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Indian tech grads bring parents to work

Offshore software development outfit woos potential workers in India by courting their parents. Can "arranged careers" work?

Call it the equivalent of a parent-teacher meeting for the global economy.

Consulting company Sierra Atlantic has started inviting the parents of prospective employees in India to the office for an orientation meeting.

The Fremont, Calif.-based company launched the charm offensive with parents to give it an edge in recruiting over other local employers. Like many companies that do software development in India, Sierra Atlantic is hiring people, particularly recent college graduates, in droves.

"We realized we had to get more creative in hiring and retaining people and that our employees in southern India are heavily influenced by their parents," said Marc Hebert, executive vice president at Sierra Atlantic.

Hebert noted that arranged marriages are common among young people in Hyderabad, where Sierra Atlantic has its Indian offices. The company intends to hire about 400 people over the next year.

"If they have arranged marriages, why can't they have arranged careers?" Hebert said.

The idea for the parents' session, called the College Graduate Program, came from a human resource professional at Sierra Atlantic's Hyderabad office.

The first half-day meeting, which took place in September, included presentations of the company's values, culture and strategy. It was designed to help give parents an idea of the career path open to young professionals at the company, Hebert said.

The first session was so successful that Sierra Atlantic has decided to make the practice mandatory for all prospective employees. About half of the parents, totaling 35 people, took the company up on the offer the first time.

"The market in India has gotten much more competitive this year," Hebert said. "The whole idea is to sell through the parents."