Tuesday, May 01, 2007

India to Outsource Outsourcing

Orny Adams
May 1, 2007


Chris Hanson of Dateline NBC has uncovered India’s dirty little secret-- they are routing a majority of customer service calls to the small, relatively ignored, and severely underdeveloped Republic of Malawi in the densely populated southeastern part of Africa. Agriculturally thriving Malawi won the contract from India, after outbidding it’s neighbors Zambia and Mozambique.

According to a Dateline producer, officials quietly built a call center and installed phone lines, internet access, and a Subway restaurant (soft drink refills are not free at this location). The construction permit, obtained by Dateline NBC, stated the intended use of the building was for “Survivor Malawi.” India has denied it illegally obtained the permit or misled the Malawian government with its intentions. “We had been out all night drinking and thought it would be funny to put ‘Survivor Malawi’ on the permit… the Malawis have quite a sense of humor,” Cultural Minister for India said, off the record. He continued, “Malawians are thrilled to have jobs. They have always looked up to India as a thriving industrial country. And to be honest, Malawians tend to be more compassionate about American problems like, ‘The air conditioner is causing my wireless printer to go slow.’”

Hanson, using hidden cameras, a plate of cookies, and a 19-year-old actress that looks 14, uncovered how far India was willing to go to cover up this multi-tiered outsourcing. Dateline reportedly paid a local Malawian the equivalent of 45 US dollars to infiltrate the outsourced outsourcing. (The value of 45 US dollars to a Malawian was estimated at 10,000 US dollars in 1974. Unfortunately, no new data has been assembled to compare it to the modern day dollar. But according to the anonymous mavens behind Wikipedia, Malawi has a GDP per capita of 596 US dollars.) “What we discovered was absolutely shocking; India was training Malawians to fake an ‘Indian trying-to-sound like an American accent,’” said Hanson, “So what we have now is a Malawian trying to sound like an Indian trying to sound like an American.”

Hanson’s titillating gotcha-investigational reporting has not gone unnoticed by competing mainstream media. Even renowned CBS commentator and all-American curmudgeon Andy Rooney griped, “I knew something fishy was going on.” Rooney’s grousing continued, “I thought I detected a slight dialect change in some of the representatives when I recently called about my broken eyebrow trimmer.”

To secure the secret, Malawians were additionally taught both American and Indian culture, pop references, and English slang. According to the voice over on the clip provided by NBC Television, “After Mugava, who’s name we changed to conceal his identity, completed training, he was fond of saying, ‘What’s up with that? That ain’t right.’”

Companies that outsource customer service calls to India felt a bit betrayed, but when called to complain were sent to a Malawi call center. Many Indians, who after a lifetime of unemployment finally found work as customer service representatives, now fear losing their jobs. “We are on needles and pins here at the center,” said one Indian worker, “We always thought Since November 2006, already over 1,700 Indians working call centers for U.S. companies have been replaced by Malawians. As a result, a chain of support has been formed by unemployed American and Indian call center employees on the newly formed website www.AForeignerTookMyJob.com. The website can be accessed in both English and Hindi.

How the hell did it come to this? “You can’t trust people from India. They suck more than people from any other country,” commented 15-year-old has-done-nothing-but-still-over-opinionated-under-qualified blogger Jim Nathenson. In actuality, India’s biggest call center made the move to Malawi in an attempt to cut costs. In the opinion of Emory university global economics professor Terry Bass, “It was simply trickle down fiscal-nomics. India found a country worse off than itself with a cheaper labor base. I wouldn’t be surprised if Malawi does the same. Remember, there are still 11 countries worse off than Malawi.” Patel Patel the 32nd (whose middle name is also Patel), CEO of “Call Me”, India’s top call center, said in a phone interview, “We just couldn’t afford to keep all the calls in India. And by using Vonage we can save up to 50% on our phone bill while only losing 75% of our calls due to bad connections.”

All of India is affected: Air India, the official airline of India, was reportedly furious to discover that Malawians had replaced Indian inmates answering their calls.

An official statement was given today by White House press secretary Tony Snow, who said, “President Bush sees no problem with India showing some business ingenuity and was proud that he could point to Malawi on a map.”

The Dateline special, “To Catch a Fake Indian,” will air this Friday on NBC and will run for 18 hours straight on MSNBC both Saturday and Sunday. Programming note: Unfortunately nobody was unnecessarily thrown on the ground by law enforcement officials during the taping of this Dateline show.

© Copyright Orny Adams, Icrushed Productions 2007

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