How Indian IT Keeps the Lights On for Global Businesses

Shilpa Phadnis | TNN

Bangalore: It is said that it is sending almost 6,000 laptops to employees every day to allow them (WFH). The numbers increased from 1,000 a day about 10 days ago. The company, which has about 4.5 lakh employees, has now allowed 85% of staff in India to work from home.

The scale of the transition work from office to home is staggering for Indian IT. Much is work that cannot stop. There's also a lot of work that simply can't be moved to employees' homes, either because of security concerns or because workloads are too heavy to rely on uncertain residential broadband connections. Indian IT supports mission-critical systems that work, healthcare, insurance, utilities, and stock exchanges.

Keshav Murugesh, CEO of outsourcing solutions provider group WNS, says that services provided to regulated entities such as banks and financial institutions have extremely confidential data that customers are wary of access from employees' homes given the security and regulatory obligations. In addition, the performance of an Internet connection from home is not as good as a network provided by the company in terms of latency, which restricts certain processes that require a lot of bandwidth and/or require a high quality of service to be delivered from home, he says.

Banks and financial institutions make up 30-40% of the revenues of many leading IT service providers.

A senior executive at one of the top Indian IT companies, who declined to be named, notes that large Indian and global corporations have entrusted their critical applications, networks and infrastructure to Indian IT. As part of our contractual obligations, we are expected to provide these services outside of some approved facilities (these generally have access to customer networks). If we are moving things outside of approved facilities, there are implications for secure connections. Without approval, it is a breach of contract, he says. His company is looking for ways to remotely connect to customer systems and networks without any security compromise.

Networks, he says, are good for downloading information, but the services they offer require uploading information. We are putting together a monitoring mechanism to look at bandwidth, response time latency, to ensure that working from home is not a problem, he says.

Jimit Arora, who directs the IT services research practice for the US-based Everest Group. The US says that even if devices (PCs) were available, users need dedicated, high-speed bandwidth, VPN access, and multi-factor authentication. These, he says, will not be available to all delivery resources. But the biggest challenge at the WFH, he says, are the contractual clauses. “This (crisis) represents a typical event of force majeure, given that there is now compulsory work from home requirements. Customers and suppliers must prepare for lost service level agreements, he says.

Everest says data center support, production support (highest levels of L2 and L3 support for IT systems and applications), network operations center, and security operations center are activities where clients are unwilling to allow any FMH. Then there are areas where clients are reluctantly allowing the WFH, including areas such as business and accounting processes, procurement processes, application development, and L1 production support.

A CXO from an IT company, who declined to be named, says that for each client, they have mapped 6 to 7 scenarios for business continuity and are approaching them to ask for permission for what they consider reasonable. “Every action we are taking now is a commitment to the contractual obligation. But we are reinforcing our security processes and monitoring mechanisms, ”he says.

Evero's Arora notes Accenture's position that 60% of its work can be delivered remotely; Beyond that, office presence is needed because clients have specific needs for data security and privacy. He said in a statement that he is working to allow all employees to work from home, except for skeletal essential personnel who may be required to be present in the offices. In cases where employees don't have the necessary infrastructure, we have purchased additional laptops/desktops with essential infrastructure and connectivity so they can work from home in the current situation, he said.

Phil Fersht, CEO of United States-based HfS Research, says keeping critical support services for business customers operational is becoming the biggest challenge facing the Indian IT industry in dealing with this health crisis. They have to operate on an immediate, short-term basis to keep the lights on for business customers, with a medium-term focus to survive the next few weeks with adequate emergency provisions to keep staff healthy and a financial setback to keep wheels on the track as we go through these very painful movements, he says.