Last month, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a 21-day lockdown to help quell the spread of coronavirus, critical IT services backing important operations such as banking and security were exempt from it — which is resulting in roughly a third of India’s four million techies still going to the office for work, instead of working from home.
As Ananya Bhattacharya noted in her story for Quartz, a lot of global companies such as General Electric, Citibank, Airbus, and Morgan Stanley, have their back-office operations situated in India, and they can’t afford to put work on hold.
One of the primary reasons is that while signing a project deal, clients often ask these firms to set up a highly secure Offshore Development Centre (ODC) — a separate section, such as a floor or a closed area, in an office with tight security measures. In these ODCs, employees have to work on computers with several restrictions on data access and portability, and they can’t take their work back home. Some ODCs don’t even allow you to bring your smartphone inside.
What’s more, it’s difficult for companies to set up a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) that lets employees access and share project data, with short notice. Plus, as Quartz’s story indicates, some companies simply don’t have enough laptops for employees. And because of security stipulations, these firms wouldn’t want workers to access work from their personal devices.
Even if work infrastructure was in place, these companies need to ask for client permissions to get a nod for remote work. Last month, The Economics Times reported that major IT firms had asked their clients for a waiver for a certain period, so techies can work on projects from home.
According to estimates published in February, the IT industry was set to earn revenues of $191 billion this year. However, the coronavirus pandemic has thrown these figures under the bus, and there’s a chance of employees being laid off in a situation of prolonged lockdowns.
Quartz’s story also highlights some of the cultural problems in the Indian IT industry about trust in employees and fear of losing jobs if workers are on extended leave. You can read the whole story here.