Fika, a café where software managers serve coffee

Employees of Ramco Systems having a discussion at Fika@Ramco cafe, Chennai BIJOY GHOSH

The café at Ramco offers space for open employee-management interaction

Chennai, April 30





“We will meet at Fika. I will prepare coffee for you,” says Virender Aggarwal, CEO, Ramco Systems and a trained Barista bartender, when you ask him for an appointment. Fika is the newly created Fika@Ramco café, the most happening place in the Chennai-based software company.

At Fika – a variation of ‘kaffi’, which is Swedish for coffee – it is more than just having coffee, sandwich, soup, momo or noodles. Employees can play music (there is a guitar, a trumpet and bongos), watch television, have internal meetings and meet with clients. “We tend not to restrict people that they are away from the desk being in the cafe,” Aggarwal said.

The dim orange lit café with sofas and chairs here and there is operated by Spoonbill as two bartenders from the North East happily serve the employees with freshly brewed Cappuccino and Espresso, and a variety of fresh juices. Fruit and nuts are on the house.

Once a week, 55-year-old Aggarwal not only prepares coffee for his staff, he picks up the tab, too. All the managers need to compulsorily serve coffee for one hour every week to enable employees interact with the top management; a calendar informs when it is each manager’s turn to do so.

“The café is to engage employees directly with the top management casually. We recently launched a large canteen, yoga and Zumba fitness dance to remove the tag of being a conservative company and to be known as the coolest place to work in Chennai,” Aggarwal told BusinessLine.

Ramco Systems’ 10-storey headquarters is not something that you can miss when you turn into Chennai’s IT expressway.

Fika is located in the basement of this building and the company spent nearly ₹70 lakh in doing it up. Before this, there was a small canteen that served coffee and tea.

These initiatives have resulted in employee attrition rate dropping to less than 5 per cent last quarter from 16-17 per cent last year. The company employs 1,650 people.

It is important to attract the best talent for which ‘we need to create a Google kind of environment with no hierarchy, no bossism and no cabin,’ says Aggarwal, who joined Ramco three years ago. “I have the smallest cabin in this office.”

“We at times feel scared and intimidated to talk to the top management in their cabins. However, at the café, it is an open and casual talk,” says M Divya, Executive, Corporate Strategy. Customers and clients are super excited when they meet at the café, she adds.

Ramco on Monday opened a canteen called TGIM (Thank God it’s Monday) where subsidised and calorie-measured food is served. It can seat over 200 people.

These employee-centric measures boosted Ramco’s rating in Glassdoor, a website where employees can rate their company. Ramco’s score increased to 3.8 from 2.6 while Google is rated at 4. “Our score was higher than top companies like TCS, Infosys and Wipro. Employees are talking positively about the company,” Aggarwal says.

Published on April 30, 2015

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