Amazon India launches all-women virtual customer service centre, hires 60 women in Bengaluru
Amazon India on Wednesday announced it has launched an all-women’s virtual customer service program (VCS) in Bengaluru. The Seattle-based ecommerce giant had introduced this program in 2017 to address customer requests remotely. It is an extension of Amazon’s Customer Service (CS) network.
The company said that through this all-women VCS site, it has extended flexible career opportunities for women across the city, empowering them to pursue their careers from their homes.
This site will enable Amazon India to reach out to a wider talent pool of women who prefer to work from home, as it seeks to bring greater diversity across teams. This could include women who are resuming their careers after a break, or those looking for flexibility in their work schedule to attend to personal commitments during the day.
In a conversation with HerStory, Swati Rustagi, Director, HR, Amazon India, talks about the new launch and the company’s plans with VCS. Swati has close to two decades of experience in human resources.
Before Amazon, she worked with companies like Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL), DSP Merrill Lynch, Johnson & Johnson Medical, Glenmark Pharmaceutical, and Max Healthcare.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
HerStory (HS): Tell us about the Virtual Customer Service (VCS) program and the centre?
Swati Rustagi (SR): Amazon’s mission is to be the earth’s most customer-centric company, and this mission is central to our work in diversity, equity and inclusion. Over the years, we have carefully curated initiatives to create growth avenues for individuals from diverse backgrounds, empowering them to achieve their full potential.
As an extension of this endeavour, in 2017, we scaled flexible career opportunities through our Virtual Customer Service (VCS) program.
A highly impactful working model launched well before it was considered normal, the VCS program is an opportunity for individuals to supporting our customer service teams from the comfort of their homes.
This program enables us to tap into additional talent pockets, ensuring greater diversity by roping in individuals who might not be able to physically attend office due to various reasons.
The launch of this innovation also complements our other initiatives to bring more women into the workplace and help transform their lives. In parallel, this program also supports our efforts to continually enhance customer experiences.
Individuals across the country have benefited from this innovation, including women, across demographics and social strata have been able to expand their horizons, create meaningful, and fulfilling careers.
HS: What is the all-women's VCS, and what are its aims?
SR: The launch of this all-women VCS site stems from our endeavour to strengthen opportunities for women across all our teams, in this case, Amazon’s Customer Service (CS) community. Many women, especially in India, find it difficult to go into the workplace or are compelled to drop out early.
The reasons could be anything from societal pressure to working late hours, leaving their hometown to work in metro cities, or having to choose between their personal and professional commitments. Flexible options of working from home (WFH) represent ‘opportunity’ for growth, independence and empowerment.
Through this initiative, we are providing women with a channel to integrate themselves into the professional world as well as resume their careers. Be it homemakers, new mothers or single parents - the journey will provide them with opportunities to continuously leverage their skills, strengths and capabilities, from the comfort of their homes, all of which will have an impact that goes beyond economic development.
At Amazon, we are committed to bringing more women into the workplace and this all-women VCS site will lay the groundwork to further strengthen our knowledge about inclusion practices and subsequently, scale this across India.
HS: How many women are you looking to hire, and what will their core roles be?
SR: This initiative serves an opportunity for women to participate in the workforce, while maintaining work-life harmony. The team will operate virtually from home supporting Amazon customers via chat/email enabling us to continue ensuring they enjoy a seamless shopping experience.
So far, we have hired 60 candidates for the Bengaluru facility. As we grow this initiative in the country, we will continue to enable people across demographics to expand their horizons and create a meaningful, fulfilling and successful life.
HS: Can you tell us more about your diversity and inclusion initiatives?
SR: We consistently work towards diversity, equity and inclusion in our workforce where unique perspectives are valued. At Amazon, our long-term vision for diversity is to develop a balanced workforce. We have designed several initiatives to take this vision forward.
For example, here are some initiatives across our operations network.
- The launch of Women Delivery Stations in Tamil Nadu and Gujarat: We have taken the lead to engage with women, create unique job opportunities in the logistics space with our Delivery Service partners in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu who run two all women delivery stations. These stations are completely managed and run by women. Women deliver packages on two-wheelers, covering a radius of 2-3 km from the delivery station.
- Silent Delivery Station in Mumbai: The first silent station was launched in Mumbai in January 2017, in partnership with Mirakle Couriers, a Delivery Service Partner. Today, this dedicated Silent Delivery Station is completely managed and run by these associates. The second silent station was launched in Mumbai in June 2018. These two stations have provided opportunities for more than 30 hearing impaired delivery associates in the city.
- Inclusivity in Fulfilment Centres: In April 2017, Amazon piloted an initiative designed to create opportunities for persons with hearing impairment in its Fulfilment Center (FC) in Hyderabad. The pilot started with a handful of associates with hearing impairment, who were trained to pack shipments at the FC. This initiative has now rapidly expanded to more than eight cities including Bangalore, Chennai, Indore, Mumbai, Pune, and Hyderabad. NGOs like Youth4Jobs and V-Shesh provide valuable support and resources to Amazon in this D&I initiative.
- Creating meaningful opportunities for our transgender communities: As we continue to take steps in achieving our goal of being a more diverse and inclusive workplace in India, our operations team has created opportunities for the transgender community in our operations network including our Fulfilment Centres, Sort Centres .and Delivery Centres.
HS: What kind of training is given to women?
SR: The training program encompasses process as well as communications training.
These colleagues undergo culture assimilation programs to better serve Amazon customers. In addition to existing platforms of leadership and HR connects, we would be introducing mentoring circles, to provide an opportunity to interact with and learn from the experiences of senior women leaders among Customer Service (CS) India.
Our VCS teams are currently present in 12 Indian cities and we are looking forward to extending this to other states across the country. The all-women VCS site launch will play a pivotal role in scaling our inclusion practices to other sites.