You’d think it was a call-centre at first sight. Rows of cubicles occupied by a small army of young men and women wearing noise-cancelling headphones speaking to customers on the other side of the globe. Yet at this neatly placed little office in phase 5 of Lahore’s DHA, things work a little differently. Because these men and women are not on the phone as customer-care or telemarketers. No. They are taking orders from customers visiting restaurants nearly 6500 miles away.
This is the boiler-room for the up-and-coming Canadian tech- startup Percy, which describes itself as a ‘virtual cashier startup’ — the first of its kind in the world. The concept is simple. Labour is expensive in the developed world, and in a country like Canada the minimum wage is CAD $15 an hour. Restaurants consistently face an issue of a workforce with a very high turnover rate that they have to pay minimum wage to. So what is the solution Percy is suggesting? Instead of hiring a person to do the job behind a counter, just slap a tablet with a stable internet connection onto the counter, outsource the job to a developing country like Pakistan, and have a virtual cashier at your service for as low as $3.75 an hour. The startup has wowed many by putting a person, sitting in another country, taking orders for the walk-in customers of a restaurant at a fraction of what it would cost to hire someone to do the work in-person.
Launched only 10 months ago, Percy has garnered plenty of negative press over...
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