Hariharan is a Product Manager with one of the top IT firms in the Siruseri IT Park. Hariharan’s wife Sujatha is an architect with a firm in Adyar. They have two kids aged 10 and 5. Post covid, Hari decided to move his parents from Coimbatore to stay with them, so they upgraded from a rental 2BHK to a rental 3BHK near Kelambakkam. Though they’ve been looking to buy a flat for the past year or so, they’ve not found a place that checks all the boxes on their wish list. When quizzed about this, Hari says “My parents are both retired Government employees. They had a busy career then and they lead a very active retired life now. I respect that. It is vital in my house-hunt that I find a place they can find joy in as well.” Both kids attend school in OMR and their grandpa loves ferrying them to school and sports coaching, in his Maruti Alto. Hari jokes “It’s a 10-year-old Alto, my father’s first car. And he prides himself in managing the kids schedule without having to bother us. And my mother has recently discovered YouTube! Every day she surprises kids with snacks and meals that fits their daily routine. It’s such a pleasure to see them so involved in their grandkids’ lives. We are truly blessed.”
The desire to live close to work is a very recent sentiment that has mushroomed across the world. Since the dawn of the industrial era traveling to work was always a journey. Factories and industries were located far away from residential localities. Commercial districts and residential districts were segregated not just by location, they were both independent ecosystems. Work was a serious affair. The employee mindset was embedded into the DNA of the middle-class. Make a living, feed your family, have a roof over your head, save for the future, and ease into retirement with a pension. That was the course life took, generation after generation – where they were grew up, worked, and retired under the same roof. But for a handful of visionaries, the general populace was at peace with the fact that they lived within the limitations of their paycheck.
“I moved to Chennai to attend college, which coincidentally is just a few kilometers down from work. Those days there was nothing on this road. Tidel Park was inaugurated when I was in college and every single one of us aspired to work inside that shiny glass building one day. It’s the kind of nostalgia where you fondly remember the past but realize that those moments were all the while laying the foundation for your future.”
OMR is truly the growth highway of Tamil Nadu. Chennai has more than 4,200 companies and approximately 60% of them are in the 46-kilometre stretch from Madhya Kailash till Thiruporur. From home grown startups, to international consulting firms, from small and medium IT / ITES firms to the sprawling campuses of Infosys, Cognizant and TCS, OMR is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Search online and you’ll find jobs for every profile – from junior level executives to co-founder positions in startups. Marketing, sales, legal, design, operations, admin, managers, directors… the list is endless.
On LinkedIN jobs, there are 24,216 job openings in Chennai as of November 2022. Naukri.com throws up 13,110 job listings for Chennai when you filter the search for the “MNC+ Corporate+Startup+Unicorn” combination.
Chennai has always been considered as a conservative place – both in terms of career offerings and lifestyle facilities. It may not have the startup ecosystem that Bengaluru has created, or the fast-paced energy of Mumbai. But what it lacks in comparison to other cosmopolitan cities, it makes up in being a very safe city in one of India’s more progressive states. It trumps other cities with stable governance, women’s safety, efficient public transport, lesser traffic, and much more. Just take a look at the companies that were founded in Madras – TVS (manufacturing), Murugappa (manufacturing & consumer goods), Apollo Hospitals (India’s largest healthcare provider), Cavinkare (the consumer goods company that revolutionized the sachet market for shampoos), Ramco (from cement to IT), India Cements, MRF (they started as a kids balloon manufacturer), Sterling Holidays… to HCL and Zoho and Freshdesk. Every company you just read is a market leader. Their constant innovation and foray into various verticals has helped them stay relevant in a fast changing world. They employ thousands in their workforce and most importantly, they are all respected for offering stable jobs and a clear career-path. No wonder these companies enjoy the loyalty of folks who have worked for 15-plus years – a rarity in today’s business scenario.
Hariharan puts it nicely when he says “Chennai as a market keeps you grounded as a professional. It has an inherent value system that keeps it real. There is rarely a boom here today that will go bust tomorrow. Growth here is organic. Case in point – when every other global startup is unraveling either under change of leadership or with mass layoffs, our very own Sridhar Vembu of Zoho Corp says “layoffs destroy employee loyalty, we do not intend to fire anyone” – in the face of a global economic slowdown in the SaaS space.
Sridhar runs his software company from a small village (Tenkasi). He, to me, is the personification of Chennai – hardworking, diligent and grounded.