INDIA: A company called Sanas says its technology could end discrimination against employees because of their accent and reduce racial abuse. Others, on the other hand, argue that this is a step in the wrong direction and that linguistic diversity should be welcomed.
Agents, many of them from the southern hemisphere, “white sound”, according to sources. According to reports, Sanas has received $32 million in funding since June 2022. The company calls its technology an accent translation tool.
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By playing a recording of someone reading a call center script in what appears to be a South Asian accent, then clicking a slider button, the speech is transformed into an American accent with a slightly robotic quality, allowing to visitors to the website of “hear the magic” for themselves.
SFGATE commissioned the start-up to try to do “The call center staff looks white and American, regardless of their country of origin. »
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A co-founder of Sanas, Sharath Keshava Narayana, disagreed with the claim, telling the BBC’s Tech Tent program that all four founders and 90% of the company’s staff were foreigners.
He said the experience of a close friend of the other founders partly inspired the tool.
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This friend, a third-year graduate student at Stanford University in the United States, studying computer systems engineering, was forced to return home to Nicaragua to help support his parents.
The student got a technical support job at a call center but was fired after three months due to discrimination based on his accent, according to Narayana.
Mr Narayana, a former call center employee, said in his experience agents would face harassment or discrimination because of their voice and the abuse the company believes its technology can stop.
But Ashleigh Ainsley, co-founder of Color in Tech, wondered if changing people’s skin tones was the best action because some people would stand up against racism. “That’s not the way we can go. We have to increase our tolerance.
According to Mr Ainsley, the problem is not with those who have an accent but with those who believe it is appropriate to abuse [call centre employees].
When asked if technology encourages racism, Narayana replied: Should the world be a better place? Without a doubt. Should accents and diversity be more widely accepted? Without a doubt. But even though call centers have been around for 45 years, a call center representative is discriminated against on a daily basis.
According to the company, the system is currently used by 1,000 workers, mostly in India and the Philippines, and has been warmly accepted, improving employee retention.
The expectation that call center employees will speak with an American accent is widely documented. Shalu Yadav, a Delhi-based BBC journalist who worked in three call centers as a student to supplement her income, said her bosses expected her to learn about American culture and speaks with an American accent.
Sanas claimed it was intended to improve communication when an accent is problematic. The companies are said to have tested the technology for internal use to help teams communicate between those in northern and southern India, Korea and the United States.
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