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Operator from India

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"You have reached the Operator From India page. My name is Tom. How may I be helping you today?"

A Race Trope, where phone calls are redirected to outsourced operators in far-away countries. Expect the problems other native speakers encounter with foreign accents (and overuse of the Military Alphabet so both parties can understand each other) to be comedy fodder.

Truth in Television, of course. For English speakers the most common call center location are the territories of the former British Raj. Odds are within ten years, they'll have been sourced somewhere else. The Philippines are another common destination, on account of American colonialism there. Unlike with (stereotypical) Indian examples, expect no or minimal quirky accents if you're from the West—owing also to such thorough colonialism, and the subsequent Foreign Culture Fetish it's engendered with it, Filipino call centre agents have been trained to mimic American (and possibly other Anglophone) accents so well, they would be mistaken for English-speaking Westerners without any further clues to their location! note 


For Inconvenience, Press "1", or dial The Operators Must Be Crazy.


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  • Discover's commercials mock this phenomenon with a bearded male phone operator with a heavy (seemingly Eastern European) accent, in what appears to be Siberia, calling himself "Peggy".

    Audio Play 
  • In the Big Finish audioplay Fall to Earth, Ianto is trapped on a privately-owned Space Plane that has suffered a calamity and is falling to Earth. With him unable to reach anyone else at Torchwood, Ianto suddenly gets a call offering him health insurance. Deciding to keep the Middle Eastern sounding woman on the phone, he readily agrees to any terms and even gives her his credit card number (it's not like Torchwood is short on money). The entire audioplay involves Ianto chatting with Zeynep, a call center woman in Izmir, Turkey, while trying to figure out how to bring the craft safely down. It turns out the call was no accident, as whoever was behind the sabotage (probably the Committee) wants the building Zeynep is in to be destroyed as well, so the falling craft is actually homing in on Zeynep's headset signal. Fortunately, while the craft does crash into the building, Zeynep has managed to evacuate everyone and has run out of the building just in time, while Ianto finds a parachute and ejects. Zeynep is happy to survive but refuses to meet Ianto for a proper thank you, telling him to call her instead.

  • 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.
    Capt. William Lennox: This is an emergency Pentagon call! The Pentagon, do you understand—?
    [the window behind him explodes]
    Operator: [bored] Sir, the attitude is not going to speed things up any bit at all. I'm going to ask you to speak very clearly into the mouthpiece...
    Lennox: I'm in the middle of a war! This is FRIGGIN' RIDICULOUS!!
  • 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 40-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.
  • Outsourced, both the film and the TV show, feature these call centers.
  • "Gregory" from Horrible Bosses. The guys make a game effort at calling him by his real name, but find it unpronounceable.

  • The supervisor for an Indian call center rounds up the employees for a performance review. He explains that while the company'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. (Obviously this joke only works with operators from countries that retained indigenous naming customs—by contrast, this is generally a non-issue for Filipino operators, many of whom already have Western names to begin with, again owing to a double-dose of Spanish-Catholic and American colonialism.)

  • 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.
  • The novel Bangalore Calling by Brinda Narayan digs into the inner workings of a call center in Bangalore and the inner lives of some of its employees. It attempts to examine the sociological and psychological effects of call center employees having to shrug off the culture they were inculcated in, and appropriating a different culture.

     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.
  • On Reno 911! the Sheriff's Department outsources 911 to India, with predictable results.
  • An early episode of The Colbert Report episode used this to illustrate outsourcing. Stephen was flattered that they put his call "all the way through to India", probably because he's a celebrity.
    Tech Support: Am I speaking to Mr Col-burt?
    Stephen: ...Close enough.
  • 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.
  • Mumbai Calling is another one.
  • Along with Outsourced and the feature film it's based on.
  • Done on The Suite Life on Deck: When Zack and Cody go to the top of an Indian mountain (Cody hopes to meet a religious man who can help him reach nirvana), they discover that the so-called 'religious man' actually runs a technical-support center for computers... the same one that Mr. Moesby has been trying to contact so that he can fix his computer.
  • 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 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. She even takes a tech support call while she's at his funeral!
  • 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.
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • When the guys are designing an App for the iPhone, Sheldon makes Raj their support line operator (and instructs him to answer as "Steve from Wichita") to invoke this image and make customers believe that they are a much larger corporation that can afford to use overseas call centers. Raj calls him out for this, but does admit that it's a clever ploy.
    • In one episode, Howard claims that in "Indian Monopoly" call centers are built instead of hotels. He immediately apologizes to Raj for the racism.
    • In another episode, Raj mentions a cousin back in India who works in a call center and goes by "Dave".
    • And in another episode, Raj says he's going to use an American accent the next time he has to speak with a call center in India, as he feels like he's mocking them when using his normal voice.
    • In yet another episode, Howard is forced to call a tech support line and laments that he will be speaking to a foreigner reading from the same manual as him. Cue Raj's phone ringing from across the room.
      Raj: That's my father, you jerks!
  • On Drew Carey's Improv-A-Ganza, during a game of "Question This" (aka Brand X Jeopardy!), Wayne Brady plays a contestant with an Indian accent and an incomprehensible last name. He gets a call in the middle of introducing himself, and immediately switches to a white American accent to answer the phone as "Bryce". He goes back to the Indian accent once the call is finished.
  • Parodied on Comedy Inc. The Late Shift, where an Indian woman gets increasingly frustrated with an operator from Australia pretending to be Indian, who doesn't do a convincing job.

