Business Today

The great Indian BPO family

The family that works together stays together. That's the new BPO story unfolding across India.

Pallavi Srivastava | Print Edition: March 9, 2008

Pune's super five


 (From left) Fahim Kamboo, Wasim Kamboo, Alishan Akbar Khan, Yasmeen Kamboo and Yasmin Alishan Khan

This is the stuff big dreams in small towns are made of. The Kamboo-Khan family from Devlali, a small town near Nasik, has seen its socio-economic conditions change, thanks to a stroke of providence that has brought six members of this family to EXL.

Five of them work in Pune and one in Noida and, they are pleased as punch when you call them the BPO family.

It was 2004, and restless in his small town, Fahim, the eldest son of Yasmeen Kamboo, saw his friends settling down in Pune and decided to give it a shot himself.

He managed to get a job at domestic BPO-Tata SerWizSol within a couple of months. His mother's brother Alishan Akbar Khan had recently quit his marketing job at Sangli to work with EXL. "The opportunities that the BPO industry offered made us realise that there is scope for each of us here," Fahim says.


Thus started Project Pune. "It was a big decision for my parents to shift to Pune," says Fahim. Within the next three months, his mother, Yasmeen Kamboo, got an appointment letter from EXL on her first day in Pune and his father, too, got a job at WNS in the same month (though he has his own start-up now).

Fahim's sister Sana also managed to secure a job at Tata SerWizSol a month later (she is now married and works in EXL Noida).

Yasmin Alishan Khan, Alishan's wife, joined the company in 2005 and Wasim, Fahim's brother, joined the industry a year later. Rohit Kapoor, COO & Co-founder, EXL, says: "Families working together are the best endorsements of an organisation's work culture and work practices."

This family vouches for it.

Brothers in arms

Chandra Shekhar (left) and Naveen Kumar, Process Executives

They meet in the dining room every few days and occasionally get five minutes together to grab a soft drink or a snack together.

Naveen Kumar, 24, and Chandra Shekhar, 22, work different shifts at Infosys BPO.

"I was hired from campus (JSS College, Mysore) and have worked here for 19 months," says Shekhar, who then enticed his brother to move from Indiainfoline to Infosys BPO.

"We rarely get to meet either at home or even at work," says Naveen. While Naveen works a US shift that lasts from 6.30 p.m. to 3.30 a.m., his younger brother works the UK shift, which starts from around 3 in the afternoon.

While parents back in Nanjangud, a small town south of Mysore, have been pushing Naveen to the relative comforts of day shift, that appears remote for the moment, he says.

In sync at work


Amar Jain, Pankaj Jain (in front), and Rachna Chhabra

This family can't get out of the habit of a midnight coffee session.

They don't care if it's unhealthy. For them, that's the only part of the day (or night) when the entire family can actually sit down and talk to each other.

No prizes for guessing the topic of conservation. "We have discussed almost everyone we work with," says Rachna.

Though all three of them work in different buildings, they tend to bump into each other several times a day. "The three of us share two cars among us. So, two of us tend to either come together or go back at the same time so it works for us logistically too," says Amar, Rachna's husband, who joined the company in December 2002.

Amar's brother Pankaj, the last member of the family to join the company, is emphatic that working together tends to ease one out.

Two of a kind

Deborah Ephraim (foreground), and Drusilla Ephraim
The two ebullient sisters have a lot in common. They have similar likes and dislikes and even beaus from the same industry.

Not surprising then, they have similar profiles, even though they work for different organisations.

Deborah has been working in the industry for more than four years while the younger Drussila has a longer six-year experience in the industry.

They live with their father, an ex-Air Force personnel-turned-homemaker. He looks after the house all week but rests on the weekends when the sisters take up cooking, cleaning and feeding the fish. "I like the fact that I can discuss everything with my sister and she understands it completely, being from the same industry," says Deborah. "We both like what we do," chips in Drusilla.

Being in the same industry has driven them to bond big time. "We watch latest movies at home and play indoor games and when we are not doing anything, we just sit and talk," says Drusilla. Their latest project at home? Making their father net savvy enough so that he can stay in touch with his mother living in Chennai, who is already a pro at e-mails and video chats.

Super sisters

All three of them live in the same city of Hyderabad and work for the same BPO company, 24/7 Customer.

They even share a common designation: Executive (Customer Service). Currently undergoing training in the organisation that they joined in November 2007, they happen to share a similar floor and shift (the last two luxuries are likely to change soon as they finish their training and, as they say, "hit the floor").

And the similarities don't end there. All three come from a teaching background and each has degrees in BEd and MA. BPO scored over a career in education as "there is better compensation and the incentives are very attractive," says Gwenderlin.

For the eldest Jennifer, the charm lies in knowing new people. "One is able to catch up with the pace of the new generation as well," she says. Or as the youngest of the sisters Muriel pitches in: "Merit is rewarded here." The three sisters share a similar accent and sound alike on phone but then, it is not an acquired skill but a natural one. That may only prove to be an added asset in this industry.

The BPO match

Like any other BPO couple, they met here and got married. Harpriya joined HCL two-and-a-half years ago, met Christopher a few months later and got married to him last year.

Last year was also the time when Harpriya's younger sister Manpriya joined the company in a similar profile.

A doting Christopher is at pains to explain how despite different timings at work, they try to spend as much time with each other as possible. "I make sure to spend some quality time with Harpriya and be there together at least for breakfast and dinner," he says.

For their part, the sisters work in different buildings and live in different houses but the weekends are set aside for family bonding.

Perfect harmony

At 44, she looks too young to be the mother of a 20-year old, but Monica Charan is not bothered.

Neither is she bugged by the fact that the colleagues of her son Noel call her by name. Noel doesn't mind it, too.

After all, both work in the same company. Monica joined HCL in February 2005 after a 13-year stint with an export house. "I knew people at my age were also going in for such jobs. I applied and got through," she says. A few IJP's (internal job promotions) later, Monica is now an Office Assistant. When Noel decided to join the industry in December 2006, the doting mother was all for it. "I had to take a year off in college and was getting very restless and bored.

That's when my mom advised me to work in a BPO outfit so that I don't waste any more time," Noel says candidly. He joined HCL in December 2006 and now it's a little more than just-spending-your-free-time for Noel, who is now an Advisor at HCL. "He is more responsible now and I am proud to say a workaholic too," his mother says. The schedules go a bit haywire but neither is complaining. Apart from the Sunday church visit and the occasional lunches on the weekends, they hardly get to spend much time together but that is not a problem since most of the days they bump into each other often-at office. "If not, there are colleagues who keep us updated about each other's whereabouts," jokes Monica. So, has life changed for her in the last three years? "I have made lots of new friends.

It's not easy being a single parent, but I don't get conscious any more," she says. What makes her conscious is the odd day when she wears western wear to office because "I get so many calls complimenting me." And that's only driving her to experiment with clothes even more.

Additional reporting by E. Kumar Sharma and Rahul Sachitanand

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