getting abused so often by the goras, you tend to make up your self-esteem by drinking up or using drugs whenever you can," says Partho.

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