America Calls

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From a call center employee to the owner of call centers with some of them off shore, Zameer Altaf is living his dream.  Saima Rashid and Sheikh Tabish report his journey

Zameer-AltafAt 19, he had his first job. Four years later Zameer Altaf, once an outspoken student, is proud owner of three small call centers located in United Kingdom, Michigan and Omaha (Nebraska) USA.

Zameer’s journey in to the world of call centers started when one of his cousins offered him a job at his call center in Srinagar. “My good command over spoken English impressed my cousin,” recalls Zameer who had his schooling from Tyndale Biscoe School Srinagar. “And I thought why not to give it a try.”

Initially Zameer struggled with the graveyard shifts as most of his cousin’s clients were based in America. However, with time Zameer adapted to his new lifestyle. “I was dealing with clients from USA and UK. It was like living my dream.”

Zameer’s job was to provide online assistance to clients based in USA, UK and Canada. “We would help them fix their computers.”

The job helped Zameer get global exposure while working from Kashmir. “It was like living in America,” says Zameer.

However, after four months of working, Zameer’s dream was cut short as one of his cousin’s contacts duped him of Rs 40 lakh. “The person had promised my cousin that he will bring good foreign clients. But he did not,” says Zameer.

The abrupt end to Zameer’s dream career made him to look for alternatives, and he ended up joining another Srinagar based call centre. “The aim was simple. I wanted to know all about how a call centre functioned. I also wanted to know how to get genuine clients,” says Zameer.

His new boss was generous. Within no time and without much of the efforts, Zameer managed to understand the secrets of the trade. “Soon I was able to have my own customers,” Zameer recalls.

Interestingly his first customer was Iptisam Hantoli, a Bangladeshi national settled in America, who used to deal with Zameer’s cousin as well. “Later on Hantoli became my employee,” says Zameer.

As Zameer’s clientele grew he opened a small office in America. “I offered Hantoli a certain share in profits and he agreed. He looks after my American office right now.”

Zameer, who hails from a well-off family in Bachpora, Srinagar, has never asked for any financial help from his parents. “I wanted to create my own identity always,” he says.

After years of hard work and dedication Zameer is currently managing three small concerns with the help of his cousin. (We have Zyas Technologies (UK), Zyas AVG Tech (Michigan, USA) and Kash Squad (Omaha, Nebraska),” says Zameer proudly.  Cumulatively, these three concerns have 50 seats.

As a businessman Zameer has come a long way since he took his first order. “Initially, because of third party’s involvement, we used to invest in rupees and earn in dollars. But now everything is done in dollars only,” he says.

Entrepreneur Zameer now thinks it is payback time. “We have no dearth of talent in Kashmir. I want to employ as many locals as I can. That way I will be contributing my bit towards the larger good of the society,” says Zameer. He is already running a 25-seat call centre from Srinagar.

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