When Himabindu Marichetty showed up to talk about a job at software development firm Virtusa in Hyderabad, India, the 24-year-old college grad wore a traditional Asian outfit called a salwar kameez and brought a résumé, her handbag–and her father.
Marichetty’s father didn’t negotiate for her, but he did meet and question Virtusa executives to learn firsthand about the company’s corporate culture and his daughter’s career potential. He was impressed. After a chat with dad, Marichetty accepted a job at Virtusa as a quality-assurance engineer. “We have more of a bond with our parents,” she says. “They definitely help us take the right path.” Adds her father, M. Rama Rao: “I would be successful as a father only when I fulfill all my responsibilities, and one of them is to make sure that [my children] are successful in their career.”
Marichetty isn’t a freak job candidate. In many Indian families, multiple generations live under a single roof, making cooperative decisions in matters both social and economic. And children, even well into their twenties and thirties, typically defer to the authority of their elders. So parents–and especially fathers–can take on influential roles in directing young people’s careers. (Think an amped-up version of the United States’ emerging class of “helicopter parents.”)
That traditional dynamic has converged with a more modern phenomenon–India’s technology boom and a tight labor market that sees up to 14% of tech workers in India leave their jobs each year, according to the Hewitt Annual India Salary Increase survey 2005–2006. In the face of both trends, some employers have sought an edge in recruiting and retaining talented people–by wooing the whole family.
Julian Koski, cofounder of asset management firm Transparent Value, says that for years, when recruiting Indian employees, he observed they always turned to their parents for advice. “We decided if they were doing that, we should recruit the family,” he says. The company started flying parents in for company tours and weekend events, with fancy dinners and five-star hotels. Since opening Indian offices two years ago, Transparent Value has lost just three of its 80 young employees, 75% of whom live with their parents.
Building a relationship with the folks is as much about perks as anything else. At Intelenet Global Services, a Mumbai-based company that handles an outsourced call center and back- office work, parents enjoy the same benefits as its 11,000 Indian employees, including access to health-insurance benefits and free medical and eye screenings. GlobalLogic, a Vienna, Virginia, software developer, knows that half of its 1,000 Indian workers live with their parents and contribute, on average, almost 70% of the family income. It offers no-interest loans to mom, dad, brothers, and sisters as well as financial support to employees who need to visit ill parents.
All the attention can pay off when workers get wooed by competitors. PRC, an outsourcing call center owned by Barry Diller’s InterActiveCorp, loses as many as 37% of its 3,800 Indian workers after a year. But it managed to hold onto Bhupender Mehta, a 23-year-old customer-service rep, after he considered taking another job. How? Mehta, who lives with his wife, brother, and retired parents in a three-bedroom flat in New Delhi, said his supervisor called Mehta’s wife, prompting a bigger family-wide discussion.
“Finally, my father gave me the verdict,” he says. “‘No, you’re not leaving. Why leave when this company treats you so well?'”
The key to winning dad over? In the previous year, he had received an engraved PRC pen, congratulatory letters for Mehta’s good work, free movie tickets to Superman, and use of the company gym and pool–the latter of which is a scarce and typically expensive luxury in India. Says the younger Mehta: “The pool made a big difference.”