Gaurav Rastogi talks about “Offshore”


Gaurav Rastogi author of Offshore
Co-author of the book Offshore Gaurav Rastogi talks about his book and the writing process to us:

Author Gaurav Rastogi Interview

What motivated you to write this book? 

Gaurav Rastogi: Basab and I are both avid readers and bloggers. Writing a blog is satisfying. But after years of writing small ideas on a blog post, both of us felt the urge to take on a more ambitious project. Both of us have our other book ideas. But the idea of a joint book on Offshore services seemed right. So, here we are!

Why do you think you were best placed to write such a book rather than the Stalwarts of the industry doing it themselves? 

Industry stalwarts like Nandan Nilekani, Narayana Murthy, Subroto Bagchi, Ramadorai… all have written their books. None have written a book explaining the industry for the common people. That’s the space we wanted to go after.

What audience did you have in mind when you were writing this book?

Gaurav Rastogi: We wrote for people across a broad spectrum – people invested or working in the industry, or those planning to be. Or, as in your case, people who have escaped the gravitational pull of this system as well. Chapters were reviewed by our friends inside and outside the industry. And we were happy to know that all readers reported that they had learned something, or that their thinking was pushed hard by something we wrote in. Very gratifying! As I noted in my acknowledgment (at the end of the book), we didn’t want to write a boring business book. Who wants to read those!

For a two-author book, the language of the book is quite coherent, should the credit go to the editor? Or was it one of you doing the draft writing or a rare chance that you write similarly?

Someone gave Basab this piece of advice in our writing process – “If you’re not having fun writing, no one will have fun reading”. So we decided to push ourselves and have fun while writing. We have worked together for a decade, so our thinking is aligned. As for writing styles, we both have a different style. And if you read carefully, you’ll still be able to tell who wrote what. We met weekly and reviewed each others’ work in the writing process, so that led to some homogenization as well.

As I was reading, I got a feeling you were trying to explain the industry to those who probably do not understand it and end up snubbing it? Or an explanation of concepts that are often misunderstood as a product and a services company? Your comments.

Since we wrote for a broad audience, we didn’t want to leave any concept unexplained. So we have made an attempt to begin everything from first principles. Also, we’re coming into the book with a perspective and that means explaining our position cleanly is doubly important. For example, we wrote a whole chapter on “the funda of the global delivery model” because we wanted to talk about how there is more to the model than meets the eye.

I felt that the last two chapters were more like your pain points i.e. the pain points of a sales guy in IT services industry than an insight into the industry like the rest of the book. Do you think an author needs a certain distance from the subject to be able to look at it objectively?

Interesting to hear your perspective. Yes, of course, perspective is needed to write a book. That said, the last two chapters (on bill rates and how the industry makes money) are very important for middle/senior managers and investors to understand. Most people we know DON’t understand what drives profitability for this industry.

Is there anything that you wanted to say in the book but decided not to for the fear of stepping on some toes? Or for the fear of invoking controversies like say, the fact that cross-cultural differences sometimes can lead to funny situations or Visa issues that come up with a majority workforce that requires Visas in most client countries or any other such thing.

Yes, we dropped some subjects that were either not interesting enough, or too interesting, but inflammatory.

I see you batting for India in most of the book but specifically in the chapter India Vs ROW. What is the need for this?

We’re from India, and a majority of our experience comes from Indian offshore. We stand by the India story mostly because that’s the way we see the market right now.

How long did it take you to write the book? Is there a writing routine that you followed? And more importantly, what did you learn from the book writing process?

Gaurav Rastogi: It took us six months to agree on the concept (whiteboards and coffees were consumed in large quantities). Then, it took us nine months to write the book and another couple of months for the editorial process. I found the process grueling, but very refreshing. Book writing isn’t simply about regurgitating some old conversation into the paper. You have to think about fact checking, data gathering… and then you have to spend a lot of time thinking about how to make the concept interesting and accessible to the reader.

Writing a book is very different from writing emails or blog posts. We didn’t know that until we committed to writing a book. For starters, the arc of the argument runs deeper and longer. You have to go deeper into the subject and explore it in more breadth than in a short article. With emails and blog posts, you always know who the reader is going to be, and what they already know. When you write a book, you have to write for a wider audience, assuming no pre-existing knowledge. That creates a danger – the writing could be too fast-paced (tiring readers), or long drawn out (boring them instead).

As authors, we had to learn how to hook readers into each argument. You may have noticed, for example, that I started one chapter with a story from the Ramayana (Hanuman / Surasa). While another with a question on how to eat an elephant.

Another view of the writing process is the discipline required to write. And the patience required to tease out a complete argument, taking no shortcuts. Also, unlike a blog post, when you write a book your research has to be impeccable. A wide majority of our time was spent in collecting data, verifying it, validating the findings, and then stringing the argument together.

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