"You have reached the Operator From India page. My name is Bob, how may I be helping you today?"
A Race Trope, where phone calls are redirected to operators in territories of the former British Raj, most commonly India. The implication is that the operators have been outsourced by Western telecommunications companies. Expect the problems other English speakers encounter with Indian accents (and overuse of the Military Alphabet so both parties can understand each other) to be comedy fodder.
Truth in Television, of course. A lot of Tech Support and call centers have been outsourced to India. Odds are within ten years, they'll have been sourced somewhere else (The Philippines are a common destination, on account of American colonialism there).
For Inconvenience, Press "1", or dial The Operators Must Be Crazy.
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Discover's commercials include a bearded man with a heavy accent calling himself Peggy, to mock their competitor's tendency to have operators from India.
Transformers: a distress call from a US Army soldier in Qatar is redirected to a disinterested Indian operator. According to director Michael Bay, however, this was based on a true story, presumably minus the giant robot attack.
In Slumdog Millionaire, Jamal gets an internship at one of these places. The workers are supposed to pretend to be British, and are even briefed on British soap operas to maintain their guise.
At one point Jamal (whose duties by this point were limited to making chai) takes a call and pretends to be British rather unsucessfully: "I live near Loch... Big... Big Ben. Loch Big Ben."
The Other End Of The Line is a romantic comedy where a woman with this job falls in love with an American customer she first contacted about... well, it was something about identity theft, but that was just to get the plot rolling.
In The Forty Year Old Virgin, Andy calls customer support for Viagra-like drug after having an erection for more than four hours. Of course, he never actually took the drug.
"Gregory" from Horrible Bosses. The guys make a game effort at calling him by his real name, but find it unpronouncable.
The supervisor for an Indian call center rounds up the employees for a performance review. He explains that while the comany's instruction do indeed tell the operators to give a Western name so as to reassure the caller, he's going to have to ask Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Angelina Jolie to find new names.
The novel One Night @ the Call Centre by Chetan Bhagat is a partial inversion of this trope, being told from the perspective of Indian call centre workers and going into some detail about how frustrating they find their customers.
Live Action TV
An episode of Zoey 101 had Chase and Zoey trying to communicate by webcam across the Atlantic, the picture fizzing out, and calling tech support. The guy on the line is clearly an Indian by his accent, and he has no tolerance for fools — which Chase most definitely is.
An episode of The Daily Show also poked fun at this by having Aasif Mandvi interrupt his "live" report from India to take someone's Tech Support call on his cell phone, while claiming to be an American named "Chandler". He then excuses himself to Jon by claiming this is an "Indian custom"
Hello Mumbai is a Work Com based in one of these call centers.
In the Life episode "Hit Me Baby", Crews gets tech support for his Bluetooth from an operator in India(though she refuses to disclose her location), and ends up calling her back during his latest case to bounce ideas off her.
The Wedge: This Australian sketch show featured a recurring sketch set in an Indian call centre..
Comedy Inc: In a sketch, an operator pretends to be an thick accented Indian to avoid having to actually help the person calling.
An episode of My Name Is Earl involved a man who did not have much of a real-world social life, but had a very rich online social life, which included Skype dinner dates with a woman in India...while she was at work for her tech support company.
In the curry episode of Good Eats, Alton Brown is trying to prove that curry is not really Indian cuisine. So, he calls the customer service number on his credit card, and asks "Bob" in India about where the best place to get curry in Delhi is. "Bob" replies that he has no idea what Alton is talking about.
In the same episode, while explaining the history of what we know today as curry powder, India is represented as a prince wearing a phone headset.
On Big Bang Theory, Howard claims that, in "Indian Monopoly", call centers are built instead of hotels. He immediately apologizes to Raj for the racism.
When the guys are designing an equation solving App for the iPhone, Sheldon invokes this by appointing Raj as their call support.
Raj: Hey! Why am I in charge of phone support? Seems a bit racist. Sheldon: A customer service representative with an Indian accent will create the impression that we are a vast enterprise that uses overseas call centers. Raj: Oh. Very clever. But still racist. Sheldon: Duly noted "Steve from Wichita".
In another episode, Raj mentions a cousin back in India who works in a call center and goes by "Dave".
Stand Up Comedy
One sketch on Late Night had Andy Blitz attempting to fix his computer with the help of an Indian telephone IT technician... And traveling to India with his computer (in Real Life!) to pester her.
Robin Williams has a routine about how he got to one after breaking through the For Inconvenience, Press "1" maze. The operator calls himself "Thomas Edison", and when Robin threatens him, he replies, "Don't fuck with me, Mork, I know who you are!"
Parodied by Homestar Runner in the SBEmail "isp", where Homestar acts as the tech support for Strong Bad's ISP, and one of the stock phrases Homestar parrots is "No, I'm not in India."
Neurotically Yours: One of the reoccurring characters is an Indian tech support operator, until he's fired and becomes a...less than helpful suicide hotline operator. His cure for all depression is 'Just shut the fuck up!
Neurotically Yours: Subject of three Foamy the Squirrel animations, the Indian Tech Guy is the only one working at his company. He works 24/7, and if he works too slowly he gets zapped by a monkey holding a tazing rod.
In pictures for sad children, Paul works at a call center that takes overflow from Indian call centers. The company can afford to do this by providing even poorer work conditions than Indian call centers.
The Simpsons: Apu's cousin in India makes his living as an operator for several American companies, each with a matching American accent.
In the Drawn Together episode "Toot Goes Bollywood", we are introduced to the king of India. When we first see him, sitting on his throne in full regal regalia, he is wearing a headset and in the middle of taking a tech support call.
Killface in Frisky Dingo gets redirected to one of these when trying to contact his health insurance company, where the operator "shrieks" at him, "terminates" the call, and then gets praised by his supervisor.
Monkey Dust had a sketch where a woman phones her bank and is answered by an operator in India (who pretends to be the bank manager in Britain.) She complains that the bank is too large and impersonal, and asks to close her account so she can move her money to a small, Scottish-run building society. She calls the building society — and then another operator in the same Indian call centre answers, doing a very bad impersonation of a Scottish accent.
Indian call centers make outgoing telemarketer calls as well.
Some UK and Australian companies are now explicitly advertising the fact they have local call centers. Ironically, they still contain many Indian immigrants who simply moved to take the job.
In Spain this trope is known as Operator from South America.
And in France it's Operator from North Africa.
In Germany it's Operator from Bosnia or Turkey.
Most internet companies in the US live on this trope. If there's a problem, you'll be treated to an Indian Machine that is trained to never deviate from a specific script. Even when you know what the problem already is. Go ahead, TRY telling them what the problem is, they'll just tell you to make sure that everything is connected first... Because just as often people will claim to know the problem, or sometimes outright lie. This is why we can't have nice things!
In some cases, oddly inverted, with companies based in India operating call centers in the US with American employees.
The call centres in India used for UK business have been the subject of complaints because the Indians speak English with a US accent.