Luck apart, it was modern telecom to the rescue, while TV kept the worry on
Hiroshi Alley, Chief Sales and Operations Officer of Wipro Japan, was in his cabin in the afternoon on the 26th floor of the building in their main centre in Yokohama when he felt the ground beneath and everything else in the office was shaking.
Being in an earthquake-prone region, this is not uncommon in most Japanese cities. But he soon realised it was not the usual mild stuff. “It started very slow and then became very strong, rocking the whole building back and forth. Then I realised it is quite a big earthquake,” he told Business Standard from his office.
Alley and his colleagues were lucky; Yokohama was 250 km away from the epicentre. “Fortunately, no building here has been damaged,” he said, merely played around with as though on a pendulum. So, while staff and their kin in this city are safe, getting back home is an issue: trains have been cancelled and the traffic jams are “terrible”.
It was modern telecommunications that spread the news — and the relief — fairly quickly. Tata Consultancy Services, for instance, also has about 300 people in Yokohama, plus its largest client there; some staffers work at the latter’s premises. They had to get in touch right away, as the news came and did so, but found the telephone lines dead. But e-mail worked: “We are in constant touch with our delivery centre head and other senior people through e-mail. All are safe,” said a spokesperson.
For Japanese managers in India, it was a far more harrowing day. At Panasonic’s Gurgaon office, Japanese managers were glued to television sets, desktops, laptops and hand-held devices, desperately seeking updates. Their Indian colleagues were equally disturbed. Said Manish Sharma, director, marketing: “It’s sad to see them so down. We all work together. And, what affects them affects us.”
Part of the problem was the television visuals. Though most companies — Sony, Toshiba, Daikin, Hitachi, besides Panasonic, said all staffers were safe, the screen images offered no relief. “It is terrifying to see those pictures on TV,” says an executive from Delhi-based Hitachi Home and Life Solutions. “Three people from the Indian team were travelling to Japan today. We are hoping they are safe.”
According to industry sources, Japanese consumer electronic companies are assessing the potential damage caused by the quake and tsunami to their manufacturing operations. Companies such as Sanyo, Sharp and Panasonic have already suspended operations at several plants in the country. This is likely to affect production and distribution of their products.
At other industries, too. Toyota Motor Corporation and its affiliates have temporarily shut operations at three plants in Japan. A spokesperson for Honda Siel Cars India said there were reports of a Japanese government advisory to halt production across factories in the country, which they were trying to confirm.
Shashank Srivastava, chief general manager (marketing), Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, said, “Some (of our) factories are close to the coast. Till now, we have not got news of operations being affected in Japan. But an assessment has to be carried out.”
“At any given time we have 100 engineers stationed in Japan, who have been sent for training purposes. We have contacted each of them and they’re all fine,” stated a senior executive from MSIL’s R&D team.
As a matter of fact, R C Bhargava, chairman, and Shinzo Nakanishi, managing director, MSIL, were on their way back to India from Japan at the time of the quake. They are safe.