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India ’s BPO emperor

Walk into the third floor corner office of Pramod Bhasin, president and CEO of Genpact, and a partly-hidden framed set of pictures of over 50 colleagues attracts attention. All of them, including the women, have donned fake thick moustaches and a mole on their left cheeks. The frame has telling caption: “I want to be like Pramod Bhasin.� Bhasin, embarrassed a visitor has spotted the frame, carefully hidden behind another frame, rolls his eyes animatedly.

The goofy visage behind the slight frame belies the hard-as-nails drive behind the 54-year-old, who is credited priming a fledgling back office gig of General Electric when the concept of business process outsourcing was still gobbledegook into a $500 million independent enterprise, which is Genpact today.

It was tough, admits Bhasin, sipping coffee not noiselessly. “The cost of telecom and availability of bandwidth was a major hurdle. The market was not growing fast enough. NBFCs (today’s GE Money which Bhasin started) were not allowed lending from Reserve Bank of India. The government hassles…,� he rolls his eyes again.

India’s largest BPO started as a 50 people captive call center for parent GE. “I remember it as a small room with curtains all around,� says Bhasin looking out at the dusty road in Gurgaon, the Delhi suburb where his company is headquartered. “There was nothing here. We’ve grown with Gurgaon and we’ve outgrown ourselves,� says he. Today, most of the over 20,000 Genpacters own cars leading the company to lease two basement floors in a building coming up nearby to park cars.

Genpact employees see their CEO as a motivator and an ardent cricket fan. “It’s through sheer merit that he (Bhasin) made into the Genpact cricket team,� says one employee. It was the same fanaticism that had Bhasin break a leg on cricket grounds last year. Reading is the next passion for this B.Com grad from New Delhi’s Sri Ram College of Commerce; John Steinbeck his favourite author. “I read four-five books at a time. Currently I am hooked on to River at the Center of the World (by Simon Winchester) and Identity and Violence by Amartya Sen,� he says.

While leadership, humour and wit are positives Genpact employees like in Bhasin, impatience is what he would like to nix; apart from, of course, his smoking habit. “I can be very abrupt and impatient at times,� he admits. Former colleague Raman Roy says Bhasin can be a terror at work but is always five steps ahead of peers when presented with a problem.

Amongst the key influencers in Bhasin’s life, he says, was his father, a chemical engineer with ICI, who passed away last year. “He was of a different fibre. It was he who taught me honesty and integrity and never to get bogged down by the petty things in life,� he recalls. Others like former GE chairman Jack Welch and ex-president of GE Capital Services Gary Wendt have left their mark. “But I have never been in awe of anybody. I am my own person,� he says.

Bhasin likes to spend time reflecting. “I am very conscious of information overload; no Blackberry for me. My best ideas come when I am alone,� says Bhasin just back from a 10-day vacation at a hill station. If you manage to pass by his Sultanpur farmhouse late in the evening, you will see the man in a lawn chair content with a book and by his side a Macallan 18, an aged single malt with a peaty unsettling aftertaste that grows on you. Like Bhasin, Genpacters would tell you.

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