Nilam Khare,24,worked as a tele-caller in Mumbai before getting married and settling down in Bopardi,a remote village near Wai in Maharashtra. It was difficult for Khare to adjust to the slow-paced life in a village,miles away from the hustle and bustle of a city like Mumbai. But she reconciled to a daily life of household chores and an evening visit to the fields to water the crops. Suddenly,her life changed when she got a job of data entry operator at Metric Consultancy Ltd,a Pune-based market research organisation which set up a call centre at Wai in the latter half of 2007. It began with 10 women and now has 50 women and 25 men who answer queries of customers of Tata Motors,Titan and Bajaj Allianz and students of Maharashtra Knowledge Corporation Limited,to name a few.
Khare is not the only one. The company has changed the lives of many women in the villages surrounding Wai. Sarika Sukale,36,was dealing with her husbands death and figuring out ways to run the family when she got a call that changed her life. She now works as a data entry operator. My world came crashing down when my husband died. I had no savings with which I could educate my daughter. But things are different now, says Sukale,who stays with her parents,helps her eight-year-old daughter with her lessons and has saved enough for the next few years.
The organisation started operating from Pune in early 2007 but had to close down because of low availability of manpower. As we were a small organisation,we required people who were ready to work on small salaries. It was difficult to find employees in Pune who would compromise on salary. So,we thought of places where the cost of living was less, says Mihir A Shrinivas,the chief technical officer of Metric Consultancy. Shrinivas was involved in setting up the Wai branch. We chose Wai,67 kilometres from Pune,because it has road connectivity and it has educated people, Shrinivas says.
They thought they could handle every other challenge if they could get educated workforce. It was difficult to get uninterrupted telephone,electricity and Internet facilities even in the fringe areas of Pune. The challenges were bigger in the taluka areas, says Aditya Kank,the marketing manager.
The two-storeyed office in the sleepy lanes of Wai boasts of an 80 kilovolt generator back-up apart from high-end computers and headphones now.
After completing their graduation,men are employed easily. Despite having the same qualification,girls lag behind due to family commitments, says Shrinivas.
Dhanashree Londhe,24,the supervisor of the branch,joined the company in 2007. Her father is a farmer,and it was tough convincing him. After completing my graduation,I could not stay at home grazing cattle and waiting for the right match. The towns nearby offered employment opportunities in shops. Luckily,my father felt that this job was better than standing and selling grocery in the shops at Wai, says Londhe.
From finding employable girls to convincing parents to allow them to work here,it has been a long but fruitful process. Metropolitan cities have devalued the concept of call centres with awkward shifts and a toll on lifestyle. People here were worried if their women would face the same problems and if they would be safe. We had to assure them that this wouldnt be the case here, says Kank.
To gain their confidence,the company hired men from the nearby villages for administrative work before employing women as tele-callers. They were trained in Pune and several counselling sessions were held with the parents of the prospective employees. In the initial stages,parents had queries like why their daughters were having sore throats,how would they deal with impolite customers and were they given enough time for lunch? For the first few weeks,we let the parents sit through their daughters office hours, says Shrinivas.
The company also provides pick-up and drop facilities to all their employees. Women work the day shifts while men work at night.
In the beginning,girls used the employment opportunity as a stopgap arrangement before they married. But surprisingly,they kept working even after getting married, says Vivek Lokhande,the manager.
Londhe joined Metric Consultancy while still in college. She continues to work here and commutes from her parents home. My in-laws stay at Medha which is 35 kilometres away from the office. I tried commuting from there but I never reached home before 8.30 at night. My family did not approve of this so I now commute from Vyajwaadi,my parents home. I visit my in-laws once a week, says Londhe.