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Outsourcing thriving in Britain despite India bashing

October 07, 2006 16:29 IST

A sting operation by Britain's Channel 4 on alleged sale of customers' personal data by Indian call centre workers is the latest round of negative publicity for the outsourcing industry, but its business is still thriving.

The TV channel aired a documentary on Thursday night, which showed how data of thousands of British customers could be stolen and sold by unscrupulous call centre employees for as little as $15.

Still, "the Indian outsourcing industry is doing very well in Britain and there is no hostility against it," Lord Swraj Paul, British Ambassador for Overseas Business, said at the Nehru Centre in London on Friday night as he released a new novel from India based on outsourcing.

"In Britain, we are very happy about Indian call centres. They have benefited British companies very much," he said.

Indian journalist-author Neelesh Misra's 'Once Upon a Timezone', a romantic comedy, is set in New York and an Indian call centre. It was launched at the Frankfurt Book Fair, where India was the guest of honour this year and the theme was "Today's India".

British author Mark Kobayashi-Hillary, speaking at the book release said "off-shoring personal data to India is a time-bomb waiting to explode" but added "The India-bashing must stop."

"India is far ahead of us in planning how to operate a service industry with hundreds of thousands of employees accessing personal data on customers," Kobayashi-Hillary said. "We should start listening to their security ideas before the next major data breach takes place on these shores."

Channel 4 rejected requests from the National Association of Software and Service Companies, a leading Indian software industry body, to provide details of the alleged wrongdoers so that they could be prosecuted.

"It is not the role of broadcasters or journalists to act as agents of the police or any other authority," the channel said.

British regulators have in the past scrutinised and cleared safety standards in the Indian outsourcing industry.

Britain's Financial Service Authority carried out a probe into standards in India in April 2005 and the Banking Code Standards Board audited eight Indian call centres this year, handling more than a million calls per month from the United Kingdom.

The BCSB report said; "Customer data is subject to the same level of security as in the UK. High risk and more complex processes are subject to higher levels of scrutiny than similar activities onshore."
H S Rao in London
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