     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!"
  • Discussed in a Jeff Dunham bit where he tells Peanut about how it's more correct to refer to American Indians as "Native Americans." Peanut then says that it's better than trying to tell if "Indian" refers to people who chant and own casinos or people who say "Thank you for calling customer support!"

     Video Games  
  • In Destroy All Humans! 2, it turns out that even the Furons have outsourced their customer service to India, as Crypto finds out the hard way when he's trying to fix a powerful new superweapon he's found.

     Web Animation  
  • 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!
  • In season five of Red vs. Blue, Sarge attempts to contact Vic while Simmons is exploring the cavern. When Simmons gets too close to Vic's control console, Vic hurriedly hangs up. Sarge thinks this trope is about to kick in and asks not to be transferred to India.

     Web Original  

  • Turned up in Achewood when Nice Pete is trying to get tech support for his Death Trap.
  • 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.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal investigates what this must have been like in the Victorian era.
  • This illustrated example certainly counts...
  • The plot of Broken Telephone is kicked off when a woman working in a call center in India overhears a gunshot on one of her calls. She then has to try to solve a murder from half a world away.

     Western Animation  
  • 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.
  • On an episode of Family Guy, crime had gotten so bad in Quahog that the bullies in Chris' school are outsourcing their bullying to Indian tech support workers. One tells Chris to give himself a wedgie.
    • In the episode "Road to India," Brian falls in love with a tech-support worker, and spends long periods of time using the tech support chat option just so he can talk to her. Things become complicated when Brian goes to India to meet this woman and Stewie tags along.
  • In the American Dad! episode "Four Little Words" has Francine running away to India and is seen working with a computer and headset. "Thank you for calling Apple tech support."
  • In the eighth season of "South Park," the episode "Grounded Vindaloop" had a run-in with an Indian Call Center thanks to a VR game. Cartman receives a phone call from an Indian call center employee calling himself Steve, from Oculus Rift's technical support, who tells him that he is actually the one trapped in a VR state. Stan tells Cartman and Kyle that what they are doing is all reality, while Cartman claims that he is a computer program, so one of the others must still be trapped in the VR world. Steve tells Stan that Butters was the first one to call customer service, then Steve calls customer service himself, getting another version of himself on the other end. Steve tells Steve that the call to customer service from within the VR setting has caused a feedback loop, which he names a customer service Vindaloop (a portmanteau of Vindaloo and loop).

     Real Life  
  • Indian call centers make outgoing telemarketer calls as well. Most cold call scams supposedly from Microsoft, the tax office, phone company, etc. are guessed it, Indian, especially if they ask for payment or banking details. The second the call goes in this direction just hang up and report it to the authorities. Of course, that hasn't stopped people from conversing in prank calls with them for their own entertainment.
  • Some UK and Australian companies are now explicitly advertising the fact they have local call centres. Ironically, they still contain many Indian immigrants who simply moved to take the job.
  • Some Australian companies have their call centre employees in India and the Philippines trained to sound Aussie. It works; they sound exactly as if they've been trained to sound Aussie.
  • In Spain, this trope is known as The Operator from South America.
  • In Francophone Europe and certain parts of French-speaking Canada, it's The Operator from North Africa.
  • In Germany it's Operator from Bosnia or Turkey.
  • In some cases, oddly inverted, with companies based in India operating call centers in the US with American employees.
  • Nearly every live person you engage at Dell tech support is based in India.
  • According to current trends, in Europe this trope might eventually morph into the Operator From Portugal.
  • If you call for support with your TracFone or BasicTalk phone service, you'll find that their call center has the Operator From Puerto Rico.


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