Call centres see politics in sting

The Indian BPO industry sees a political angle to a British tabloid's expose on the apparent breach of security in Indian call centres.

"The authenticity of these claims can be questioned as Barclays Bank is yet to confirm whether the account numbers are original," said former CEO of Wipro Spectramind Raman Roy.

Western countries did not deny the economics of outsourcing but the growing loss of jobs was a very real concern, he added, hinting that this could be one reason behind the latest outsourcing controversy.

A UK research study has shown that by 2008, about 200,000 British jobs will be lost to India, part of 2 million jobs outsourced from Western economies.

"These losses cannot be ignored by any country and it is too premature to consider these allegations as completely true," he added. The authenticity of the photograph on the tabloid's website is also questioned. Experts say the awkward position of the thumb and the blurred sleeve area suggests some possible manipulation with the photo.

Barclays Bank, the bank whose customers' numbers were sold, is not a client of Infinity e-search, the company where the alleged security breach occurred. With so many loopholes in the story, the industry is not worried about any serious repercussions on their business.

"The issue is to outsource or not and not outsource to India as all countries like China and the Philippines have the same level of risk," said Mohit Srivastav, vice-president, Evalueserve. Infinity e-search is not a BPO and is also not a member of Nasscom. The company in its defence stated that it was into web marketing and specialised in Internet search engine optimisation.

"These allegations are baseless as we do not deal with any classified information and do not do the kind of work that is alleged," said Rahul Dutt, MD, Infinity e-search.

Nasscom said the credibility of Indian companies would not be affected as this problem was not unique to any single nation and could affect any country.

In London, Barclays, one of the banks whose data was said to be leaked, said the information did not come from its own operation but probably from a third party that requires customers to provide bank details in sales transactions.

Citibank, ABN Amro, Standard Chartered and HSBC are among financial giants that employ workers in India to serve global customers. HSBC was among those whose data was said to be stolen in the Sun's sting.

HSBC spokeswoman Malini Thadani said the group employed 3,600 in three Indian cities, but none in Delhi. "We haven't got any third parties involved," she said.