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‘War rooms’ and oxygen: Indian IT companies scramble to handle COVID-19 surge

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BENGALURU: India’s giant IT companies in Bengaluru and other cities have set up COVID-19 ‘war rooms’ as they scramble to stock up on oxygen, medicine and bedding. hospital for infected workers and to maintain the behind-the-scenes operations of the world’s largest financial firms.

Banks such as Goldman Sachs and Standard Chartered, which run much of their global back office operations from large office parks in Bengaluru, Chennai or Hyderabad, have set up an infrastructure to vaccinate thousands of employees. and their families when the age restrictions are lifted on May 1.

Employees at huge tech service providers Accenture, Infosys and Wipro say teams are working 13-14 hours a day, under increasing pressure and struggling to complete projects while staff are sick and take time to care for friends and relatives.

They minimize any threat of an operations collapse – but if the surge continues, it is the infrastructure put in place by the world’s largest financial firms as part of cost-cutting measures that have left them deeply dependent on large Indian offices.

“Employees have contracted COVID-19 since the start of the second wave, causing great pressure for projects that are approaching deadlines,” said an Accenture employee, asking not to be identified because he did not was not allowed to speak to the media.

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Five other sources at Accenture have confirmed the growing problems with work pressure. Accenture said it provides medical care and covers the cost of vaccinations for its employees, but did not comment on the impact on productivity.

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Wipro said it had not seen any disruption in operations and had moved some projects from clients to offices outside India.

Only about 3% of his nearly 200,000 employees are now working from the office on critical projects, and he expects more of those employees to work from home, he said. For those who have to work in the office, Wipro said it has made arrangements to live in guesthouses and hotels nearby.

Infosys, India’s second-largest software services company, said it operates remotely in all offices and has not seen any impact on clients’ projects, despite the deteriorating health situation in the country in recent years. weeks.

Tata Consultancy Services, India’s largest information technology (IT) services company, also said its operations had not been affected.

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India’s second wave of infections has seen at least 300,000 people test positive every day over the past week, overwhelming healthcare facilities and crematoriums and sparking an increasingly urgent international response.

Bengaluru, the Asian IT capital, desperate to calm a daily infection rate five times higher than in the first wave of last year, on Monday ordered a full lockdown that allows ordinary residents to leave their homes only briefly between 6 hours and 10 hours.

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Local IT officials say they have struggled to convince world leaders outside India to recognize the seriousness of the outbreak.

COVID-19 ‘CHAMBERS OF WAR’

India’s massive IT and call center services industry directly employs over 4.5 million people and has a large number of graduates under the age of 30.

They only receive a fraction of Western wages and have largely avoided the COVID-19 pandemic by working from home until the easing of restrictions in recent months prompted companies to recall more employees from the workplace. office.

Officials at the massive Goldman Sachs complex in Bangalore, for example, asked staff in early March to prepare to return to full-scale office work.

CEO David Solomon then said the bank owed its new class of analysts and interns to bring them in to work in offices for at least part of the summer. The company quickly turned around, sacking all employees except essential employees home on March 27 as cases began to escalate.

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Another major bank, Wells Fargo, said its employees in India will continue to work remotely until at least early September.

New strains of the virus have since spiked the number of cases in India to world records and resulted in more infections among young Indians.

The 15 major companies Reuters spoke to this week said they now have vaccination programs in place. Several described COVID-19 “war rooms” they had launched to support staff and secure oxygen and other supplies.

Initially, executives outside India didn’t want their company’s Indian operations to skip the vaccine queue, said a senior executive who heads a workforce of more than 600 at a global bank in Bangalore, asking not to be identified.

“The CEO of India and others here said: We don’t care what that looks like, people are dying.”

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