Offshore Outsourcing Call Centres To India Business Essay

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During the last years, offshore outsourcing of call centres to East Asian countries and specifically to India is a very common phenomenon among Western companies. There is a wide range of articles referring to this business venture. However, only three were selected in order to examine the methodology that has been used to study the case of Indian call centres. (Budhwar et al 2006, Taylor and Bain 2005, Kuruvilla and Ranganathan 2008) The reason the critique is limited to three articles is attached to their extended and in-depth research.

Methodological orientations

It can be clearly said that, epistemologically these three qualitative articles have a dominant interprevist orientation. Similar research methods are used and their content is centralised on the relationship between employers and employees. The articles of Budhwar et al 2006, Taylor and Bain 2005, Kuruvilla and Ranganathan 2008 have objectives that are related to the HR policies in Indian call centres.

To begin with, Kuruvilla and Ranganathan's research is based on "the challenges in linking macro and micro human resource policies with an economic development strategy based on export-oriented services" (Kuruvilla, Ranganathan, pg 39, 2008). Their study is mainly empirical and partly conceptual. (Kuruvilla, Ranganathan, pg 41, 2008) In particular, they conducted research from 2004 until 2007. In these four years, they interviewed, using the "snowball sampling method" (Kuruvilla, Ranganathan, pg 40, 2008), 79 people such as the operational manager and the HR manager of large firms as well as several experts on Indian call centres such as journalists, professors and critics. In 2004, several observations took place and information was collected regarding the "work flow" and the techniques that were used for "neutralizing the accent" (Kuruvilla, Ranganathan, pg 40, 2008). In 2007, due to their specified aim to narrow down their research to used HR policies, Ranganathan studied closely and intensively the hr tactics and "policies" which were applied by HR managers, in a firm that was among the 3 most powerful companies at that time. Moreover, collecting extra data from "trade magazines" contributed to the improvement of the research (Kuruvilla and Ranganathan, pg 41, 2008).

Budhwar et al were interested in the "investigation of human resource management (HRM) systems of call centres in India." (Budhwar et al, pg 881, 2006) Their research is also mainly empirical but some secondary data was used as well. (Budhwar et al, pg 887, 2006) The research is divided into two stages. In the first phase, the authors visited eleven call centres which were located in and around Delhi. They interviewed 25 people whose tasks were relevant to HR activities. Furthermore, they collected data from secondary sources such as internal documents. (Budhwar et al, pg 886, 2006) In the second phase, a questionnaire survey was conducted among 204 "on-floor" agents in eleven call centres. Agents were requested to evaluate 28 statements that are connected with high turnover rates and give 3 main reasons for the high level of "attrition". (Budhwar et al, pg 886, 2006)

At a similar pattern, Bain and Taylor stated that: "This article challenges the assumption that the off shoring of voice services from the UK is unproblematic and questions its theoretical underpinning, principally through an investigation of the Indian call centre labour process". (Bain and Taylor, pg 262, 2005) Their article is considered to be empirical but it also presents conceptual characteristics that result from the data which were collected from a "Scottish audit". (Bain and Taylor, pg 261, 2005) Their research was carried out in seven call centres in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, in both large and small firms. The research included interviews with upper-level managers, tours around one company's facilities, observation of the training seminars, official interviews with senior (Nasscom) personnel, industry leaders and trade union executives and attendance to industry conferences. Moreover, questionnaires were answered by 250 senior managers by written answers or telephone interviews. (Bain and Taylor, pg 266, 2005)

Human resource practices and policies

By analysing the articles, it can be clearly said that the authors are mainly interested in HR practices and policies that are used by HR managers. Qualitative methods of research have been used in all articles. In particular, the following three methods: interviews, observation and questionnaire surveys.

Regarding interviews, Kuruvilla and Ranganathan preferred to use unstructured interviews instead of semi structured that were used by Bain and Taylor. On the one hand, by using unstructured interviews the authors gave more freedom to the interviewers to express their views. On the other hand, unstructured interviews contain the risk that interviewers might forget to ask some questions and raise certain points and perhaps Taylor and Bain's conducted semi-structured interviews for the same reason. Budhwar et al did not mention the kind of interviews performed. Furthermore, some of Kuruvilla et al's interviews lasted too long, some of them even half a day and probably the interviewees were exhausted thereby negatively influencing the quality of their answers. Taylor and Bain were denied to interview the agents for privacy reasons. That obstacle was overcome with scheduled group discussions (Taylor and Bain, pg 266, 2005). Moreover, Taylor and Bain visited three Indian cities rather than visiting only areas in and around Delhi like Budhwar et al did. They also selected companies of various sizes, while Kuruvilla et al visited only the largest companies. By comparing their research it can be said that, Budhwar et al and Taylor and Bain were focused on the HR policies applied such as recruitment, training etc and Kuruvilla et al were concentrated on the potential macro and micro risks for HR managers.

Another research method that was used was observation. Kuruvilla and Ranganathan considered observation as a significant procedure during their research and this is why they visited four workplaces to observe the "work flow" and the training sessions, especially concerning "neutralization of accent" (Kuruvilla, Ranganathan, pg 40, 2008). While observing the trainings seminars, they found it useful to briefly interview the trainers. However, due to the fact that work flow observation was limited to half a shift, it is possible that they might not have a complete and accurate viewpoint. As it was mentioned above, Ranganathan through participant observation examined intensively the HR policies in one of the largest companies' HR department. Taylor and Bain also observed the training sessions and company facilities. On the contrary, Budhwar et al possibly believed that these kinds of observations are unnecessary.

After this, it is worth mentioning that Budhwar et al conducted a questionnaire survey in which 204 agents participated. In this survey, the authors aimed at finding out what are the causes for such a high turnover rate by focusing on the employees' views. Taylor and Bain conducted a survey with 290 questionnaires which were intended to be answered only by upper-level managers. However, it is mentioned by the authors that: "basic data was supplied in 22 cases and estimated for the remaining 18 operations". As a consequence, it could be assumed that there might be miscalculations and that the results might not be fully correct, since for almost half of the operations the authors did not have the actual data but made approximate calculations. Kuruvilla and Ranganathan did not use questionnaires.

Lastly, all the authors though it useful and beneficial either to attend conferences and interview informally the company's personnel or to use data from secondary sources such as annual reports, memoranda, general internal documents and "trade magazines".

Due to the fact that this is a methodological critique, it should be pointed out that there was no reference to the language spoken during the interviews. Only Taylor and Bain stated that: "Only minor linguistic difficulties were encountered during the research process due to interviewees' and conference participants' command of English". (Taylor and Bain, pg 266, 2005)


To sum up, we can see that from an epistemological perspective the authors where interprevists. They took into account the diversity between people and their research was centralised around the labour process of the examined companies. They were mainly interested in the applied human resource practices and at the same time they attempted to discover how the employees reacted to them. Their research could be helpful for the companies that intend to offshore their call centres in the future. Furthermore, their studies could be used as a base for further and more extended research by using larger samples which will include different levels of employees or by examining issues that have not been mentioned such lack of female managers. Lastly, future research on ways of dealing with high turnover rates would be beneficial for the companies from a cost-saving aspect.