Like many new immigrants to New Zealand, Indra and Manasa Sirigiri were not able to use their Indian qualifications when they arrived here from Hyderabad in 1997.
Instead, with two children to support - Rahul, then 11 and Jaya, 9 - the couple found work. Former civil engineer and architect Indra as a warehouse operations manager, while Manasa worked on the machines at a plastics factory.
Three years later they had established their own business, Link2 Group, which this week won the supreme award for the south-east region in the Westpac Auckland Business Awards. A chance opportunity back in 2000 has turned into a business that now employs over 400 people, says chief executive, and son, Rahul Sirigiri.
"A job came up at the factory for Mum to recycle plastic hangers," Rahul says. "She was so fast and efficient that they asked her and dad to quote on doing this as a contract. They saw there was a market for doing this sort of handling for companies, at a unit rate, on their site and set up the business. Clients liked it because they knew their costs up front."
The family's working mantra of Attitude, Punctuality and Efficiency (APE) became the basis of their manpower business; the Link name came about as they provide the link between customer demand and supply of workers, when and where required. Link2 crew work on-premises to pick, pack, de-van and palletise containers, label, sort or, recycle product, drive forklifts, and handle warehouse dispatch and delivery. They also provide re-work services to apparel and other industry clients in their own warehouses (such things as label changes, sorting, quality checks, attaching domes/tags/eyelets, even ironing).
Click here to view South-East winners and ceremony photos.
The 300 staff work across 25-30 different sites around the city, for big name clients like The Warehouse, Kmart and Briscoes in retail, Mainfreight, DHL, Fliway in logistics. The company recently acquired Stirling Recruitment that specialises in industrial and technical work, particularly in food and beverage, to move into that growing sector.
Link2 is not new to the Westpac Auckland Business Awards, making finalist for Employer of the Year since 2016, for Customer Service Delivery this year and last and Marketing this year. After winning the Strategy and Planning category last year, this time the company won both the Employer of the Year and the Supreme awards.
Find out about the Supreme award winners here:
"Our ground rule is 'growing together', so all our initiatives follow that," says Sirigiri. "We're in constant communication with staff and customers for feedback and ideas for improvement; it's a collaborative approach around process and service improvements at client sites."
Rahul says their workforce is used to tight deadlines and high client demands, so has carved a quality niche in the sector. LInk2 supervisors on each site run the teams, team members are rewarded with regular performance incentives and recognition at quarterly improvement meetings. Staff, over three quarters of whom are in their first job, are motivated by cross-training and skills development, plus the company guarantees a full week of work.
Find out about Link2 Group's category win here::
That effort is worth it: nearly one third of the staff have been with the company since its inception, more than half for over three years. Link2's growth by word of mouth when client contacts move companies is evidence their approach is working.
Sirigiri says the Business Awards wins are an important marketing tool to reassure clients and prospects of the company's quality employees: "We need each and every one of our employees to be facing the right way on the bus, heading towards the right destination with the rest of us," says Sirigiri.
"We find that talking about our strategic goal excites our employees. They like being a part of something bigger and knowing they can help us make a difference in our business.
"We treat our staff like family. We invited 20 of them to the awards, from a fork-lift driver who's been on the floor three years, to one of the aunties who has been with us five years. It's not just senior managers."
Social connections aren't overlooked either. Because some 75 per cent of the company's workforce are of Indian ethnicity, from the subcontinent, Fiji or South Africa (and the rest Pasifika), Link2's end of year celebration is a combination of Diwali and Christmas.
Rahul jokes it is getting harder and harder to find a hall big enough to fit the growing company's celebrations: "We are extremely proud of our employees, who are happy in their work, willing to go the extra mile, and thoughtful of our clients and their needs. From management to frontline, our polite, hard-working, genuine team are a significant reason for our business being the success it is."