Imagine moving to a new city in your early 20s—away from the comfort of your house and neighbourhood, to a place where you may struggle to find transport, or someone to cook for you. This is not an imaginary scenario for a majority of millennials who move out of their home towns to look for opportunities in the metros and other major cities.

“Relocation services are a critical part of the suite of benefits provided to new hires these days. These could range from simple programmes like providing travel expense reimbursements, basic accommodation arrangements to more value-added ‘personal life settlement’ programmes like helping with children’s school admission to job referrals for spouses," explains Rakhee Malik, director of HR (India), AT Kearney, a management consulting firm.

“An organization can make the process easy if they can design a relocation programme that empathizes with what the person goes through, and provides emotional support other than the physical assistance and financial support. Such a thing would do a world of difference to the power of the employer brand," says Aditya Mishra, director and CEO, CIEL HR, a recruitment and staffing agency.

Finding an abode

Mainak Roy, 28, found it challenging to rent a house when he moved to Chennai after finishing his studies in Darjeeling. As a fresher in the corporate world, Roy was not earning a lot and yet was expected to pay a hefty amount as deposit. “Thankfully, a few of my batchmates had also been placed in the same company and we started looking together. We decided to spend the first few months in a paying guest accommodation, save up and then move into a flat we liked. We pooled in money to pay the deposit," adds Roy, a project manager in information technology firm Tata Consultancy Services.

“I had to find the flat through a broker—which meant more expenditure even though I was on a tight budget. Things like safety and connectivity had to be kept in mind while looking for the flat," explains Mainodi Nunisa, 34, a senior marketing manager at aviation company, SpiceJet. Just like Roy, Nunisa too had to save up for the first couple of years by living in a hostel. This helped her to get accustomed to living on her own, without relying on her family to take care of tasks for her.

Nilayan Dey faced trouble when applying for documents in spite of having all the proofs in place. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint
Nilayan Dey faced trouble when applying for documents in spite of having all the proofs in place. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint

Besides deposit, as a single person—male or female—many out-of-towners find it difficult to rent a house. Landlords want to make sure that they are not renting to people who would create a nuisance. Another challenge millennials face is that some housing societies do not permit single occupants. Here the companies can intervene by sharing the introduction of the company and providing the assurance regarding the conduct of the associates if anything untoward happens.

“A cookie-cutter approach to relocation services does not add value to the new hire’s experience. Companies need to have relocation programmes that cater to the specific needs of new hires. This also helps create a lasting impression with new employees," says Malik. For instance, at AT Kearney, campus hires get accommodation for 10-15 days on joining along with introduction to housing brokers and travel reimbursements. For employees relocating from outside India, the global mobility team has a relocation specialist who works to ensure that all pre-movement challenges are sorted.

Other niggles

For Roy, other problems included learning how to get around, especially since he did not have a car. The change in language meant that he struggled with daily chores such as grocery shopping, giving instructions to his help or even asking for directions on the road. Roy is thankful that before he moved to Chennai, he picked up a few phrases—numbers, directions, names of fruits and vegetables—in the local language that he could use in the day-to-day life.

“Companies should provide a mini-guide, sharing common colloquial terms and events with directory of services including bus stands and other vantage locations as a ready reckoner for a new settler," explains Neeraj Sharma, senior director (human resources), FourKites, a predictive supply chain start-up.

Product manager at a Gurugram-based start-up, Sujit Kumar Mahato, 28, moved to Delhi in 2016 after living in about 10 different cities in the last four years. For him, the aim was to minimize the hassle of relocation as much as possible. “I did not want to spend too much because I knew that I may have to move again and thus, used rental services like Rentomojo and Furlenco to rent furniture and appliances from them. I just made the payment at the end of the month and rented everything from furniture to fridge," he says.

The house, more specifically the house address, serves a very important role in the tenant’s new life, as Nilayan Dey, 29, found out when he moved to Mumbai in 2017. As a new tenant, Dey —a chemical engineering consultant in the oil and gas sector—did not have any gas connection or electricity bill. His banking address was also from a different city. When he tried to renew his passport, he found himself in a tight spot. Dey’s rent agreement was not registered because the landlord had insisted on just notarizing it on stamp paper. He had to finally take a day off from work to change his address at the bank. “However, for the police verification, I was asked to produce additional proof of addresses, in spite of the police visiting my apartment to check whether I resided there. After four visits to the police station and two days of leave from work, I was compelled to use Twitter to get in touch with Mumbai Police Central Control Room. My address verification was given a green signal within an hour-and-a-half of my tweet," he shares.

In a new place, without an ecosystem of social and emotional support, the family and the employee go through turbulent times. Often, organizations fail to appreciate this because the people who deal with relocating employees do not have first-hand experience. While peers and bosses might have done this themselves, they often do not have the time to lend a helping hand. But hopefully, a more structured, service industry—including furniture renting, house-hunting, household chores—will come to their rescue.

Taking an out-of-town job?Ask these questions

Will relocation expenses be covered over and above the pay? And if so, how long will it take?

Will rent-free accommodation be provided ? And if so, for what duration and where?

In case of a high-rental deposit whether the company is willing to provide an interest-free loan ?

Is the company willing to provide support for single occupants in some of the affordable societies in close proximity to the office?

Is the company willing to facilitate or assist in home search through a bunch of approved agencies or brokers?

—Neeraj Sharma, senior director, human resources, FourKites