India Goes On Lockdown: What Does This Mean?

I’ve been flooded with calls from HR leaders wanting to talk about what they should do to respond to the Crisis. And today the country of India announced a national lockdown, sending 1.3 billion Indian residents (many who work for US companies) home. This is almost 1/5 of the world.

The implications of this are enormous: nearly every major company has a team or outsourced organization in India. In fact, after studying the market for technology and IT workers, it appears that almost 11% of the world’s tech professionals (over 4 million) work in India.

India Lockdown

I wanted to share some information about what this means:

What Does This Mean In India?

  1. All public and private transportation is being shutdown – the main means of transport for all forms of white-collar workers.
  2. All the inter-city and intra-city and state borders are blocked as of midnight.
  3. Restaurants are being shut down. Many employees of IT industry use internal canteens or outside restaurants which are closing.
  4. Power and internet is intermittent in some areas.
  5. Desktops are the main computing equipment for employees that can’t reach their offices. (Companies like TCS are embracing innovative solutions to this problem.)

How Big Is The Potential Impact?

It’s big.

Here are some considerations.

  1. India’s IT industry supports many of the world’s digital business needs: Software Products, IT Services, Engineering and R&D services, ITES/BPO (IT-enabled services/Business Process Outsourcing), Hardware, and e-commerce. (IT and tech outsourcing is a $177 Billion business growing at 6.2% per year with more than 4 million Indian employees.)
  2. India’s highly qualified talent pool of technical graduates is one of the largest in the world and the country is often 1/3 to 1/5 the cost of the US. Today India is the second-fastest digitizing economy among the 17 leading economies of the world.
  3. Leading Indian IT firms like TCS, Cognizant, Infosys, Genpact, Wipro, and Tech Mahindra, have expanded far beyond outsourcing. They are providing leading development in blockchain, artificial intelligence, analytics, and design.
  4. Many of the world’s most important pharma companies are in India (Sun Pharma, Aurobindo, Lupin, Cipla, Dr. Reddy’s, and others). They are leaders in generic manufacturing.
  5. Most international companies (Accenture, IBM, Citibank, Deloitte) have massive teams of in-house staff in India.
  6. The Indian government heavily support digital skilling initiatives (Nasscom, NHRD, and many others) and has a highly dynamic workforce.
  7. Indian companies do think “people first” and focus heavily on employee development (Read my article on Reliance and Jio to learn more).
  8. India is the youngest developed economy in the world, growing faster than China. So all these trends could continue.

Where Will This Be Felt?

  • Almost every large company now has a large and growing presence in India. Customer service, technical support, IT helpdesk, HR helpdesk, and telemarketing are commonly located in India.
  • Insurance processing: New business acquisition and promotion, claims processing, policy maintenance and policy management.
  • Data entry and data processing: Data entry from paper, books, images, e-books, yellow pages, web sites, business cards, printed documents, software applications, receipts, bills, catalogs and mailing lists.
  • Data conversion services: Data conversion for databases, word processors, spreadsheets and software applications. Data conversion of raw data into PDF, HTML, Word or Acrobat formats.
  • Bookkeeping and accounting services: Maintenance of the customer’s general ledger, accounts receivables, accounts payables, financial statements, bank reconciliations and assets / equipment ledgers.
  • Form processing services: Online form processing, payroll processingmedical billing, insurance claim forms processing and medical forms processing.
  • Online research: Internet search, product research, market research, surveys, analysis, web research and mailing list research.

What Can Companies Do?

Workers and professionals in India are highly skilled, motivated, and ambitious to succeed. Given their fast-growing country and infrastructure in place, they will need support and fast response. After many trips to India meeting with many business leaders, I’m convinced that they will rise to the occasion.

Rajesh Gopinathan, the CEO of Tata Consultancy Services, put it well in his article published today. The company is focused on “People First, Economics Second,” as I discussed earlier last week. 

I just spoke with several leaders of large organizations in India, and here’s what they told me.

  1. Make sure people are safe. Give employees the freedom to go home, recognize that they may have children to take care of, and accommodate their needs for tools, systems, and services at home.
  2. Make jobs flexible. People who are sent home (or put on furlough) may need to work on new projects immediately. Make it clear that people’s day to day work and priorities may change.
  3. Invest in infrastructure now. Make sure people have an allowance to buy computers, internet, and other tools they need.
  4. Pay people more frequently. If you have a monthly or bi-weekly payroll, you may need to increase it to weekly. People feel stressed financially and that will hold up their productivity.
  5. Relax policies and rules. Banks, insurance companies, and most financial institutions have enormous security and regulatory burdens. You may need to relax these for a few months to let people perform.

Two Quick Examples From This Week’s Discussions

A large healthcare insurance company has more than 30,000 employees located in small countries in Southeast Asia. These employees were sent home. Most of them did not have home computers or internet, forcing the company to re-route all these calls to new service centers. The company is now rapidly finding a way to get this team back online.

A large global financial services company does investment banking, trading, and similar services. As many of their workers are in New York City, most have been sent home. The bank had no clear policy or culture around working at home (executives are not convinced it’s productive), so they are forced to make a set of rapid policy decisions on who and what work can be done at home. They now have the same set of issues with more than 10,000 employees in India.

Things Are Changing Quickly

This is a new world, and we’ll be talking much more about it in the upcoming webinar on March 31: The World Changed Overnight:  HR and Leadership In A Time of Crisis.

This is a time when HR is in overdrive. If you want to get a sense of The Big Reset, and the five big changes we expect ahead, please read this article or watch the video below.

I’ll try to keep you all up to date as things change every day.