| A policeman sits in the empty reception area of the Xponse office, in Sector V, which was raided afresh on Wednesday and sealed. Picture by Amit Datta
At age 26, Sanjay Kedia floated Xponse with an investment of Rs 2 lakh. Before he turned 30, the business process outsourcing (BPO) unit of his tech venture was generating revenue in excess of Rs 2 crore a month.
Kedia, arrested on Sunday for alleged dealings with a US firm linked to a drug cartel, was always a man in the fast lane, who wanted to make it to the very top.
“He knew instinctively how and where money can be made. He was successful as a stock market operator and even a film producer,” said a witness to Kedia’s meteoric rise.
The IIT Delhi alumnus did not waste any time after his Master’s from North Carolina University, in the US, and came back to India to chase his dream. Xponse was born in a 250-sq-ft room in the Charu Market area in 2002.
“There were just five computers and the staff strength was six, including Kedia himself. The operation was very small and we were doing projects worth a few hundred dollars,” recounted one of the first few recruits of Kedia.
In a year’s time, projects started flowing in from the US, as Kedia used his contacts to bag assignments. Need for a bigger set-up took Xponse to Deodar Street, in Ballygunge, and then to another address in Sector 1 in Salt Lake in 2003.
He got married to Ishika, a doctor, in the same year and moved into an EE Block apartment, from where he was picked up on Sunday night.
Though Kedia’s brand new Corolla car was parked in the basement, his flat was under lock-and-key. Narcotics Control Board officers conducted another raid at his Sector V office on Wednesday and sealed it.
“In the first few years, everything about the business was transparent, as the focus was on developing software solutions for our US-based clients,” rued a former employee.
In 2005, the company moved to Kariwala Towers — opposite the TCS building — in the state’s tech hub in Salt Lake Electronics Complex (Saltlec).
“The transparency in his dealings started to disappear once Xponse got into the call-centre business. He was very much involved with the day-to-day work of the call centre and no one else knew about the clients and their businesses,” added another former employee of the company.
As the call centre emerged as the cash cow for Xponse, Kedia went on a hiring spree and scaled up operations.
Call centre agents were poached from other companies with attractive salaries and the headcount grew to 350-plus.
“He stopped bothering about the software division, which had made the company. The fact that we were losing out on software projects due to higher rates was not at all a concern for him, as he was busy making big bucks by tying up with various pharmaceuticals companies,” said an employee, who was part of the teams that developed the websites where the orders for drugs were placed on the Internet.
But issues related to transparency and more importance to call centre operations did not go down well with a section of the staff and a group quit the company in 2005 under acrimonious circumstances.
“The firm was not being run professionally. People were made to work long hours and pirated software was being used… Things were not above board and so we quit,” said a former Xponse employee.