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Rediff.com  » Business » US holiday saves IT-BPO firms from bandh backlash

US holiday saves IT-BPO firms from bandh backlash

July 06, 2010 11:56 IST

Unlike the 'aam admi', who was hit by the nationwide strike called by Opposition parties to protest against the recent hike in fuel prices, the country's information technology-business process outsourcing (IT-BPO) companies breathed a sigh of relief as today was a public holiday in the US.

The US celebrates its independence day on July 4. But since it was Sunday, the American government had declared Monday as a holiday.

The country's third-largest software company, Wipro, on Saturday decided to close its offices in Bangalore. Most other companies, including Infosys Technologies, MindTree and MphasiS, on Sunday decided to shut their offices in Karnataka, where the Bharatiya Janata Party, the main opposition party at the Centre, is in power.

At Tata Consultancy Services, the country's largest IT services exporter, it was business as usual as transport arrangements were made at some centres and associates were at work by 6 am. Some of them chose to work from home or at a closest location. "The marginal dip in attendance had no impact on our schedules," said the company in a statement.

As part of disaster recovery management, organisations move their critical operations to other centres and all companies in Bangalore ensured that some of the critical client processes were not hindered owing to the bandh.

"These kind of sporadic things (bandhs) affect our business, but it is manageable," said V Balakrishnan, CFO of Infosys Technologies. "We first decided to stay open, but at the final hour we decided to remain closed, which was communicated to the employees on Sunday."

According to Wipro, the company ensured that its critical client processes kept running either in Bangalore or in cities like Hyderabad and Pune. It said the employees would be asked to work one more day to compensate. "Our head of administration had a discussion with the state authorities on Saturday based on which we decided to shut the offices, and the same was communicated to the employees on Saturday," said Sachin Mulay, head - corporate brand & communication, Wipro.

MindTree said the company managed to bring some skeleton staff to the office to run critical processes. "We decided only yesterday (Sunday) to remain closed after most other IT companies decided to remain shut in the wake of the bandh," said Babuji Abraham, head, global people function of MindTree. He said the company's offices in Chennai and Hyderabad were operational on Monday.

Mumbai-based companies had planned for the day well in advance though they still faced transportation delays. Many BPOs in Mumbai chose to ferry their employees through buses and not cabs and in many cases, the employees got their pick ups as early as 4 am. "Our organisation had arranged for cabs at 6.30 am but the cab never came," said an employee from 3 Global Services.

Despite this, companies agreed that there were delays, but critical operations were not affected. "All our offices across India are open. While we are seeing some transportation delays, there is no major impact on our processes. As a backup, wherever possible, we are load balancing our work across the centres. Our focus has been on our clients' processes and safety of our employees," said Keshav Murugesh, CEO of WNS Global Services.

"Since we work in shifts, we called the first shift employees and the operation staff at 7 am. In fact, we have 85-100 per cent attendance rate as we have organised pick ups and drops to areas we think are not sensitive," concurred Sandeep Aggarwal, EVP Sales, Solution and Transition at Intelenet Global Services.

Aegis BPO began preparing for the bandh three days in advance and activated its contingency and business continuity plan. "Inbound processes were planned well in advance and agents got to workstations early so that they did not get stuck on the streets. Some sensitive locations like Bhopal and Kolkata even provided facilities like overnight stay for employees.

"Outbound processes gave the staff the day off today. All the support functions reported to work early. None of the sites were impacted due to the well planned strategy," said an Aegis spokesperson.

However, there was a mixed response to the bandh from IT industry in Pune. Many employees were not able to reach offices due to commuting problems. Everyday, over 7,000 cabs and taxis ferry more than 50,000 employees. Nana Kshirsagar, president of the Maharashtra State Call Centre Transport Association, said, "Our cabs and taxis remained closed due to the bandh. We run 7,000 cabs in the city. We had already informed the same to all the companies and stayed away from providing any services today."

While some companies declared today as a holiday in Pune, some IT companies operational in Magarpatta, Yerawada, Hinjewadi IT park and Kharadi IT park were closed. Many employees preferred to be at home and few opted out to work from their homes. Most of the BPO operations in the companies like MphasiS, Tech Mahindra remained closed in the city.

In the capital too, the IT-BPO companies had taken contingency measure beforehand as explained by an employee of SAP Gurgaon, "We got a mail that we will not be working on Monday and in lieu of that, Saturday will be open. However, office is operational and business critical support is being given. People who live in Gurgaon have come to office, but there was no compulsion to come to work."

Noida-based EXL Service too was sparsely populated as many processes were closed due to the holiday in the US. "There is no impact of the bandh However, as a business continuity measure, we ferried people before time and the bandh usually gets over by 5 pm and that is the time when the US starts working," said an employee at the BPO.

Nasscom, the body representing the IT-BPO industry, said such incidents could take a toll on the brand value of India as the business sentiment gets hurt.

"For the BPOs, the impact was less and the holiday in the US came as a blessing in disguise, but for the IT companies, this lead to destructive business as the business sentiment got hit. Though there has not been any loss to business as such, but now some companies will have to work on Saturday. Moreover, from an overall brand perspective, working in India is impacted," noted Sangeeta Gupta, vice-president, Nasscom.

Gupta explained that though there had not been any quantifiable loss to business, bandhs and closures could be a threat to the Indian IT industry. "Though Karnataka and Mumbai were affected the most, with Hyderabad being more functional and Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon saw enough people for critical operations, this is not a one day issue. We need to work on how business needs to go on," she said.

(Additional reporting by Bibhu Ranjan Mishra and Hrishikesh Joshi from Bangalore and Pune)
Kirtika Suneja & Shivani Shinde in NewDelhi/Mumbai
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