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I am a Telemarketer

A day in the life of NAMAN RAVAL, who works at a Baroda based BPO.

I am a telemarketer. I am the guy at the other end of the line making those seemingly "annoying" calls from India! Ever wondered what my day is like?

I commute two hours every day, from Godhra to Baroda, where I work, to make those long distance calls. I work at a small call center, selling calling cards to US based customers who may be interested in making calls to India, Pakistan and other South Asian countries. 

Like most call centers, our hours of operation are 1.30 am to 9.30 am- unearthly hours to suit our prospective clients at the other end of the world. The company I work for has a database of prospective customers that is culled from white pages/yellow pages, at its offices in Ohio and Maryland. My computer has access to this database. I click on a name on the screen, and the computer dials the number. Thus begins my typical day. 

I make around 200 calls every day. We have about 25 people at our call center who make such calls. We have been trained on how to communicate, and sell our service. I've had a variety of experiences with people. Some people listen me out politely, or strike a conversation with me, but others are irritated and abusive. There are a few who play along, pretend to show interest and poke fun. I remember one Mr Raju Patel who made a complete fool of me. When called him the first time, he pretended to show interest, but said he was busy, could I call back the next day at 6 pm. I did. He said he was busy that day too, so could I call back the next day. This went on for a few days until he got downright abusive, showering expletives upon me. We have been trained to be polite, no matter what, so all I could say to him was, "sorry, I will not call you again." But such experiences make you bitter. After all telemarketers are human. When our computer dials a number, it doesn't show us whether the person at the other end is having dinner, or is busy with guests, or in a bad mood. All I would ask people is to be polite. If they do not want to be called, they can always ask to be put on the 'Do not call' list. I've had some real bitter experiences with second generation Indian Americans. They hear an Indian bloke at the other end, and get downright abusive. I would say that first generation immigrants are more patient, probably because they empathize better with this guy calling from India.

Some of my co-workers at the call center get their thrills by getting back at abusive people. They call back after a while, pretending to be from the FBI, and demand to know why he/she had been abusive to the telemarketer. They end the call with, "Sir you have been fined $500 for using abusive language." The prospective customer is zapped, and the injured telemarketer feels a little better.

It pays to have a thick skin in this line of work. I have to bring in business for my company. I am required to sell the service to at least 100 customers a month. So unpleasant or not, I have to call. Employees at my call center are usually given a month to prove themselves. We have a floor manager who helps, guides and motivates us to reach our target. We are also given incentives. We guys usually have a base salary of Rs4000-5000 (apx. $100)and make around Rs 90 (apx $2) per service sold. That keeps us going!

It takes a lot of lifestyle adjustments to work at a call center. I work all night, and end up sleeping during the day. I miss out on all the fun. I have no family life or social life to speak of. I got into this field mainly to improve my English and my communication skills. There aren't many big BPOs in Gujarat, except maybe in Ahmedabad. Eventually I might try to move to a bigger BPO in Pune or Bangalore. Or I might just quit and join my dad at his CA firm or move to the UK if my work permit comes through. 

-As told to Veena Rao