COVID 19 : How Should the Indian Software/IT industry respond?

Unparalleled! Unprecedented! Black Swan event! 

I have not seen the world changing so much in such a short span of time. Not in my lifetime. Just 2 weeks back I was in the US, visiting multiple cities including New York and Seattle. Unthinkable right now! Entire countries are shutting down. 

We still do not know how COVID-19 would play out. While a gloomy picture is being painted by many, calling the current measures being too little and too late, we do not know if it’s a reality or perceptual panic. The reality of this panic (real or perceptual) however is that we are already seeing a huge slowdown in the economy. More and more companies are asking people to work remotely (or work from home – wfh), governments are shutting down everything (including a country wide curfew in India on March 22nd) and people have stopped travelling for business. This does not augur too well in the short run for sure and might have long lasting impact on certain industries that operate on tight margins and huge capex, for example, airlines and hospitality. Many companies may not be able to come out at the other end, whenever that happens. 

Being in software/IT services industry has its own pluses and minuses. The main disadvantage being our heavy dependency on the health of other industries and the key advantage being ability to move to “work from home” relatively easily.  

Here are some thoughts in terms of what we can do in software/IT industry, especially the Indian software/IT, to stay afloat and prevail. 

Work from Home (WFH) –  

It’s extremely important to make sure that wfh is as effective as work from office. There are challenges like connectivity, distractions and isolation. We must ensure productivity and responsiveness maintain momentum. It’s imperative to come up with crisp guidelines including dos and don’ts when you ask people to work from home. iLink has established a set of guidelines for our employees and can offer insight in this area for those who are looking for additional guidance managing a remote team. While connectivity at home would be the biggest risk, this is the time to demonstrate to your clients that you can be as good as before. 

Analyze your business –  

Divide your accounts/projects by industry and type of work you do. There are certain industries which are more vulnerable than others and discretionary budget will be slashed first. Non-discretionary will remain relatively safe. All of a sudden, the mundane support work sounds very attractive! 

Be Prepared for the worst case – 

do not want to sound pessimistic, but we must be prepared for the worst-case scenario. We generally plan for growth, but these are different times. What are the steps you are going to take if your business goes down by 30% this year? 50%? When you analyze your businessyou can gain perspective on the areas to focus on. Discuss the necessary steps with internal key stakeholders and try to drive consensus around an action plan. Doomsday planning is always important, but it largely remains academic when things are going well. But now is the time – do your fire drill now! 

Build your NextGen models – 

Everyone is accepting the reality of remote working or wfh (work from home). This is the best time to build your NextGen models. This is the time for the Indian IT to demonstrate that “offshoring” can work effectively beyond the mundane IT work. This is the time to demonstrate that offshoring can work for innovation, R&D and ideation! This might be the time to build models around virtual offices – this has been tried before but never at a large scale. Think of the cost savings which come with virtual offices. Every “cloud” has a silver lining! 

Have Faith –  

This too shall pass! The world has seen plagues, spanish flu, wars, famines and so on but we are still alive! Don’t get me wrong – we are alive today because our forefathers survived everything that happened before us. We still do not know how big this is but my hunch and belief is that the panic is overblown, thanks to social media. We need to be careful for sure but there is no need to panic. 

Stay Healthy. Stay Safe. Stay Calm. 

Hope to see you hale and hearty at the other end! 


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