Start-ups Eschew Dog Tag Culture to Attract Youth

Ashwin Casmir and Vivek Rajan studied in the same school, graduated from the same course in college and started work mere days from one another. They even earn the same salaries — however, when they turn out for work early Monday morning, you notice one rather striking difference. Ashwin in a pair of jeans and a round collared t-shirt and Vivek in a smartly pressed long sleeved shirt and trousers — with the company’s logo printed on them.

In ‘Corporate’ India, with its air conditioned offices and gleaming computers, both are beginning to go side by side. Especially with the rise of young start-ups and seemingly laissez-faire dress codes. But is there a right and a wrong way for companies to ask employees to dress? Apparently not. According to Human Resource professionals, there are positives to both and the rigidity of a dress code generally goes up proportional to the employees’ exposure to clients.

“For financial and service professionals and firms, a firm dress code makes sense. It instills a sense of confidence in clients, employees are more focused and looking formal affects attitudes. It also gives a sense of belonging to a team,” points out Aditya Narayan Mishra, president of staffing, Randstadt.

But it isn’t just personnel who meet clients that are expected to follow a dress code. Most companies, including leading IT/ITES and manufacturing firms, have dress codes for all employees with varying levels of enforcement. “TCS, CTS, Cap Gemini, Wipro, all have dress codes. Some like CGI don’t have a mandatory dress code. I got interviewed for CGI by a guy in a round collared t-shirt on a Tuesday morning,” recalls Sudarshan Reddy, IT professional. “In many IT firms it is project and client-based,” he added.

The dreaded dog tag too seems to be optional for many leading firms. While an identity card is mandatory for access, how one wears it is generally left to the person. “A dog tag isn’t mandatory. We can wear it on a retractor or just carry it around. Most resort to the dog tag because it’s convenient,” says Jacob Vedamuthu, team lead at a major IT company.

Others like Ashok Leyland, Daimler, Hyundai etc go one step further in trying to inculcate a sense of belonging and identity in employees, at all levels, including managerial and corporate. They issue company logo’d office wear — or uniforms. “But they are generally optional. But we do have a dress code — no shorts or round neck T-shirts,” said Vivek of Ashok Leyland.

The dress code culture, however, is not all pervasive. As mentioned earlier, young but fast growing start-ups have their own attitudes to dress codes — indifference. Chennai’s own highly successful Freshdesk for instance, has none. Ola, Taxi for Sure, Zomato, Amazon and several others eschew everyday dress codes as part of work culture. And what’s more, this is making them quite attractive to prospective employees too.

“Everyday work wear is not structured in these places. There is a higher emphasis on creative processes and a relaxed and casual work environment. Students who leave college also seem to find the absence of dress codes pretty attractive,” says Narayan.

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The New Indian Express