January 27, 2022

India’s Covid-19 Crisis Tests the World’s Back Offices

India’s giant outsourcing firms are facing a two-front challenge: protecting the health of millions of employees as the nation suffers the world’s worst Covid-19 crisis, and ensuring that their work continues as usual for the big Western companies on their client lists.

Companies like

Infosys Ltd.

INFY 0.38%


Wipro Ltd.

WIT -0.26%


Tata Consultancy Services Ltd.

532540 0.05%

, known as TCS, have built up armies of workers who serve global clients like Bank of America Corp.,

Citigroup Inc.’s

Citibank and Vanguard Group, doing everything from running call centers to writing computer code. The companies, along with Western tech businesses with large India-based staffs, are dealing with absences of sick workers, trying to help stricken employees find oxygen and getting vaccine shots for others at a time when such resources are scarce.

“I don’t think anyone can downplay the challenge,” said

Sandip Patel,

International Business Machines Corp.’s managing director for India.


is working to vaccinate its 100,000-plus staff in India, and providing them with services such as medically supervised quarantining in hotels.

“What we’re going through right now has no management or operational playbook,” Mr. Patel said.

Patients received Covid vaccinations last month at a government hospital in Hyderabad, India. Some tech companies are offering injections at corporate campuses.



India has logged more than 25 million Covid-19 infections and over 280,000 deaths; months earlier, it appeared the nation had contained a first surge of the virus.

Work capacity at Indian companies may have been down as much as 30% in recent weeks, said

Peter Bendor-Samuel,

chief executive of Everest Group, a Dallas-based firm that advises companies on outsourcing. With the nation’s medical infrastructure struggling to treat all the infected, workers may have little choice but to stay home and focus on domestic issues when family members get sick, he added. Yet some workers who were sidelined earlier are now returning, and Mr. Bendor-Samuel said he is not hearing of significant delays on any projects.

In some cases, outsourcing companies might tap their workers in other countries for help and pay overtime to local staff who are not infected. They’re also turning to so-called bench staff, or employees who are generally inactive between projects, said Rod Bourgeois, an outsourcing industry analyst at DeepDive Equity Research, based in Old Greenwich, Conn.

“They’ve got war rooms working, managing all the logistics and the staffing challenges,” said Mr. Bourgeois, who speaks frequently with top executives in India.

Infosys, Wipro and TCS declined to comment on how many of their staff have been affected by the pandemic. The companies said they are taking steps to ensure that they deliver work to their clients.

San Francisco-based business software provider

Salesforce.com Inc.,

with roughly 4,000 employees in India, has sent oxygen concentrators and other materials to the country to help staff, CEO

Marc Benioff

said earlier this month at The Wall Street Journal Future of Everything Festival.

“The pandemic is not over in India,” Mr. Benioff said. “It might just be beginning.”

India’s IT and business-processing industry powers the back offices of corporate giants world-wide. It generates more than $180 billion in annual revenue and employs about 4.5 million people. It accounts for about one-fifth of India’s exports of goods and services and represents a path into the middle class for Indian workers.

Many industry staff are already working from home following the pandemic’s emergence last year, but often live in tight quarters with extended family, making for difficult working conditions.

Nasscom, a trade group that represents India’s technology sector, declined to comment on the rates of illness at major IT firms. The group said it sent a letter earlier this month to Indian Prime Minister

Narendra Modi

asking the government to make it easier for companies to receive aid from abroad, and for vaccines to be made more widely available to IT firms’ workers. A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.

Mumbai-based TCS, the country’s largest outsourcer by revenue, has 489,000 employees and has worked with clients such as

General Electric Co.

, insurance broker Aon PLC and major banks. Bangalore-based Infosys has more than 250,000 employees, while Wipro, also based in Bangalore, has more than 190,000 staff.

One major concern for companies and workers is the availability of vaccine doses in a country where less than 2% of the population has been immunized against Covid-19, and availability and administrative procedures for getting inoculated vary by location.

