You can see them crawling the malls and multiplexes from Bangalore to Mumbai, Pune to Gurgaon. They are 20-somethings, employed and equipped with money to spend. Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) has come as a boon to many of them, providing jobs as soon as they step out of college and, as an addendum, an independent lifestyle steeped in the spirit of freedom.
In the six or seven years since the BPO industry in India began in its full-blown form, the job choices available to middle-class youth have exploded.
In fact, as the industry grows, it creates new jobs at a stratospheric 50 per cent a year. Today, there are 400,000 people (median age: 25) employed by Indian BPOs; by 2008, the number will swell to 1.1 million.
Yet, the choice, freedom and money that BPOs offer to their employees has a flip side that could have serious implications, both for the workforce and their employers.
An alarming number of these workers are sinking into a world of crime, drugs and promiscuity. Such workplace problems are not new. Yet, there are unique aspects of BPOs-long hours that cater to different time zones, limited career progression as well as the monotony of their jobs-that have a bearing on the psychology of the workers.
Some of the real life examples that BT's Principal Correspondent Pallavi Srivastava, who spent weeks with BPO workers, employers and human resource experts, writes about in the cover story (BPO's Young & Troubled) may come as a shock but the malaise that afflicts BPO workers also has implications for their employers-many of whom, as our cover story also finds, are already grappling with it.
Estranged scions Mukesh and Anil Ambani have been at loggerheads over supply of gas from Reliance Industries Ltd. (run by Mukesh) to Reliance Natural Resources Ltd. (run by Anil) to fuel the latter's gas-based power project.
But the controversy has blown up into the larger issue of gas pricing and the more fundamental question is whether Reliance has the legal right over the gas it is pumping. Read Associate Editor Balaji Chandramouli's feature (Ambani vs. Ambani: The Fight for Gas) to see what the real issues are.
Our Special Report this time is on India's telecoms industry where paradoxically mobile population is rising fastest in the world but revenues aren't keeping pace.
What does this mean for telecoms companies? The survey, by Associate Editor Krishna Gopalan and Special Correspondent Amit Mukherjee, also delves into the issue of spectrum shortage as well as how many more global players are still jockeying to enter the market.