BENGALURU: India’s giant IT firms have set up Covid 19 “war-rooms” in Bengaluru and other cities as they scramble to procure oxygen, drugs, and hospital beds for infected staff while maintaining backroom operations for the world’s largest financial firms.
When age restrictions are lifted on May 1, banks such as Goldman Sachs and Standard Chartered, which operate most of their global back office operations from large office parks in Hyderabad, Chennai or Bengaluru have put in place the infrastructure to vaccinate thousands of employees and their families.
Workers at large technology service providers Accenture and Wipro say their teams are working 13-14 hours a day, under the pressure, and struggling to meet project deadlines as employees call in sick or take time off to care for friends and family.
They downplay the risk of a systemic failure, but if the boom persists, the infrastructure placed in place by the world’s largest financial firms as part of cost-cutting efforts that have left them dependent on large Indian offices is at risk.
“Employees have contracted Covid 19 since the second wave started, putting extreme pressure on projects that are approaching deadlines,” said one Accenture employee, who did not want to be identified because he was not authorised to talk to the media.
Five other Accenture sources reported the rise in work-related stress. Accenture said it was offering some medical insurance and covering the cost of vaccines for its workers, but it didn’t say how this will affect efficiency. Wipro did not respond to requests for comment right away.
For the past week, at least 300,000 people have tested positive in India’s second wave of infections, overwhelming healthcare facilities and crematoriums and prompting an increasingly urgent international response.
Bengaluru, Asia’s IT capital, ordered a complete lockdown on Monday, allowing ordinary citizens to leave their homes only briefly between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., in an attempt to calm a daily infection rate five times higher than in last year’s first wave. Local IT managers say they had difficulty persuading global leaders outside of India to acknowledge the outbreak’s gravity.
Since then, new strains of the virus have pushed India’s case numbers to new highs, causing more infections among the country’s youth. However, all 15 of the large companies contacted by Reuters this week said they had implemented vaccination programmes, and some described Covid-19 “war-rooms” they had set up to help employees and secure oxygen and other supplies.
“The issue was that those outside India were afraid of being seen as skipping the line,” says a senior manager at a global bank in Bengaluru who declined to be identified.
“We don’t care what it looks like, people are dying,” the India CEO and others said.
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