Employment, work organization and employee experiences of work in post-crisis Indian business process outsourcing (BPO) industry

  • Chandrima Roy

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The dynamics of change within and across economies have led to restructuring of business activities globally impacting work organization and employees' experiences of work and employment. Externalization and outsourcing of service functions has resulted in firms subcontracting part of work to third-party firms in remote locations. As a result increasing number of workers are no longer directly employed by the organization where and/or whom they work for but are employed by the third-party firms giving rise to 'fragmented employment relations and working conditions' (Flecker, 2010). Literature documents the negative consequences of such business arrangements (Taylor and Bain, 2005; Russell, 2009; Vidal and Hauptmeier, 2014).In the context of the globalization of business services from 2000, the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry witnessed significant growth. BPO is a subset of outsourcing that involves the contracting of the operations and responsibilities of a specific business process to a third-party service provider or to an in-house service provider located elsewhere.BPO is typically categorized into back office outsourcing, which includes internal business functions such as human resources or finance and accounting, and front office outsourcing, which includes customer-related services such as contact centre services. BPO that is contracted outside a company's country is called offshore outsourcing. BPO that is contracted to a company's neighboring (or nearby) country is called nearshore outsourcing. Such dimensions allow for diverse inter-firm arrangements and delivery modes, ranging from complete ownership and control to third-party provision.Often the business processes outsourced are information technology-based, and are referred to as ITeS-BPO, where ITeS stands for Information Technology enabled Service.With regards to BPO-ITeS services, most attention focused on the high-profile offshoring of call centres from the developed economies of the global North (United State, United Kingdom, Canada) to the developing economies of the global South, particularly India (e.g. Dossani and Kenney, 2007). Contrasting but complementary challenges confronted labour and labour markets effecting work and employment at both nodes of capital's transnational servicing chains (Taylor and Bain, 2008). However, these important debates rested exclusively on evidence derived from the period preceding the crisis of 2008.A re-evaluation was required based on the re-configured political economy of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) characterized by shifting customer demands, changing markets and rapidly shifting technology needs. Given the lacuna of published work on post-crisis Indian BPO, this thesis cuts new ground. It examines the dynamics of work and employment across capital's three contrasting servicing chain relationships (Indian third-party, global third-party provider, and an in-house operation), that span the spectrum of offshoring.Evidence from in-depth interviews with senior managers, middle managers and, crucially, agents engaged on 'voice' and back-office services indicate that market driven intensification, strategic reorientation and people management practices adopted post crisis exposed workers much more directly to market pressures giving rise to greater intensification and extensification of work, job insecurity and well-being issues manifesting in different ways in the three case study organisations.In evaluating the empirical evidence of the contrasting case studies, GVC, GPN concepts have been employed to inform analysis and explain developments and differences thereby contributing to the scant literature (pace Taylor, 2010) that applies these analytical frameworks through the concept of the service delivery chain in the 'Indian BPO sector'.
Date of Award1 Oct 2015
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SupervisorPhilip Taylor (Supervisor) & Dora Scholarios (Supervisor)

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