New Delhi/Bengaluru : In 2015, when Antony Alex pitched his training products for tackling sexual harassment in the workplace, large and small businesses in India mostly turned him away saying it was not worth the investment.
This year, however, Alex’s Mumbai-based consultancy firm Rain-maker is witnessing its sharpest growth ever as companies quickly try to educate employees about anti-sexual harassment laws and company policies.
The real surge in dem-and came following the spread of India’s #MeToo movement. This week’s resignation of Binny Bansal, the CEO of Flip-kart, following an internal probe into accusations of personal misconduct, is expected to only add to the momentum.
But the sudden exit of the tech-savvy billionaire shocked Indian businesses as he was regarded as a superstar entrepreneur who co-founded the e-commerce company little more than a decade ago while still in his 20s. Walmart acquired Flipkart this year.
“The lesson in this for start-ups that are scaling up rapidly is clear. Governance issues cannot be ignored ... and the management needs to be far more sensitive, alert and prepared,” T.N. Hari, head of human resources at grocery website Bigbasket.com, wrote in a column for Mint.
Companies are now approaching headhunters, law firms and boutique consultancies such as Rainmaker to ensure they provide a safer workplace for women, become better equipped to handle complaints and run proper checks on prospective employees.
“Companies are understanding that if POSH (prevention of sexual harassment) compliance goes wrong, it can bring down the company and the brand,” said Alex, whose client base has grown by 30 percent in the last six months and includes major domestic and international firms.
“I would sum it up as fear, they are petrified of the brand impact.” An executive for Amazon.com Inc’s video streaming service said that an Indian comic facing allegations of sexual misconduct would for now not be in charge of an upcoming political satire. And the same day, Tata Motors sacked its head of media communications after an internal probe into allegations of sexual harassment. Pratibha Jain, a partner at Indian law firm Nishith Desai Associates, said her clients were increasingly asking for help in investigations into claims of sexual misconduct and reputational due diligence of even their external service providers, such as lawyers.
“In the past, such cases may have been brushed under the carpet, but employee sensitization has definitely increased given the movement,” said Jain.
A senior executive at a multinational company in India sought Mr Jain’s advice about whether he should stop talking altogether to women alone in a room, while some firms have considered installing closed-circuit television cameras that could assist if they had to investigate an alleged case of sexual misconduct....