Small Towns: Big Opportunities

December 20, 2013

Once, every professional worth his/her salt dreamt of a life in the big city. Today, the tables have turned. Ankita Shreeram tells you why professionals are more than willing to derive the ‘small town’ advantage.

Given a choice, would you move to a smaller city, with the same job profile and a slightly lowered salary but a better work-life balance, shorter commute and lower standard of living? Not only is an overwhelming majority of Indian professionals answering in the affirmative to this question, organisations too are also more than happy to comply.

Most of us have colleagues who pine to be back to their hometowns, despite the charm and glamour of a metropolitan city. “We are witnessing an increasing trend where people want to move to smaller towns. The primary drivers are: it is their hometown; it is close to their family; cost of living is relatively lower and support systems are stronger. Plus with the proliferation of malls and entertainment options in Tier II and III cities, individuals can have the best of both worlds,” agrees Elango R, CHRO and head, emerging geographies business unit, Mphasis. One fourth of Mphasis’ total employee headcount is based out of Indian non-metros. The organisation has had employees move to Indore, Raipur and Bhubaneswar from bigger cities like Bangalore and Pune.

As organisations find that business opportunities are getting saturated in the urban areas, they realise that the logical move is to explore the potential of smaller towns. “While the move to smaller towns has helped companies mitigate the risks arising out of the global economic upheaval, smaller cities with better infrastructure facilities and lower operating costs can make a viable business proposition and complement the overall business strategy,” explains Manuel D’Souza, director - HR, Serco Global Services. Out of their total task force of 47,000, 20,407 are based in nonmetros. Serco has been receiving lateral/vertical requests for movement from metros to smaller towns every month.

The other factor that is luring multinational corporations towards India’s smaller towns is the availability of a huge pool of untapped talent. “More and more people are keen to seize opportunities in their own towns instead of relocating to larger towns and moving away from their families. This becomes advantageous for organisations that are looking at hiring talented and efficient employees for smaller cities,” says D’Souza. Aurangabad, Pondicherry, Dehradun, Mohali and Guwahati are emerging Tier II and III cities.

So if you’re a city-bred professional hoping to have a quieter life in a Tier II city, is your request for a transfer likely to be granted? “Keeping the business need and employee preference in mind, these decisions are taken on a case-to-case basis,” says Satish M, EVP, HR, Firstsource Solutions Ltd. He also reveals that in certain businesses, clients tend to be present in smaller towns and hence, it makes sense to operate closer to them.

The rush towards smaller towns also presents an opportunity for the government to incentivise development in these areas. “I’d certainly move to a small town if required. But the chief concerns are the support available for professionals’ families in terms of education institutes, medical facilities, better infrastructure, good living environment and connectivity. If these are addressed proactively by the government or through Public Private Partnerships, it would make smaller towns equally attractive,” shares Ashok Reddy, president, global HR and corporate affairs, Infotech Enterprises. Out of their 11,600 employees, over 2,000 are based in cities like Kakinada, Vizag and Noida.

REDDY LISTS THE PROS AND CONS OF MOVING TO A SMALL TOWN:
Pros:
Lesser commute time; Lower cost of living; Better work-life balance; Lesser competition for resources; Lower cost of operation.
Cons:
Limited professional network; Restricted access to quality education and medical facilities.

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