Jack and Jill went up to the office

Updated: Sep 30 2006, 05:30am hrs
SIX-YEAR-OLD Avishek cant even spell technology, but still he goes to Xansa, a leading outsourcing and technology company, everyday after school. Avishek is one of the beneficiaries of the crche started by the company for its employees' children. At the end of the day, he joins his mother on her way home.

Xansa claims to leave no stone unturned to enure that children in the crche get all the attention they need. Ayahs, teachers and cooks take care of every kids requirements. The crche spends around Rs 35,000 per month on maintenance and offers some useful services.

Its not only Xansa, but also companies like Wipro, Covansys and Biocon that offer this facility. With Indian market facing a shortage of people with requisite skills and experience, companies are going all out to retain their workforce. Since women constitute a significant percentage of the workforce in IT companies, the special needs of working women need to be addressed, say HR experts.

A boon for working mothers, crches are now moving up the priority list among several leading companies.

Says Sanjiv Tandon, director, India-Operations, Xansa Ltd, The facility assures the safety and well-being of the children. This allows employees to fully concentrate on their work. Mothers can now pursue their professional aspirations without making personal sacrifices.

Avisheks mother Arti Roy, who is a project leader with Xansa, is impressed with the attention her children get and the congenial environment at the crche.

After my first child, I was afraid that I would have to leave my job. But I was relieved when I learnt about the crche. This was one of the reasons we planned for the second baby, too, says Roy, adding that her daughter has now joined the creche,too.

Adds Veena Padmanadan, Wipros HR manager, Children here have a planned time-table, which includes Montessori learning, science and technology lessons and even story time. The charges are also very nominalRs 3,000 a month for a child up to three years and Rs 3,500 monthly for those of three years or more.

Padmanadan herself has been sending her two kids to Wipros crche. Earlier, her kids were going to a neighbourhood crche, but with Wipro starting this facility for its employees, she shifted her children to it. Wipro spends around Rs 17 lakh yearlyon the maintenance of its crche. As many as 50 employees utilise the facility and vouch for its quality.

Another name that stands out is Polaris. Given the sort of facilities provided to them, children in the crche seem to treat it as a second home.

Talking about the crche, Arvind Mishra, executive vice-president & global head (talent and change), says, The crche facility in Polaris Software Lab is for children in the age group of six months to three years and sometimes older children are also taken on request. The facility is strictly for the children of Polaris associates. A security guard monitors the crche area.

Most companies typically lose their women employees when they are in their 30s, executives say. Many women feel that mid-level jobs offer them little while demanding a lot. Having children and working in a less-than-friendly workplace makes them quit their jobs.

Says Astha Menon, a working mother, Working after marriage is difficult and things become worse after a baby. The family just wants you to be around the child every time and you end up sacrificing your aspirations and dreams.

Mohinish Sinha, associate director and HR practice head, PricewaterhouseCoopers points out, Crche facilities encourage working women to continue with their careers after starting a family. This way she does not have to drop out of the corporate race and can realise her professional dreams. At the same time, organisations do not have to lose their women employees. Now that companies are employing a large number of women, it becomes essential for them to have such a system in the company.

With talent availability becoming a cause for concern, the provision of such a facility encourages the work force to stay put.

Concurs Louis Hall, chief operating officer, Xansa (India), Xansa has always been seen as an employee-friendly organisation and the crche facility is just another way in which we create a conducive work environment. The crche serves as a means for employees, particularly the female employees, to further their career aspirations while balancing their personal family responsibilities. It is heartening to see that our crche is helping to shape the lives of many of our employees.

ICICI Bank also has a similar facility, which is popular among its employees.

Ramkumar K, head, human resources, ICICI Bank, says, Employees are assured that their children will be taken care of by crche attendants. This gives them the peace of mind to concentrate on their work. Security is not an issue, since it is located within the bank's premises.

No visitor can enter the crche without permission. Ramkumar expects this venture to help stanch the flow of women who leave mid-career to raise a family.

Maruti Udyog too provides crche facility to the children of its female employees. However, it does not charge any fee for the facility.