British firm to end India outsourcing experiment

Monday, 26 January 2004, 08:00 Hrs
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LONDON: Call centre jobs exported to India are returning to Britain following a major U-turn by a home shopping firm.

Shop Direct (formerly Kays), which employs 1,200 people in Marshall Street, Leeds, opened the centre in Bangalore in March 2002, transferring 250 jobs from Britain.

But its service has been attacked as being poor and the experiment will end when the office is closed next month. Jobs will be moved back to six call centres in the North and Wales -- Newtown, Widnes, Preston, Burnley, Bolton and Worcester.

A spokesman said the Indian centre dealt with orders and customer inquiries but the level of service was not up to the required standard.

He noted consumers felt the Indian staff had poorer skills than their British counterparts and were ill equipped to deal with inquiries.

"They may be cheaper but I can certainly tell the difference when I am being served by someone overseas.

"Success is much more important than having someone who costs half the price," he said.

The experience of the British company echoes that of America computer giant Dell, which said it would bring back call centres to the US after complaints from consumers.

David Fleming of the union Amicus said: "This move proves the case for moving to India is not being made. We are confident it will be the first of many more to come crawling back."

Meanwhile, a national campaign to prevent further call centre jobs being lost to India reached Exeter city. Union activists are furious with BT after the communications giant announced 2,200 jobs would be created in India.

They say the trend needs to be "nipped in the bud" before further BT jobs are lost across the country. In Exeter, the firm employs hundreds of people.

The Communication Workers Union's Pink Elephant (Pinky) campaign hit the High Street and then moved to Cathedral Green to raise awareness of the issue.

Clare Wright, the union's South West campaign coordinator, said: "If this trend is not challenged then thousands of call centre jobs in the Exeter area alone could be at risk.

"We believe that BT is a UK company and money should go back into the UK. We need to raise awareness so that people realise when they make a call it's going to India."

She noted: "Pinky's campaign has raised public awareness of the potential impact of remote sourcing on UK jobs. The 18-foot high pink inflatable elephant delivers this very serious message in a light-hearted way."

Source: IANS
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