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Class course for call pool

With the call centre industry growing faster than the manpower pool, the Bengal government has decided to bridge the demand-supply gap to help companies hire more and hire better.

As a first step towards creating a talent pool that can match the requirements of the IT-enabled services (ITES) industry, especially call centres, the government has tied up with GE. The IT department has also sent a proposal to Calcutta University (CU) to start focused training courses, offered by specialised agencies, in undergraduate colleges.

“We want to kickstart the course in five or six city colleges this year. CU has agreed to our proposal. It is identifying the colleges and working out the modalities,” said state IT minister Manab Mukherjee.

According to a Nasscom survey, a manpower shortfall of around 40,000 has been predicted in the ITES industry by 2005. According to estimates of George ITeS — a city-based training institute specialising in call centre training — more than 2,000 such jobs are now up for grabs in Calcutta. With Wipro Spectramind beginning its Calcutta operations by March 2004, the numbers will only move northwards.

“There are jobs, but companies are not finding suitable candidates,” said Rahul Dutt, chief executive officer, George ITeS. Other players offering such structured training programmes include NIIT, Aptech and British Institute.

There are 10 international and 30-plus domestic call centres in town. “The industry is growing in length and breadth and there’s a human resource bottleneck. A focused training course is a good move,” said Aditya Bajoria of Vishnu Solutions.

The companies that hire heavily from Calcutta follow a stringent selection module, involving a test of language skills, aptitude, computing and other abilities. With average entry-level compensation reading Rs 5,000 to Rs 8,000, young boys and girls are queuing up.

“The conversion rate, in the range of four to five per cent in Calcutta, has to go up to meet the industry demand,” said S.R. Rama of Ma-foi, stressing the need for training. R.P. Yadav of Genius Consultants Ltd echoed her views.

Call centre companies spend a lot of time scouting for and then training the talent pool. “If we can reduce their search, selection and training cost, more companies will set up base here,” said minister Mukherjee.

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