Industry Research : Call Centres Bring Work to Kashmir
Nov 27, 2012 -- In yet another sign of economic development in Kashmir, privately-run call centres are popping up in the state, as it begins to build a private sector and taste the benefits of modern technology.
At least 20 privately run call centres are registered with the Jammu and Kashmir Information Technology Department, according to Dara Singh Bali, system executive with the department.
And while the companies face a host of challenges, their presence heralds modernisation of the state, Abdul Hameed Punjabi, head of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce, told Khabar South Asia.
"We can say that the revolution in Information Technology, which Kashmir had yet to see, has now started," he said.
Amir Ahmed is one of the entrepreneurs behind the growth of call centres and other business process outsourcing companies (BPOs) in Kashmir. BPOs are third-party providers that perform services such as technical support or customer care for international companies.
"We started with the plan that since Kashmir has few private companies, someone has to take the lead in investing," Ahmed, director of newly-launched BPO Emergia 11, told Khabar. "That is how we began and, thanks to the Almighty, it is flourishing now."
Zahoor Ahmad Rather is an owner of Kashmir's PC Planet Technologies, which employs about 50 people. Rather said the aim behind investing in the BPO sector is to improve the community.
"The first and foremost aim was to provide employment to the youth of the Valley," he said. "Looking at the ratio of the jobs available and the unemployed people in the state, I thought of setting up a sector which would provide immediate jobs to the people," he said.
Young people have jumped at the chance for professional employment in-state.
Shahbaz Ahmed, 20, graduated with a degree in computer science from a local Kashmir University-affiliated college and now works at PC Planet. "I completed my degree last year. Since then I have been very much worried about a job. But, thanks to this company, I got a job here with a good salary package," he said.
"Many of my friends are now doing part-time jobs in different Srinagar-based call centres. Till last year, part time jobs were not possible, but times are changing and we have that option available now. Everybody is feeling so happy with this change."
Zafar Ahmad, 26, is employed with Aegis, run by the ESSAR group, which recently started operations in Kashmir. The new call centre culture is attracting young Kashmiris, he said.
"It is a novelty for Kashmir. We have never had such type of workstations, which work round the clock. More youth are opting for night shifts as they also want to take that experience of working in the night," Ahmad said.
He further noted that now young professionals have the option to work in Kashmir rather than going outside the state. "Though we do not have many call centres here, it is true they are providing jobs to many youth. It is helping hundreds of locals to get a job," he said.
The new ventures face plenty of problems, including an unpredictable energy supply, according to Punjabi, the Chamber of Commerce head.
"These small BPOs are facing some problems, like they don't have proper networking systems. Also, uninterrupted power supply is required to run a BPO, which in Kashmir is not possible, as we have electricity crisis."
But he is expecting that with appropriate support, the businesses will survive and the sector will expand, tapping into the talent of Kashmiri youth.
"Everybody here is expecting more private business houses to set up operations in Kashmir in the near future. If they have invested and started something, the government should help them in every possible way."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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