Monday, November 24, 2008

Which Queen was that?

Over the past six years or so, the number of people working in call centres in Chennai has surely gone beyond the six figure mark. Call centre jobs were slow to come to Chennai, mainly because of two reasons: one, with Tamil Nadu contributing to just under 20% of the country's engineering graduates every year, it was a hot destination for software recruiters - and even science and arts graduates were aspiring for software jobs rather than settle for less. The second reason was some kind of a myth that English in Chennai (or south India in general) is much more 'accented' than its cousin in the Gurgaon belt.

The dotcom bust of 2001 meant that engineers from the class of 2002 found their dream software jobs drying up and turned to a couple of companies which were establishing their technical support call centres in Chennai. Once that barrier was broken, it did not take long to bust the my-accent-better-than-your-accent myth. Part of that was thanks to several 'training institutes' such as this one. All kinds of accents could be heard coming from these buildings as the accent gap between the supply and demand was narrowed. Most of the demand was from North America, so that was the first offering from almost all such institutes. And then, to differentiate, newer accents were developed, and courses went beyond verbal calisthenics to grammar and suchlike.

At least the sign reminded me that I cannot take it for granted that any Queen would speak English!

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