India is the largest base for IT & ITES business globally, accounting for approximately 55% of the total market in 2017-18. Multiple organizations run over 1000 big global delivery centers across 200 Indian cities and the common factor among all these players is the pivotal role of workforce in these centers.
Even as the world moved to embrace an agile working model with active encouragement of work from home (WFH) years ago, in reality, over 90% of day-to-day activities continued to be delivered within the office. This was owing to factors like stable infrastructure, power backup, state-of-the-art facilities, optimum bandwidth, robust data controls, among others.
That is why India IT & ITES’ response to nation-wide lockdown was unparalleled in the annals of the industry’s landscape. In a first-of-its-kind occurrence, most of the Indian IT/ITES players have enabled almost 100% WFH. This was also necessitated by each organization’s commitment to meet business continuity plan (BCP) obligations.
Work from home – The success story
Let me highlight a few pointers for the success of India IT & ITES’ adoption of WFH -
- We have a large share of IT/ITES setups in Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) and Special Economic Zones (SEZs) across India. Therefore, movement of bonded assets was always a roadblock. The Government of India’s decision to allow bonded material to move out of SEZ and to be used by employees at home to continue services was a welcome move. Also, NASSCOM, the trade association of Indian Information Technology and Business Process Outsourcing industry, played a major role to keep the authorities informed while advocating the relaxation of norms for this period. The entire IT/ITES industry is thankful to both parties.
- Any kind of IT/ITES work requires connectivity. This is where our Telecom partners have been stellar. From overnighting tens of thousands of Wi-Fi dongles to increasing the bandwidth, from setting up emergency broadband installations to increasing the data limit, the telecom partners have done it all. Here again, at a scale unprecedented, the telecom partners have risen to the challenge and proven wrong the myth that India is not a sustainable WFH solution partner. From activating ICR (intra-circle roaming) to providing seamless connectivity (part of DoT standard SOP for disaster management), to upgrading close to a million plus BST (base service terminals), the changes done by Indian Telcos are worth a praise.
Know more about it here- https://www.lightreading.com/optical-ip/fttx/indian-telcos-gear-up-to-ensure-connectivity-in-the-time-of-covid-19/d/d-id/758449
- With data and privacy acts becoming more and more stringent, businesses today need to be extra cautious when it comes to security. This is another aspect, where the IT/ITES industry as a whole excelled. From moving to cloud-based security protocols, to multi-factor authentication -based VDIs, all requirements were met. While there are certain limitations, the WFH setup of today is 100x more secure than just a year back.
So, with many factors in place and with thousands of unsung heroes, whose efforts we probably will never see directly (they have a profound impact nonetheless), we as an industry have survived and sustained. Now the big question- What next?
One thing is for sure, the landscape of the industry has changed dramatically. We have established a successful WFH option - why not continue the same? Let us look at some aspects that make WFH a sustainable model:
- With anticipated global slowdown in business, one attribute that comes out as a common need is cost reduction. One of the ways the industry is trying to do so is by working with flexi-staff. To quote Sanchit Vir Gogia, CEO and chief analyst, Greyhound Research, “As companies try to ensure least impact on financial payouts and compliance costs, and focus more on outcome-driven engagements, flexi workers have an upper hand1.”
- In the IT-ITES sector, 12 out of every 100 employees are contractual or flexi-staff according to Indian Staffing Federation (ISF), the apex body of the domestic flexi staffing industry. It adds further that the sector’s flexi workforce is expected to grow to 720,000 by 2021 from 500,000 in 20182.
- With more and more agile demand from customers, the industry is moving towards crowdsourced models, and flexi workers fit right in.
- The increasing relevance of flexible workforce will not only deliver revenue benefits to companies, but will also be an enabler for the workforce in India. Many qualified individuals cannot work fulltime due to family commitments, health, travel restrictions, etc. This opens up a whole new gamut of opportunities for them as well.
Work from home is the new normal
Work from home is here to stay. And the industry is actively shaping up to facilitate the same. It’s a win-win for both, organization and employees. With newer advents in technology, we will only see the WFH population getting more empowered and robust.
While we wait and see how the scenario unfolds over the next few months, one thing is for certain – what Indian IT/ITES service providers experienced is once in a lifetime. We also realized that we have several hidden heroes who rose to the occasion and made this transition possible. However, how the industry moves from here will determine how fast it can recover from the downturn it is experiencing currently.
1 - https://www.livemint.com/industry/infotech/covid-19-impact-it-ites-sector-may-trim-workforce-to-cut-costs-11585297424144.html
2 - https://www.livemint.com/companies/news/increase-in-flexi-staff-hiring-may-eat-into-it-industry-s-margins-1568399774602.html