Raman Roy finds it hard to recall the last time he was not recognised in public. As recently as last week, when he was at a yoga centre in Coimbatore, a young couple walked up to him to say they had worked with him at Spectramind. “They have children now and it was nice to hear I had a small part to play in their lives,” says the 61-year-old, known as the “father of the BPO industry” in India.
Roy still lives a frenetic existence with the day starting at 7 am sharp, never to end before midnight. The man runs his own company, Quatrro, based in Gurgaon. He is a part of the Indian Angel Network in addition to having invested his wealth in over 50 companies. “It’s immensely satisfying when you sit back and think about having created 35,000 jobs,” he says.
It was three decades ago when his then employer, AmEx, decided that India would do its back office accounting operations. Roy, a chartered accountant in his early thirties, was enjoying a career in finance when his boss, Anuroop ‘Tony’ Singh said that he was the chosen one and gave him a day to mull over it. Roy said yes and that started the journey into an unknown terrain.
To Roy, it is still a little overwhelming. Quatrro is the fourth company Roy has set up. After AmEx, he set up a captive call centre for General Electric before turning entrepreneur with Spectramind, which was acquired by Wipro in 2002 for Rs 407 crore. “After Quatrro, I sat down with a few friends to look at what we could now do. We decided on looking at high-end work where clients would not pay us by the hour but only on outcome,” he says. Though there is a joy about the present, he finds it hard to forget the time gone by, especially what he calls that big moment, when Spectramind was hiring 100 people a day. “This was right in front of my eyes and that feeling was indescribable.”
For many years, Roy was the face of the BPO industry with his picture regularly splashed across the media. “I was known to make controversial statements and that earned me a reputation,” he says. On a serious note, it also meant that he had to take responsibility for the safety of the women working in his office graveyard shift. “The industry has also had its share of criticism, which has not been easy. Being in the media also meant I had to be well dressed!”
Roy is pleased India is leveraging its domain skills and knowledge. “The conversation today is about AI and big data. That’s a more fun for sure,” he thinks. For all the ups and downs that he has been through, Roy is clear he will not trade it for anything in the world. “I have been incredibly fortunate to go through it. I had a blast doing what I did,” he signs off with his trademark guffaw.
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