BPO Sutra | From Web 2.0 to Literature 2.0

Sudhindra Mokhasi and Chetan Bhagat
Pix Credit : Tech Goss

Sudhindra Mokhasi is riding a wave, a book wave! Chetan Bhagat did introduce us to ‘One night @ a call centre’, but Sudhindra does more, and he brings us a whole tapestry of true stories from the BPOs in his book BPO-SUTRA, which has sold 10, 000 copies in just a month.  Techgoss interviewed Sudhindra Mokhasi, former VP of MphasiS and currently CEO of e-Sutra Chronicles.

Q (Techgoss): Please tell us more about yourself, are you a techie? What were your previous work-areas? How did you come to set up e-Sutra chronicles?
A (Sudhindra Mokhasi): I am an engineer by education and started my career as a software developer. I have traveled through the ranks holding positions like team leader, software architect, Program manager, and Head of a software delivery unit. I then moved to the business side of IT business first as a customer relationship manager, then a regional head for APAC region. In the last years of employment, I was in a senior management position as Vice President and held several strategic positions like Head of Global Business Development and Technology Solutions with one of India’s leading IT-BPO companies. I have always strongly felt that Indian IT companies do cutting edge software development work for customers in developed economies as a paid service, but we don’t often use our expertise to help India address her constraints and hopefully accelerate our movement towards our goal of a developed nation. In 2007, I felt it was time to do something about this nagging concern of mine. I started e-Sutra. The vision of my company is to innovatively employ technology to bridge the divides that constrain societal progress; the education-employability, the rural-urban, the digital-non-digital divide. We are creating web 2.0 technology platforms and vehicles that will chronicle and disseminate collective user knowledge for the betterment of careers and lifestyles.

Q: How did you come to think about this compilation? How did you organize so many stories? What were your problems while doing such an intensive book? Were there interesting incidents while co-coordinating 150 writers?
A: To use a cliché, like every other author, I always felt there was a book inside me. Previously, I used to write travelogues and technology gyaan articles. But I felt I needed to do a full body of work someday and BPO-Sutra is my first endeavour. Why this compilation about the BPO industry? Well, I was clear that I had to identify a relatively ‘uncrowded’ literary niche for myself, preferably a first for India and the World, do something that had a larger altruistic intent, and must necessarily play to my literary interests and strengths and of course must appeal to a large readership. This format of the book and about the BPO industry was the most suitable candidate.

This compilation aims to demystify and humanize the BPO industry, correct the prevalent perceptions and educate the reader about the workings not by a gyaani tome, but through a tapestry of true stories covering the key BPO life activities like Work, Calls, Cab-travel, Weekend-parties, scams, Home and more. Compilation was not too difficult; I had my own experiences, and reached out mostly within my friends’ network. For once, I was happy about the attrition in the industry because each person had different flavors to tell, having worked in many companies in a few years.

My publisher tells me that this is the World’s first book of true stories from India’s BPO & Call centers and India’s first anthology of true stories of any industry. I would like to christen the BPO-Sutra book format/genre and package as Literature 2.0. For one it is created by collaboration with different people in the industry, Secondly, the format of the book has been carefully designed for today’s lifestyle, where it is difficult to dedicate longish and continuous periods of time to read a book. BPO-Sutra is like a London hop-on hop-off bus, Over 150 individual stories that can be read individually, in a sequence, or any order, without diluting the reading experience. Like an elaborated twitter feed.

Q: How is the book selling? What is the response? Any interesting incidents to report here on your book tours?
A: My publishers and I have been pleasantly surprised by the readers’ response. We have sold out close to 10000 copies within a month of the launch. And we have had the formal launch in only Bengaluru and Mumbai so far.

Q: Any person who has been your inspiration, like Chetan Bhagat who was the first to write about the life at a call center? Have you met Bhagat btw? And what is your impression of the writer?
A: In my opinion, Chetan Bhagat is an inspiration to all Indian writers. He is largely responsible for pioneering bestsellers that are by an Indian, about India and for Indians and connect mainly to today’s young generation. I had the privilege of having my book launched by him in Mumbai 13th March 2008. The launch and interactions with him was a memorable and terrific experience.

Q: Do you plan to bring about more in the series? Or any other plans to diversify from this genre?
A: My first book has just been released, and I am caught up in the post launch whirlwind and haven’t had a chance to think beyond the current book and genre. But at least, I am hoping to publish the next volume of BPO-Sutra.

Q: What is your experience with publishers on the book?
A: Rupa & Co tagline is reach, range and reading pleasure. I would probably add the key work daring to that tagline. I mean imagine this: A techie like me with bits and pieces of writing experience goes to them with proposal of a new genre and format like BPO-Sutra. They look at my book proposal and reverted in five days flat to start discussions on the contract. Of course being cognizant of the variables, I had prepared a very comprehensive book proposal with over 30% of content as it would appear in the final book. But still, all credit to them for this daring mindset.

Q: Your number of years with the BPO industry is impressive; do you have anything in way of a word of advice to the people still in the field who are finding the recession a tough period? Maybe a tip on how one could best could deal with it?
A: 2000-2001 was my first brush with slowdown. It was not as severe as what we are experiencing today. Personally for me, the lessons in a recessionary economy are in two separate streams; personal and professional.  On a personal note – cultivate a savings habit – save for the rainy day. Always save up enough in liquid cash to be able to sustain for at least 6 months without job and salary. Professional – Increase your value; add to your job and company. Align closely with the organization goals – even if they are widely divergent with your personal aspirations. Be flexible with your salary – take a cut if it means you can hold onto your current job. If your company isn’t doing too badly, don’t even think of changing jobs – most companies implicitly follow a last in – first out policy in layoffs, especially at lower levels. Make it your personal agenda to build relationships based on mutual respect with co-workers – be a guy people like to be with, so that people will want you do well and help you find another job.

Lastly, if you do get laid off, take it pragmatically, its not the end of the world, economies are cyclical and things will eventually turn around. Pick up a hobby or pursue the higher education you have always dreamed of.

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