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World’s back office scrambles to stay online as India locks down

  • March 25, 2020
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Companies in India are scrambling to ensure that the millions who staff the back offices of Wall Street banks and take on work outsourced by firms from airlines to insurers can keep going as the nation mandates increased work from home in the midst of a spike in corona virus cases.

UBS Group AG, Deutsche Bank AG & other global giants are working with industry trade group Nasscom to ensure Indian states classify such work as essential services so staff can continue to work from offices if required.

Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. and other Indian firms that employ more than four million people in tech hubs such as Bengaluru, are also requesting that their clients relax non-disclosure and other privacy rules so that employees who must stay at home during the lockdown can still do their jobs.

Keshav Murugesh, chairman of Nasscom, said in a phone interview  that “Moving millions of desktops to employees’ homes, configuring software to allow for slower bandwidth and ensuring cyber security - it’s a mind-boggling physical and logistical exercise that our  companies are in the midst of right now,”.

The move by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to impose a lockdown Sunday across most of India poses a major challenge for banks such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. as well as India’s $181 billion outsourcing industry that handles everything from trade settlements to airline reservations for British Airways and insurance claims.

Nasscom is asking state governments to grant special exemptions for their industry to ensure some workers can go to the office, where they have access to essential databases and reliable high-speed internet -- which most workers lack at home. While many states, including Karnataka, where Bengaluru is based, and Mumbai’s state of Maharashtra have already granted data centers “special status,” it’s not across the board.

Murugesh said  “Employee safety is paramount but we are also focused on keeping operations running without stoppages,”

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