News : Unpaid Salaries, Pink Slips: The Story of Lesser Known Indian BPOs
New Delhi, India, April 15, 2016 -- In December 2015, the Washington State Attorney General’s office sued iYogi, a remote technical support company, alleging it used "deception and scare tactics to pressure consumers into buying un-needed tech support services".
Gurgaon based iYogi denies the charge, and is yet to respond to the AG’s office.
Since December it has also been sued for contract violations by companies such as Tata Communications (America), OneCall limited, Bankers Warranty Group and Argo marketing.
The nine year old company is also fast losing its customers to whom it sold subscription based service packages to fix computer software troubles.
Lawsuits and diminishing customer base, the impact has started showing on iYogi.
The company, whose website claims it employs about 4000 employees, is in financial trouble. Employees say at least 1500 had to quit their jobs as salaries and allowances were not paid for months. iYogi denies this and says the number is smaller.
And iYogi’s employees have joined the long list of BPO and call centre workers whose salaries are not paid when the going gets tough for the companies.
According to employees, the salaries have been pending for at least 5 months in iYogi. The PF deposits were also not made.
"We have been writing emails to the CEO for months. But he is not responding," says Vikas Dhall, a former senior employee sharing the same story of all the employees HT spoke to. Dhall says he is to get about Rs 3 lakh from the company.
"I even had to give up the chance of employment at another company waiting for their dates," says Amit Kumar, an employee.
Udayan Challu, the CEO, and Vishal Dhar, co-founder and President of marketing appear unperturbed at the situation in their company. Challu says it is in "a cash flow crisis" and a "difficult time in the business cycle" now and it would get over it. He says people’s quitting jobs is normal in the industry that has "50-60% attrition rate".
Many of the employees approached the government to get help to get pending salaries. But the Labour commissioner could not help, as they are beyond the ambit of Payment of Wages Act, which could cover workers earning less than Rs 18,000 a month. They have to go to courts.
"We stayed till we found the promises were fake," says Naveen Mudgal, an employee who quit, "Our families landed in a serious financial trouble."
"But filing a civil case is very expensive and time consuming, and I am left with no money after not being paid. Moreover, the company has well paid lawyers to take care of these cases and get postponements of dates," says Kumar.
"Even a very senior official in the company told me that fighting a case is of no use and he was stuck here as well," he says. But some employees are now planning to move to court after their long wait.
It is not just the case of iYogi.
India currently has over 2,500 business process management (BPM) firms, according to Industry association Nasscom, and in 2015-16, the sector is expected to employ over 1 million people. Gurgaon, where iYogi is located, itself houses about 450 IT-BPM companies employing about 3 lakh professionals.
A 2014 report of Nasscom says 85% revenue of the IT-BPM industry originates from Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi-NCR,Hyderabad, Mumbai and Pune, and half of the workforce in these cities comes from outside.
In Mumbai, Zavier Nunees worked in a Teams pvt Ltd, a BPO, as a team coach in 2013. On a Monday morning, he found his company – which had about 40 employees who offered technical services solution to customers in the US and UK – had shut down without any prior notice. Salaries for two months were pending, which the company had promised to pay. And it is still pending.
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"Most of us were undergraduates and freshers earning between Rs 9000 to 12,000. We didn’t know what to do. Nobody responded to us. We went to police. They told us to go to court. We knew we could not afford,"he says. Nunees moved on, so did his colleagues in the company.
Deepak Goel, an ex-employee of a call centre in Gurgaon says he was fired without notice in 2014 October and he is yet to get the salary dues from the company.
"Whenever I asked the owner for my salary, he abused and harassed me," he says. Goel says he was also not issued a joining letter and a contract while entering the job.
BPO Union 2.0, an online blog that gets many similar complaints, says there are instances every day and most of them go unreported for lack of a support system for the employees.
"(Many companies) threaten to withhold salaries or experience certificates or relieving letters, or to send a black-list message on the National Skills Registry, (thinking that) the employees will back down," the spokesperson for the Union said.
The BPO sector in India is facing increasing competition from Vietnam and Philippines. It is also undergoing a transformation, that according to Nasscom, is "driven by greater automation, expanding omni-channel presence, application analytics across entire value chain."
According to Rituparna Chakraborty, Senior Vice President of Teamlease, this transformation could mean some traditional BPOs losing out, resulting in job losses.
"But the practices like not paying the salary (when companies land in trouble) is really unfortunate," she says.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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