Gurujot Singh Khalsa :Sultan of Outsourcing and Off-shoring

Khuswant Singh

Gurujot Singh Khalsa :Sultan of Outsourcing and Off-shoring

How labour laws in the state of Karnataka, of which Banglore is the capital city, forbade women from working after six in the evening and how due to the time difference between India and the US, medical transcription or call centre work would only start by 9.30 in the evening. 

Of how tough it was to fire inefficient people due to the stringent labour laws. ‘Businesses don’t work with such laws,’ he had remarked. ‘When you hire somebody, you don’t know whether he or she is going to be good. After two months of training if the guy ain’t good you have to be able to let them go.’ 

Of how difficult it was for women to open bank accounts, as public sector banks would insist on an account in the father’s name or ask the girl to be accompanied by a male member. In other words, inspite of earning independently, because of banking regulations, the women remained financially shackled to the men in the house. 

That’s not what Gurujot had come to India for. Gurujot and his team worked towards getting these laws and regulations changed and HealthScribe, which started with a five percent female workforce was ultimately working with sixty-five percent women employees when it was sold. 

‘Another beer please,’ I asked placing a few dollars as tip on the table. Sipping my second glass, I was reminded of how Gurujot felt that his goal had been achieved and his presence in India was not required anymore and there were other underdeveloped countries of the world that needed him to repeat the same phenomenon. Moreover, there were plenty of Indians doing similar work and all companies by now knew how to reach India. 

According to him, there are three parameters that are important for off-shoring to take place: a) two-way optic fibre technology, b) ten million strong, low-cost English speaking human resource, and c) political stability. Only three countries meet this criterion in the world besides India: Philippines, South Africa and Pakistan. 

‘How do you justify Pakistan as a politically stable country?’ I had countered Gurujot. ‘There are issues everywhere,’ he had replied. ‘When we started in India people in America didn’t have the slightest idea of what India was like. 

For them India was a crazy country where rioting, train crashes and floods were the order of the day. Don’t these things happen in the US? The LA riots, or for that matter Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and its aftermath are only two examples. Lahore in Pakistan is a great destination for off-shoring. If you were to blindfold me in Delhi and remove it in Lahore, I wouldn’t be able to make out the difference, except that traffic is more orderly in Lahore and there are no cows on the roads. Musharaff is great. I simply love Manmohan and Pervez for they are interested in empowering their youth, though the latter has supposedly changed his rhetoric post 9/11.’ Some comparison, I wondered, sipping my beer. 

By now, I had started feeling drowsy and wanted to head back to the suite. Taking out my notebook at the restaurant, I hurriedly made notes of the questions I proposed to ask Gurujot the next day. What kind of work was he doing in Pakistan’s Punjab that the Indian Punjab had missed? Almost regretting the missed opportunity, even though Punjab today is wooing IT investments, I soon lost my thoughts to deep sleep. 


18 September 

Encounter With Law Enforcement & White Supremacists 

I woke up fresh and checked at the reception for my luggage. ‘No sir’, said a man’s voice on the telephone. My enthusiasm was immediately reduced to half as I cursed the airline, yet again. Dressed in the same clothes—not that the Americans minded it for they love the scruffy look—I ordered breakfast and waited for Gurujot to pick me up. He was supposed to go to the gurudwara in the morning for a congregation and sadhna before coming to the hotel. 

‘Before you ask me more questions and since you are writing on my life, I must apprise you of an incident,’ said Gurujot as we pulled out chairs on reaching his office. I could not guess what to expect but I think it takes great courage to be frank and share the horrific moments in one’s life, especially when it pertains to drugs. 

‘Shoot,’ I replied. 

Infuriated with Gurujot Singh for having transferred white jobs to brown people in India, the white supremacists uploaded an incident of 1987 on the web where Gurujot was falsely implicated in a case for conspiring to peddle drugs. ‘You see, many people from different spheres visit our ashram. A man had moved into our ashram and raised his family as Sikhs, but five years before, he had been involved in marijuana peddling whereby he used to import the drug into USA, though he did not do it after moving into the ashram. The police had nabbed some of his past associates who had turned into informers, as that drastically reduced the jail term—drug peddling being one of the most heinous crimes to commit in the US. The informants moved into the ashram pretending that they wanted to be weaned away from drugs and soon became friends with this guy. After becoming friendly they suggested that he do one last marijuana operation, make a lot of money and then lead a pious life in the ashram. The guy refused and said that he was “out of it”. But just because they were talking about it, what they were trying to do was show him as part of a conspiracy to import marijuana. And since he was talking about it, they were recording the conversation. The informers shared the same thought with me, and I snubbed them and told them not to even talk about it. 

“Talk about drugs, we are even against use of caffeine”, I had replied sternly. Soon the guys became yoga students and handed a letter to me to give to this guy.’ And when the police arrested the ‘guy’, Gurujot was also arrested. 

Luckily for Gurujot, the judge saw the ridiculousness of the charges and Gurujot was let off with a fifty-dollar fine. ‘So when the white supremacists and anti-cult people (twenty million Sikhs is a cult?) wanted to get back at me for the whole off-shoring phenomenon they got hold of this case. For a long time, whenever we approached big corporates they would e-mail or post this history of mine. Imagine something like this landing on the table of American Express’s CEO or the head of Goldman Sach’s whom you are trying to woo as an investor. 

As it is, for many investors I was a peculiar man, who stayed in an ashram, dressed differently and was talking about a new concept in a faraway country. I had to do a lot of convincing, carrying court orders, taking my lawyers to tell people—look, I’m not guilty. Somehow everybody understood. But imagine the due diligence one is put through. And now since I’m working in South Africa, which virtually means that first I transferred white jobs to brown India and now it’s to the blacks, the season is on me.’ 

We laughed heartily, diffusing the serious atmosphere that had suddenly engulfed the empty office space of Worldbridge. 

However, Gurujot was not finished yet. The informants had also got the alleged marijuana dealer talking of dealing in arms which meant larger accusations. Since Gurujot was part of Akal Security, a Sikh Dharma owned company, the anti-cult people tried to insinuate that Sikh Dharma Sikhs were trying to smuggle in weapons through airports as Akal provided security to major airports. ‘I mean, it’s crazy,’ he said. ‘In this day and age, airport security is one of the most critical issues of the world. Only fools can think of doing such a thing and making such statements. 

I don’t know how much you know about US security.’

‘I respect it, as I’m a peace loving citizen of the world,’ I replied. 

‘These miniscule anti-cult/white supremacists that form just a fraction of the population fail to understand the benefits off-shoring has for the American economy. When that graduate sitting in India earns, the first thing he wants to do is imitate a Yankee. Levis jeans and Nike shoes.’ Sure, check out my Levis tag. Which reminded me to call the airline about my luggage again. ‘Yes, Mr Singh, your bag has arrived.’ What a relief it was to get back into fresh clothes after Gurujot drove me to the airport to collect the luggage. 

Going back a few more years, Gurujot claimed to have been to jail over forty times in earlier days due to his involvement with the Civil Rights movement and anti Vietnam War protests in America. When South Africans learn that he had been to jail for the Civil Rights movement, they actually applaud and welcome him. Another round of laughter, that allowed us to switch gears and presented me with the opportunity to ask the questions that I had scribbled the previous night. 

Khushwant Singh