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Jul 01 2011

Economic Times- India Inc keeps its alumni network buzzing


NEW DELHI: Organisations are going the extra mile to stay connected — not just with the usual business contacts, but with employees who have left them. Like most educational institutes do, companies such as Pepsi-Co , Marico, Sapient, NIIT, HUL, and Deloitte are organising alumni meets, so that existing employees keep in touch with former employees as a way to network and spread the word about the organisation. "We believe former employees are your ambassadors.

Even if they have quit the firm, they should be updated about what's happening in the firm. It is important to stay connected today," says Dhananjay Bansod , chief people officer of consulting firm Deloitte India. Deloitte runs a programme called Boomerang, wherein existing and former employees get together . The programme runs across the year over different geographies and divisions, depending on the group's convenience. This helps the company feel the pulse of the market, says Bansod, adding, "You never know, some of your former employees may become your customers tomorrow."

PepsiCo India, too, runs an alumni network, which meets at least once a year. "Not only are former employees your brand ambassadors in the corporate world, many atime, former employers too get to learn about best practices. There is a lot of knowledge sharing in such meets," says PepsiCo India chief people officer Samik Basu. Sapient, on the other hand, holds its alumni meet every six months. The company invites most of its former employees to participate in such meets, regardless of their level or seniority.

"Such events are a great source for business referral. Several of our former employees who moved to join potential client companies have invited us back to do business with them," says Prashant Bhatnagar, director — hiring at Sapient India. Such meets also result in wooing former employees back into the fold. Take Ramswaroop Gopalan's case. The country manager, SapientNitro, was the first project manager for Sapient in India in 2000. He left the organisation in 2007 only to return in 2009. Gopalan says he quit because he wanted to get sales experience . "I was not comfortable settling abroad for a sales profile so I decided to move."

However, Gopalan was regularly in touch with the senior management at the company and was aware of its activities and new initiatives. "When the right opportunity came, the senior management asked me if I would like to head SapientNitro and I agreed." Marico has more than one alumni group. While the bigger network is called 'Alma-Alumni of Mariconians' , the finance team in the organisation has a separate network, called 'Mafia-Marico Finance Alumni' .

The company has celebrated several achievements with former employees. For instance, when it notched up a turnover of Rs 1,000 crore a decade ago or even a Rs 2,000-crore turnover a few years ago, Marico had invited its alumni to participate in the celebrations. The company makes sure an ecopy of its newsletter is shared with alumni. "We believe it's a very healthy habit to stay connected. We do not do it with any agenda in mind.

The idea is to share happiness, achievements and information with those who shared the growth path with the company in the past," says Marico India group chief CFO and chief HRO Milind Sarwate. Companies are realising that in today's globalised environment, such groups make more than just business sense.

Strong alumni networks help in building collaborative relationships across client and supplier communities as more often than not, talent movement is within these ecosystems, says Nishchae Suri, MD, Mercer India. "An alumni network is a relationship bank for an organisation . It plays a pivotal role in how business in conducted today and how it is grown," he adds.

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