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India's IT biggies are playing Cupid
Meghana Biwalkar
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April 26, 2006

Nisha Khatri does not complain if her husband spends long hours in office - after all, he is just a few cubicles away. The Khatris work for the same employer, a large Indian IT firm.

The 28-year-old software engineer met her husband at the workplace and the company didn't frown on the budding relationship. In fact, when they married last year, their employer gifted them a cheque for Rs 15,000 - not that it's company policy to be so generous to all employees.

But as more and more companies increasingly find themselves playing Cupid to intra-office romances, a change in policy may be round the corner.  NIIT [Get Quote], of course, was famously the first off the block - among its many perks was a dating allowance for its employees who were single and eager to mingle.

The IT firm the Khatris work for is yet to make any formal announcement on the issue, but another infotech biggie, Infosys Technologies, says it is open to fine tuning its HR manual, if the trend continues.

That will be a welcome change for most employees across Corporate India. As Soumen Basu, executive chairman, Manpower Services, an HR consultancy, says, "A decade ago companies would frown on such alliances. But in the present, employee-centric environment, most organisations are open to the concept of an office spouse."

Mind you, this is the real thing and not the "office spouse" that's become an intrinsic part of the corporate lexicon lately - a colleague with whom you share a close, personal relationship, although with no romantic or sexual undertones to cloud the issue.

It's easy to see why office romances are popular - most of us spend the larger share of our waking hours at work. Apart from the logistics of taking time out to meet people outside of work, there's another consideration.

"Many young professionals prefer to marry someone from the same profession, as they can empathise better with the work culture of their partner," observes Lata Rajan, head, research, Ma Foi Consultancy.

Even the organisation benefits. Typically, marriage takes a toll on women employees - they switch jobs to be closer to their husbands, and so on. When both partners are in the same organisation, it's easier to control the brain drain.

For instance, Infosys [Get Quote] offers employees an option of leave without pay - sometimes, for up to a year - if they want to join partners who are on overseas projects. Motorola, on the other hand, tries to make provision for the spouse as well on overseas locations, wherever possible.

Of course, there are caveats. Most companies, including Wipro [Get Quote], ensure that couples don't work on the same team, and are not in a reporting relationship. That doesn't matter to most couples. The Khatris, for instance, are happy just to get to spend time together.

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