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India rises to panic calls

Bangalore, July 8 (Reuters): Some Indian call centres are working overtime to help British train passengers find their way after the London bombings triggered panic and disruptions, industry officials said today.

Mumbai-based call centre firm Intelenet Global Services, which answers phones for Britain’s National Rail Enquiries, said more than 100 of its agents were joined by managers and off-duty staff to deal with a flood of calls.

“Yesterday, there was panic and everybody wanted to get out of London. Today, they want to know what options they have,” Intelenet’s chief operating officer, Ashok Dhawan, said.

Dhawan said calls had doubled in volume since yesterday’s rush-hour bombings across London that killed more than 50 people and brought its transport to a standstill.

“People have put in long hours without asking for overtime, but they are only doing their job,” Dhawan said.

He refused to disclose details of the number of phone calls or workers deployed by the company. India’s call centres, citing customer confidentiality and sensitivity, hold back such details.

British unions have protested against offshore contracting of service jobs to India, where agents work for far less money in a $5.2-billion back-office industry employing 350,000 people.

Barclays Plc. and Indian financial group HDFC hold 50 per cent each in Intelenet, which has more than 5,000 workers.

The Indian joint venture of US-based ClientLogic, a partner of ITC, handled a 60 per cent jump in calls from Britain’s National Rail Enquiries, a company spokesperson said.

Winfred Wilson said the company, one of the world’s biggest in call centre work, also had agents in Britain, who were joined by 300 Bangalore workers assigned to National Rail, which represents Britain’s Association of Train Operating Companies.

But some back-office operations said they actually had less work because fewer Britons worked yesterday.

Call centre firm iSeva said its technology support staff received only half the number of calls they usually do.

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