May 25, 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 0.67%

, 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 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

Related Posts

U.S. Jobless Claims Fall to Another Pandemic Low

June 10, 2021

June 10, 2021

Jobless claims declined to a pandemic low last week, a sign companies are hesitant to lay off employees as the...

U.S. Jobless Claims Extend Decline to New Pandemic Low

May 27, 2021

May 27, 2021

Worker filings for jobless benefits fell again to a fresh pandemic low, extending a steady downward trend and adding to...

Japanese Business Leaders Add to Chorus Against Holding Olympics

May 24, 2021

May 24, 2021

TOKYO—Opposition to the Tokyo Olympics opening in two months has deepened in Japan and spread to some prominent business leaders...

Jobs Report Could Be Pivotal for Federal Reserve

May 30, 2021

May 30, 2021

WASHINGTON—Friday’s jobs report is shaping up to be a pivotal data release for the Federal Reserve as it charts a...

Trucker Yellow Seeks to Steady Finances by Streamlining Operations

May 31, 2021

May 31, 2021

Trucker Yellow Corp. is pushing ahead with a sweeping overhaul aimed at making the large but financially troubled carrier more...

New Talks on Infrastructure Face Old Problem: How to Pay for It

June 9, 2021

June 9, 2021

Discussions intensified among a group of centrist-leaning Senate Republicans and Democrats trying to strike a deal that could spend up...

If You Thought Working From Home Was Messy, Here Comes Hybrid Work

May 25, 2021

May 25, 2021

It took months for bosses and employees to adjust to working remotely in the pandemic. The next era of work...

GM to Restart Several Factories Idled by Computer-Chip Shortage

May 27, 2021

May 27, 2021

General Motors Co. GM 2.82% said Thursday it is restarting production at a handful of factories that were previously idled...

Biden Expected to Propose $6 Trillion Budget

May 27, 2021

May 27, 2021

WASHINGTON—President Biden is expected to propose a $6 trillion budget on Friday that would lay the foundation for his plans...

Facebook Advertising Boss Carolyn Everson Leaving the Social-Media Company

June 9, 2021

June 9, 2021

Carolyn Everson, Facebook Inc.’s FB -1.03% head of global advertising sales and one of the ad industry’s most powerful executives,...

United Airlines’ Bet on Supersonic Flight Faces Financial, Tech Hurdles

June 8, 2021

June 8, 2021

A undated handout rendering shows a Boom Supersonic Overture aircraft in United Airlines livery. The two companies announced on Thursday,...

U.S., Taiwan Revive Trade Talks, With Pledge to Combat Forced Labor

June 30, 2021

June 30, 2021

The U.S. and Taiwan revived dormant trade and investment talks and pledged to keep supply chains free from forced labor,...

Hotels’ and Restaurants’ Rebound Summer Held Back by Shortages of Everything

June 25, 2021

June 25, 2021

Shut for long stretches because of the pandemic, Mississippi River Distilling Co. in LeClaire, Iowa, has been counting on a...

Apple’s Big Show May Not Be Enough

June 4, 2021

June 4, 2021

As Apple Inc. AAPL 1.81% looks to rally its base, the fate of the company’s lucrative ecosystem has never been...

Moderna’s Covid-19 Vaccine Works Safely in Adolescents, Company Says

May 25, 2021

May 25, 2021

Moderna Inc. MRNA 1.84% said its Covid-19 vaccine was effective in children aged 12 to 17 in a new study,...