India press in defense of BPO industry after Sun scandal

Posted on June 28, 2005 
Filed Under Uncategorized

The Indian press has come out swinging against The Sun’s sting operation in which a journalist from the British tabloid bribed an Indian call centre employee for about 2,750 pounds for confidential information of 1,000 British bank customers including numbers of passports and credit cards details.

The Indian Express called the BPO scandal “a freak case”. Subimal Bhattacharjee says: “We need to get some perspective on this. This, after all, is an industry that employs some 400,000 employees and it is at present growing at the rate of 30 per cent.

“Given this, some stray incidents of this kind are bound to occur. The point is that they are very rare. As recently as April this year, a report of the UK-based Financial Service Authority had concluded that security in Indian finance BPOs was sound and, in some cases, even better than that in the UK.”

The Statesman ran a story entitled Sun’s cheque book scoop under scanner : “Infinity eSearch, the BPO associated with the call centre expose, claimed the episode was an attempt to discredit the booming Indian IT and BPO sector via cheque book journalism.

“The BPO, whose employee Karan Bahree was involved in the alleged transfer of classified information, has also threatened to sue the British journalist who conducted the sting operation if the company‚Äôs damaged by the scam.

“Infinity lawyer Mr Deepak Masih gave details of the letter written by the sacked Karan Bahree, saying he was promised a job besides US$5,000 for helping the undercover Sun journalist.

“Bahree, the letter revealed, was paid the amount for a ‘presentation to a British person called Oliver’ that was arranged by one Fayaz Rizvi, who was working with Oliver.

” ‘I was introduced to a person called Fayaz Rizvi by an acquaintance, Sameer. Fayaz and Sameer, Bahree said in his letter, advised him to ask for a sum of money for each nugget of information he divulged.

” ‘I was paid a total of $5,000. The presentation was made over three meetings,’the letter said. After the meetings and payments, Oliver offered me a post as consultant for his new call centre in Gurgaon, Bahree added.

” ‘The purpose of the sting operation could be to discredit the booming Indian IT and BPO sector,’ Mr Masih said.” Gurgaon is a New Delhi suburb that has become a hub of outsourcing companies servicing MNCs from all over the world.

Earlier, Infinity Managing Director Rahul Dutt said it neither handled any financial information nor had accounts of a British bank.

“We have no bank clients in UK…We’re a Web marketing company that optimises Web sites on search engines. We do not have any classified information on any banks,” he said. Bahree, who was fired, also denied any wrongdoing saying a friend had asked him to give a CD to a Briton to earn “extra money” but he had no idea of its contents.

Despite the scandal, BT announced Monday it will US$48 million in Asia-Pacific, most of which will be in India. “India is the fastest growing market in Asia-Pacific and we plan to invest more in the country,” the BT Asia-Pacific President, Allen Ma, told a news conference.

The investment will go into developing key IP platforms and transfer of services on to an integrated platform for voice, video and data.

Ma, however, did not specify the investment amount for India. In India, BT has entered into contracts with two suppliers, HCL Technologies BPO and Progeon, an Infosys subsidiary, to create two new next generation contact centres near New Delhi and Bangalore.

It also recently contracted with Infosys to set up an Asia-Pacific regional customer service management centre in Pune.

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