Call Centres in Bangladesh- Better late than never.
THE Bangladesh Telecom Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has done a few commendable jobs in recent months. It has addressed or at least tried to address some of the problems facing the country's telecom sector and is now making a bid for creating facilities, otherwise having enormous potentials for engaging a large number of educated young men and women in gainful employment and, at the same time, earning a handsome amount of foreign currency regularly for the country.
The BTRC in recent months with the help of law enforcers has dismantled a number of illegal 'Voice over Internet protocol (VoIP)' installations which were depriving the government of a large amount of revenue. Some big names in the telecom sector had to pay big amount of fines for being engaged in the illegal business. The Commission, in the meanwhile, has framed guidelines for VoIP operations and selected three domestic operators for the three separate gateways. It has now embarked on yet another important job of setting up call centres, which now generate $400 billion business globally. The call centres are establishments that offer customer service on behalf of companies, large and small. Many companies in Europe and North America outsource their customer service departments to call centres, particularly located in the developing countries because it is highly cost-effective. The booming call centres in neighbouring India are now fetching nearly $40 billion a year.
The past governments have never been serious about encouraging the private sector to start call centres in a bid to getting a share in the huge global business. The Commission at a public hearing held last week in Dhaka announced that a guideline on operations of the proposed call centres would be made public this week and licences to eligible firms for setting up such centres would be issued next month. The BTRC, apparently, is moving fast considering the inordinate delay caused by the previous governments in this respect in exploiting a possible source of foreign exchange earning by the country. The Commission, according to a report published in this daily, has taken care of some issues that are essential for proper operation and growth of call centres. Under the proposed guideline, it is likely to exempt such centres in Dhaka and Chittagong from sharing revenue with the government for a period of three years and those in other places for a period of five years. The licence fee also has been kept at a reasonable level. Besides, foreign equity in individual call centres has been allowed to the extent of 40 per cent. Besides, the Commission has allowed recruitment of as many foreign nationals as required by the call centres for a period of one year. But thereafter, the number of foreign nationals will not be allowed to exceed 10 per cent of the total workforce of any call centre.
But one particular problem-the availability of English-speaking educated young men and women in an adequate number-might pose a serious problem for running the call centres efficiently. However, the demand itself is expected to create an urge among the educated youths to learn communicative English better. It is expected that the BTRC, instead of behaving like a mere regulatory authority, would extend all possible cooperation to the call centres to be set up soon. Meanwhile, it will not be out of place here to warn it of a future problem that neighbouring India is facing now. Critics in that country are comparing the call centres as 'sophisticated sweat shops' where English-speaking undergraduate degree-holders are being exploited. Some even have termed the call centre employees as 'cyber-coolies'. The Commission might find it inappropriate at this moment to dictate anything about work environment or wages for the call centre workers. But the issue must not go out of the Commission's sight.
Tags: Bangladesh , Economy , Business , Information , Technology , Call , Centre , VOIP , Remittance , Dollar
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