India’s $64 billion outsourcing industry has given rise to a host of new sub-cultures and lifestyles that have proven to be a rich source of subject matter for authors and moviemakers alike.
“Hello,” for example, is a recent Bollywood release about the bizarrely comic lives of 6 call center employees whose world gets turned upside down during a night’s work. The movie is based on the 2005 best-selling novel, One Night @ the Call Center by Chetan Bhagat. Both have clearly hit a nerve, and the Washington Post reports that “Hello” opened to laughs and cheers across India.
Indian call centers employ more than 2 million people, most of them well-educated, upwardly mobile young adults. “Hello” would have us believe their lives truly are a world apart. Workers sleep during the day and work all night. They adopt rust-belt sounding names and southern drawls, and track American holidays, football scores and hurricane forecasts as closely as events in their own country. All-night food delivery services spring up to meet their needs, while bars and movie theaters open at 7am to capture workers coming off the job.
We can only imagine the eye-rolling tales these call center reps must accumulate as they help exasperated American callers with jammed computers, insurance gobbledygook and so forth.
To be sure, some Indian call center employees think the stereotypes portrayed in “Hello” are overplayed. “People don’t fully understand us, our work or our lives, our unique slang and vocabulary,” Owais Khalil Khan told the Post. “But I am glad that they finally think that ours is a story worth telling.”