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June 2003

Divya Revnani Transforms to Daphne for GE

Divya Revani can't forget the adrenaline rush she had when she first wore wraparounds to work on a Saturday. "For Chrissake, I would have been dead meat if I did something similar back in Vijayawada."

Divya, a 24-year-old science grad from this little city in Andhra Pradesh, a southern State in India, is a pucca Brahmin girl, but she sounds like an American. Dead meat? Meat is not a word used even in jest in South Indian Brahmin families.

Divya thinks one of the highpoints of working in a call center is the "incredible amount of freedom" it gives. "And the price I pay for my freedom is a simple ID swap. I become Daphne between 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. That's not a big deal, considering I have a rocking career, great money and an awesome workplace."

Divya is a Process Associate for GE Capital, a premium call center in Hi-tech City at Hyderabad. After having worked as a graphic designer in a nondescript computer center in Vijayawada, earning Rs 3,000 INR per month for 8 hours a day, she was thrilled to get the job of a process associate in one of the world's best companies. At 24, working for about the same number of hours, she draws 12 grand a month. Then, of course, she is happy with the perks too: free drop-off after work, a multi-cuisine subsidized canteen and more.

However, it's not just a change in a name that her workplace demands from her. Once she turns on her computer and puts on her headphones, she sports a new accent, takes on a whole set of phonetics, and wears a whole new outlook. The transformation from Divya to Daphne occurs smack at 5 p.m. Whether it is Jack Dawson calling from Arizona to find his way out of the snow-capped roads or Marge Christi from Eleanor reporting about a flat tire, it is Divya, sitting half the globe away who answers their queries and offers online help as Daphne.

But why Daphne? Do the call centre professionals get to choose their own names? "Daphne and Divya, they are not very different. Right? So I chose that name. But yeah, once a Daphne always a Daphne. We can't change our names when we want," she grimaces.

"Two years ago, I used to speak English with a typical Telugu twang. Now, I can roll my R's and twist my Q's to pass off for an Houston-bred teen." That change she attributes to the training that her employer gave her before she uttered a hello to the caller on this side of the equator. "From voice modulation and accent neutralization to telephone etiquette and the right syntax, we've been taught to talk in the most elegant manner in the telephone," she adds.

Again back home, she was a tacit girl who could never hold a tele-conversation for more than three minutes. "Today, I talk 19 to the dozen with some stranger in the other part of the world. In cases when we are not able to give instant help due to delay in getting the required information, I can even chat them up just to avoid dead air."

She recalls an instance when a gentleman from Aspen wanted to know if he could let Daphne's manager know how helpful and friendly she had been when he was in a crisis due to bad weather.

It's not just her voice or accent, but even her wardrobe and appearance have undergone a drastic change after she stepped into GE. She says her office allows casual work wear on weekends and she loves to wear Capri pants and wraparound skirts to work.

Divya hails from an orthodox Telugu Brahmin family in Vijayawada and anything but salwar kameez would be frowned at. "Ok now deep down I am still a bit religious and all that. As Divya in the morning, I still recite ?Lalita Sahasranamam.' But in the night, I can howl Bon Jovi's ?It's My Life' at Ten Downing Street (a pub in Hyderabad) in my Spaghetti top after work. Thanks GE for bringing out an exuberant Daphne in me" she says with a big grin. o

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