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From overdue credit card payment collections to taking down phone orders, telemarketing and technical support, call centers working out of India are slowly taking over the reins of customer service for American and European companies.

GE, American Express, Standard Chartered, HSBC, British Airways, AOL, Microsoft and J P Morgan Chase are just some of the many companies that have outsourced part of their operations to India.

Running these operations are the Ďagents,í young graduates who start at less than Rs 10,000 a month, a wage high by Indian standards.

Call centers in India are thriving because they offer services that are among the cheapest on a global scale.

Salaries form the single biggest component -- up to 55 percent -- of a call centerís costs, while technology forms 15 percent of the costs. Management overheads, interest and depreciation make up the rest.

Words: Priya Ganapati. Photograph: Jewella C Miranda

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