COVID-19: Chaos in BPO industry

BPO companies need to shell out more money to plug critical gaps in normal situation work and working under Government enforced SOP during the lockdown period to be followed at work places.


COVID-19 has taken a serious toll on Indian BPO industry. The business is being significantly disrupted because of major restrictions imposed due to lockdown. This has resulted in cascading effect to bring down the BPO industry to its knees.

The business houses which needed services from BPO industry to support their retail operations do not need it since the entire retail market/ Distribution channel is totally shut. This led to loss of business for such BPO companies, that were supporting these kinds of business verticals.

Telemarketing business got halted 100% due to above reasons

Many customers not only asked to suspend business but also enforced “Force Majeure “clause inflicting heavy losses to BPO companies.

It seems work-from-home for BPO companies is not that easy as it was perceived. These companies are caught between mobility curbs and client protocol that disallows work-from-home. Client protocol that disallows transfer to work-from-home mode (Banking in particular or any other process where data sensitivity is very high) coupled with employee’s inability to commute to office is leading to large scale stoppages. Voice based process is most impacted.

IT infrastructure issues are another weak link, which is making work-from-home difficult. Providing essential setup such as laptops/desktops, ensuring internet connectivity at the agents’ houses to dispersed locations across the city during the lockdown with obstructed transportation became a serious deterrent.  Internet Dongles’ non-availability, desktops not work on WIFI/Smartphone hotspot have added to the woes.

Even wherever, work-from-home could be enabled, the connectivity was overwhelmed, as a huge number of users were trying to access systems remotely. Bandwidth / Severs were not designed for such scenario. This led to enhancing the capacity resulting in additional capex and opex

In case of work-from-home with, no proper monitoring and trainer’s intervention quality of work has got to take a beating.

Some exemptions for “Work from Office” were given to support some clients whose services were declared essential; however, it became a challenge to follow the SOP as employee’s would not turn up for work with fear of Covid in minds, maintaining self-distancing, taking hygiene precautions. The families of the ones’ who are reporting to work are extremely worried and sometimes call the team managers and team leaders out of fear of their wards well-being.
The BPO employers themselves are worried for the well-being of their employees and would not want to take any chances at the time of such a global health crisis. Why only employees, even employers are tensed when working is taking place from office and feels guilty to make employees work from office with no choice since they are bound to keep essential service on and for such Data sensitive process, they have no other choice.

In addition, BPO companies need to shell out more money to plug critical gaps in normal situation work and working under Government enforced SOP during the lockdown period to be followed at work places.

On top of it, unfortunately and god forbid, even if one positive case got detected in any office, the entire office could be sealed, all employees who were present could be tested and asked to self-quarantine, even if found negative. It proved to be rubbing salt to the wound.

All said and done, BPO companies are currently operating on an immediate short-term goals to stay afloat by keeping the lights on for important enterprise clients, and with medium term focus on surviving next few weeks, probably months, with right emergency provisions in place to keep staff healthy and a financial fall back to keep the wheels on the track as they go through these painful motions.

The BPO companies are following the Honorable Prime Minister’s call of no job-losses, salaries to be paid on time along with all the benefits to the employees. This is creating a huge burden on already suffering working capital of these companies.

The major concern as well as hope is if and when the Government and its agencies are going to think about BPO as an important industry and would bring in some financial aid, considering most of the Domestic BPO companies fall under MSME category.

In conclusion, BPO industry, more particularly companies who are serving INDIAN BUSINESS should be given a special treatment, for the following reasons:

* They serve our own country’s need of customer care including all important business verticals e.g. BFSI/ AVIATION/RAILWAYS/ HEALTH services etc

* They work on wafer thin margins, unlike BPO Companies who are serving overseas clients, with hefty margins

* They create job opportunities in hundreds of thousands for semi-skilled citizens of India, most of them coming from either lower income families  

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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