Superconductivity in high-Tc cuprates is unconventional and there is a growing acceptance that carrier pairing in these strongly correlated electronic materials is mediated mainly by bosons of electronic origin rather than the phonons. Still, a significant isotope exponent (IE) (in certain cases, much larger than 0.5, the canonical BCS value) is observed experimentally. This has led to the assumption that phonons are also involved up to a certain extent. The magnitude of the IE in cuprates depends strongly on the number of doped holes, p, in the CuO2 planes and therefore, may indicate that phonons play different quantitative roles as the mediating boson at different regions of the Tc-p phase diagram. Based on very recent experiments on Fermi-surface reconstruction from the thermoelectric transport measurements (Nature Commun. 2:432 doi: 10.1038/ncomms1440 (2011)) and on magnetic field induced charge order in YBa2Cu3O7-delta (Nature 477, 191 (2011)), we propose a very simple scenario where isotope substitutions affect the stripe state via the coupling to the lattice and thereby changes the superconducting Tc. In this picture significant part of the observed IE, over an extended p-range, originates from the isotope induced stripe modulation and is not directly related to the characteristic energy scale of the pairing phonons as is the case in the BCS framework. This simple proposal qualitatively explains all the p-dependent anomalous features of the IE observed experimentally in hole doped high-Tc cuprates.