Infosys and TCS are dedicating space on their corporate campuses to administer vaccine shots, while Wipro turned one of its campuses into a 450-bed public Covid-care facility. Companies are also organizing hotel rooms where staff can isolate and continue working, lessening their potential exposure.

Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp.

, based in Teaneck, N.J., has more than 200,000 staff in India.


What more should the international community do to help India during the Covid-19 crisis? Join the conversation below.

Cognizant CEO

Brian Humphries

told Wall Street analysts earlier this month that the pandemic’s effect on staff absenteeism and work for clients remained uncertain. “We look at it on a daily basis,” he said. “It’s a stressful and emotional time for our associates and their families.”

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

in Tech
Related Posts

GameStop Remakes C-Suite, Board in Turnaround Push

June 9, 2021

June 9, 2021

The company named two Amazon.com Inc. veterans as its chief executive and chief financial officer, and shareholders voted Ryan Cohen...

Colonial Pipeline Chief to Testify in Senate Panel on Ransomware Hack

June 8, 2021

June 8, 2021

WASHINGTON—The chief executive of the pipeline company hit in a multimillion-dollar ransomware attack last month is expected to testify Tuesday...

How 5G Will Take Esports to a Whole New Level for Gamers and Fans

May 26, 2021

May 26, 2021

In June, armed young men with the latest high-tech gear are expected to descend on Beijing to shoot at their...

Epic Games vs. Apple Trial Prepares for Closing Arguments

May 23, 2021

May 23, 2021

Epic Games Inc.’s courtroom battle against Apple Inc. AAPL -1.48% is expected to end Monday with a debate-style format in...

Amazon Policy Leads to Higher Consumer Prices, D.C. Suit Alleges

May 25, 2021

May 25, 2021

WASHINGTON—The District of Columbia filed an antitrust lawsuit against Amazon.com Inc. AMZN 0.36% on Tuesday, alleging the company blocks sellers...

House Bills Seek to Break Up Amazon and Other Big Tech Companies

June 11, 2021

June 11, 2021

House lawmakers proposed a raft of bipartisan legislation aimed at reining in the country’s biggest tech companies, including a bill...

Uber and Lyft Thought Prices Would Normalize by Now. Here’s Why They Are Still High.

October 30, 2021

October 30, 2021

Americans hailing an Uber or a Lyft ride still face elevated prices due to a shortage of drivers—the latest example...

EA, Other Videogame Companies Target Mobile Gaming as Pandemic Wanes

July 3, 2021

July 3, 2021

Videogame companies are increasing their financial bets on mobile games as pandemic restrictions ease and people ditch their PC and...

WhatsApp Says It Filed Suit in India to Prevent Tracing of Encrypted Messages

May 26, 2021

May 26, 2021

Facebook Inc.’s FB 0.97% WhatsApp said it filed a lawsuit in India to stop new government rules that would require...

Next-Generation GPS Firm NextNav Nears SPAC Deal to Go Public

June 10, 2021

June 10, 2021

NextNav Holdings LLC is nearing a combination with a special-purpose acquisition company that would take the next-generation GPS firm public...

The Apps and Websites You Need for International Travel During Covid and the Reopening

June 27, 2021

June 27, 2021

Now that Covid-19 restrictions are easing for vaccinated tourists in Europe and elsewhere, you might have your sights set on...

Didi Global Prices IPO at $14 a Share

June 30, 2021

June 30, 2021

Chinese ride-hailing goliath Didi Global Inc. priced its IPO at $14 on Tuesday afternoon, according to people familiar with the...

John McAfee’s Death Was Likely Suicide, Spanish Authorities Say

June 24, 2021

June 24, 2021

Spanish authorities opened an investigation into the death of software pioneer John McAfee after he was found dead in his...

How to Get More Women Into Technology

June 1, 2021

June 1, 2021

During her decadeslong career in technology, Judith Spitz watched as the “dismal number” of women in the industry failed to...

Google Unit DeepMind Tried—and Failed—to Win AI Autonomy From Parent

May 21, 2021

May 21, 2021

LONDON—Senior managers at Google artificial-intelligence unit DeepMind have been negotiating for years with the parent company for more autonomy, seeking...