Mindspace IT Park, Hyderabad’s largest office hub spread over several acres, was a centre of panic on Wednesday as a techie tested positive for coronavirus. The complex, housing many marquee brands, caught on to the news in no time, prompting employers to send their staff home.
An employee of Dutch company DSM Shared Services, the software professional had recently returned from an assignment in Italy. Hers was the second confirmed case of the virus in Telangana. “Our thoughts are with our colleague, who is doing relatively well and is being treated in quarantine,” the company said in an internal e-mail.
More than 1,000 km away, in Gurugram, next to New Delhi, another person tested positive, this time in the Paytm office, taking India’s tally to 29. He too had returned from a vacation in Italy. The company has asked its staff to work from home for a couple of days while the office gets sanitised.
At the Manyata Tech Park in Bengaluru, a US-headquartered software product company advised its employees to work from home till Friday, after an associate who had travelled from an affected country showed flu-like symptoms. Even though the person was declared asymptomatic by medical experts, the company began disinfecting the campus as a precautionary measure.
While online major Amazon confirmed its first case of coronavirus in its Seattle office, the company’s India unit felt the ripple effect. Amazon India has imposed travel restrictions, advising employees to prioritise health over efficiency. According to the advisory, all domestic travels by the employees can be undertaken only after consulting the manager while approval from vice-president is required for international travels.
Walmart–owned e-commerce firm Flipkart too has imposed a complete ban on all business travels, both domestic and international. In case the travel is unavoidable, CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy must give an approval.
In case he’s not available, officials at the level of senior vice-president have to give permission. Any employee with symptoms is being told to work from home. “We are also promoting the use of video conferences, and are temporarily avoiding big events ,” said a company spokesperson.
Among others, Tech Mahindra and IPE Global have cancelled events. “There’s a push towards using tech for meetings,” said Ashwajit Singh, MD, IPE Global. Harsvendra Soin, chief people officer of TechM, said the firm was stocking up on supplies of sanitizers, emergency medicines, and food.
Meanwhile, Karnataka has issued an advisory to IT firms to avoid non-essential travel to affected countries. Firms such as Wipro and TCS have sent out advisories, too.
According to sources at Wipro, the firm has formed teams to assess the situation at its campuses. Wipro employees, who’ve travelled to any affected areas within China in the last few days, have been asked to work from home for 14 days. “Wipro has suspended travel to and transit through mainland China, including Hong Kong and Macau, until further notice. Employees have also been advised to avoid non-critical travel to Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Italy,” the company said in a statement.
Intel, too, has sanitised its offices in Bengaluru. “All vendors, who are coming to our offices, are being screened,” said an Intel employee. US-based IT services firm Aeris Communications, which has its India office in Noida, has started distributing medically certified N95 masks to its employees.
As the risk of infection increases, FMCG firms are also taking several precautionary measures to minimise employee exposure. Apart from travel advisories, Hindustan Unilever has ramped up cleaning efforts in offices. Hand sanitizers in office corridors are a common sight. Companies such as Godrej Group, RPG Enterprises and Titan have also sent out internal mails, advising employees to restrict travel to coronavirus affected geographies. The common instruction across offices: wash your hands frequently, and use sanitizers liberally.
Major upcoming events such as Ficci Frames and Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament, scheduled later this month, haven't been postponed yet, but there’s a shadow of uncertainty. The participation of delegates at Frames could be poor this year, an executive said.