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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Indian IT Industry to combat Swine flu

New Delhi/Bangalore, Aug 16 (IANS) The $60-billion Indian IT industry is on an alert mode on account of the pandemic swine flu that has affected travel and led to postponement of events, according to a top industry official.

'Though we are taking preventive measures, we have postponed a few events, including one in Pune,' said Som Mittal, president of the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom), the industry's representative body.

A leading tech hub, Pune has emerged as the epicentre of the dreaded disease and has the largest number of swine flu cases and casualties till date.

'We have postponed the Pune event as the authorities have also shut public places, including auditoriums,' Mittal told IANS.

Nasscom said its member-firms were updating employees with the latest information on the H1N1 virus and information being displayed at prominent locations and links to websites such as those of the World Health Organisation (WHO) are being publicised.

Indian IT bellwethers Infosys and Wipro, which have development centres and business process services (BPO) facilities in Pune, have advised employees to avoid or minimise trips to that city.

'We have advised our staff to travel to Pune only if necessary or stay away for the time being,' said Infosys chief financial officer V. Balakrishnan.

Sharing the concern, Nasscom said in a statement that the spread of the viral flu had to be contained to minimise the fallout on member-firms.

'Our members have taken several steps to educate employees on safety measures,' Nasscom said in a statement.

Allaying fears of the swine flu having a long-term impact on employees or business, Wipro chief financial officer Suresh Senapty said his company was monitoring the situation.

'Based on medical advice, we are employing only the healthy at the workplace. Our employees in the affected countries are also safe and our business operations are functioning normally,' Senapty said.

Infosys has about 20,000 employees at its Pune facility, while Wipro has about 4,000, including 1,500 professionals.

IT major Cognizant, which has about 7,500 employees in Pune, has advised its employees to travel there only if it was imperative.

Hyderabad Software Exporters' Association president M. Narasimha Rao said swine flu was not India's problem alone.

'The focus should be to educate employees and associates on what to do if any one of us shows swine flu symptoms and how to prevent it from spreading,' Rao said.

Though the Indian IT-BPO industry is heavily travel-oriented, inward and outward business travel has not been overly impacted.

'Business continues as usual and employees are being advised on precautionary measures that need to be taken during travel. The companies are also well equipped to handle any case of an employee showing symptoms of possible infection,' Mittal asserted.

Global IT research firm Gartner said though companies were taking precautionary steps against the virus, there was over-reaction to the epidemic in general.

'Cancellation or postponement is not the solution to the problem. One has to do business in tougher terrains. The best way to deal with the crisis is not to take too many harsh steps. Business has not been affected so far though it might be eventually,' said Gartner principal analyst Diptarup Chakraborti


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