Guerrilla Radio-tags make an impact on HIV-susceptible BPO workers in India
Deepak is a typical employee at a generic BPO in Mumbai 1. He works hard, toiling
away through the Indian night, and parties even harder. At these heady, crazy parties,
he sometimes ends up sleeping with some female colleague or another. In the heat of
the moment, he doesn’t always stop to check whether he brought a condom along or
This is not an exceptional situation in the rapidly mushrooming population of youth
working for BPOs (already numbering 1.3M). In fact, high risk behaviour displayed by
BPO workers has become a source of worry for HIV and STD experts in the country 2.
It’s not that Deepak and his friends are unaware of the dangers of HIV and STDs.
Sometimes people need a slight nudge in the right direction, especially when it comes
to buying a condom in a country that until recently was so conservative with respect to
sex and sexuality.
Cut forward to the launch of a new campaign using Radio-frequency Identification
tagged products that are consumed by call centre employees to broadcast targeted
messages containing behaviour changing communications designed to encourage use
of safe sex practises and avoidance of high risk behaviour.
Deepak is going to buy some beers for the big party he and his colleagues at the call-
centre at which he works are planning. As he picks up the cans, his phone buzzes as a
message is triggered by the RFID-tagged cans5
. Checking out the screen, he sees a
reminding him to buy condoms if he’s planning to have sex tonight. On
the way out, he picks up a pack of condoms. It’s become almost second nature now.
1. Target Audience:
• Friendly advice by use of cartoons.
• Humorous reminders to practise safe sex
2. Sponsor Companies:
• Part of CSR initiatives
• Delivery of targeted messages to buy contraceptives at critical times
• Change of behaviour among target audience
4. Condom Companies:
• Increased sales
• Drop in HIV prevalence among call-centre employees.
• Reaching out to the target audience in unexpected situations and locations by
using RFID technology
• Connecting with target audience through humour: Youth can relate to humorous
messages (funny cartoon characters: Ms. Con & Mr. Dom) reminding them to
practise safe sex, something they are already aware they need to do, better than
traditional fear-filled messages
• Reinforcement of messages for behaviour change
• Handset manufacturers have already launched RFID enabled handsets, within
couple of years a major chunk of phones will be enabled with this technology3
also; alternative to RFID is Bluetooth mobile technology which is available
• Youth working at call-centres and BPO units will be an ideal target audience as
this population has indulgent lifestyle as they earn comparatively good amount of
money & work in night shifts4
, also since they are at highest risk and have access
to best technology.
• The same technology will then be implemented in Tier I and Tier II cities of India
targeting recreation areas frequented by BPO employees. Further rollout into the
entire Indian subcontinent will take place over the next 3 years.
• One important constraint will be establishment of strategic alliances with
companies selling the tagged products as well as the BPO units.
will be installed in product displays at supermarkets and stores around the
BPO offices, at the entrances and exits of the offices themselves, and at hangouts in
the area that are frequented by employees. When a phone with RFID reading capability
comes within range, the installed smart technology will send a flash message (or SMS)
to the passer-by through his mobile phone. The messages will contain humorous
cartoons advocating safe sex practises, condom usage and avoidance of multiple
unfamiliar partners or other risky behaviour.
Condoms@call centres: Why single them out?”, Sep 21, 2008; The Times of India
Indian BPOs turing home to AIDS, expert”, Jun 23, 2008 The Financial Express
“RFID phones: So near, yet so far”, Monday, Dec 04, 2006; ZDNet Asia
“Condoms@call centres: Why single them out? 21 Sep 2008, 0110 hrs IST, Pallavi Srivastava,TNN”
Call center jobs in India take toll on workers' health :The Associated PressPublished: December 26, 2007
“Achieve Breakthrough Performance Through RFID Radio Frequency Identification and Auto-ID
Technology.Sunday, April 06, 2008 [http://www.rfida.com/2008/04/rfid-dogbone-tags-mobile-phones.htm]
Retro-fitting mobile phones with RFID [http://www.nearfield.org/2007/07/retro-fitting-mobile-