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IT industry adopting new methods to tackle Covid-19 crisis: C P Gurnani

India has spent only 0.3 per cent (of the GDP) and the World Bank has suggested the countries to spend up to 6-7 per cent, said Gurnani

C P Gurnani

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Managing Director (MD) of Tech Mahindra, C P Gurnani

Bibhu Ranjan MishraDebasis Mohapatra
The world is heading towards a ‘new normal’ due to Covid-19, said Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Managing Director (MD) of Tech Mahindra, C P Gurnani. In an interaction with Bibhu Ranjan Mishra and Debasis Mohapatra, Gurnani said by almost forcing businesses to work from home, the IT industry has learnt a lot from this event. Edited excerpts:

How has the Covid-19 affected the IT industry? Is the industry able to serve clients working from home? 

As of now, India has been very lucky. Even today, we are talking about 1,100 cases though it’s true that our testing infrastructure is not as strong as the US. Everyone is also praying that with rising temperature, the propagation of the virus will be reduced. So, we are not expecting further lockdown but probably a new normal will be kicked in. The new normal is, people will keep safe distance and they will be a lot more hygienic than ever before.

Is there anything that the industry as a whole has learnt?

I divide this into three chapters. The first one is the period ‘before Covid’, second is ‘during Covid’ and third is ‘after Covid’. We knew that we all have to become healthy, but we had been ignoring it. We knew that we have to reduce pollution. During the pandemic, many things have become reality. It was an opportunity for Tech Mahindra and others to take those decisions, which we never took. We have now introduced many collaborative tools and launched workstation as a service, remote diagnostics networks, content delivery platforms and omni-channel retail experiences and so on. Many of these platforms were ready though, we never thought of launching those. Now, they are becoming a reality.

How is it going to be more challenging in the ‘post Covid’ environment?

The reality is the government agencies have now officially declared recession. India has spent only 0.3 per cent (of the GDP) and the World Bank has suggested the countries to spend up to 6-7 per cent. I think, there is headroom to kick-start the economy. Consumers’ confidence comes back very fast. Infrastructure spending will increase the cash flow. Though the B2B businesses will take little longer (to come back to shape), I think the doomsayers are being very negative. It is less than a year cycle of recovery.

Sectors such as hospitality travel and aviation have already taken a huge hit. Are you hearing anything from the clients?

Hospitality sector is not a big sector, with less than 3 per cent of our revenue coming from this sector. Travel and hospitality has also seen these challenges in the past. Besides, this sector has always been the first one to get impacted. But, the sector also bounces back.

We’ve seen more spending in telecom vertical. Will it benefit Tech M, which has a good exposure to the sector?

I am not denying this. But, everyone is in crisis. Keeping the human capital intact and lights on are important themes.

Are sales team still chasing for deals on ground or have everything stopped?

Everyone is talking to everybody. No conversation has stopped. In fact, the number has increased. However, please remember that you are not talking to organisations, you are only talking to individuals. They (clients) are not having their board meetings or committee meeting now. Everyone is on a fire-fighting mode. Overall, I am proud of my associates for the way they have rallied. Offices in the Philippines and India are not working, but none of my customers has been impacted.

Are all employees working from home? How has it impacted the productivity?

Almost 90 per cent or our employees are working from home. The remaining go to office because of the data security norms. So, the density is less than 6 per cent in our offices. Work from home has actually helped in enhancing the overall productivity.

 We are using various tools to measure it.

There is a fear that in the post-Covid-19 scenarios, IT industry may have to lay off staff to withstand the business losses. What is your view?

Each company has its own strategy. What I have conveyed to our people is that we would rather offer advances to our employees who earn less than Rs 35,000 per month. I will offer this to temporary or even sub-contract workers, as we understand they require our support a lot more.

Do you feel this crisis as a growth bump for Tech Mahindra, which was otherwise well placed to post industry leading growth rate in 2020?

One day, I saw my stock at Rs 860 and today it is at Rs 550. I do realise that it is shareholder wealth, which got impacted. Sometimes it is force majeure. I am not going to fight it today. But when things come back to normal, I promise that I will fight back.

Will your board consider buy back (of shares) now?

It will be unfair at this point to take advantage when all of us know (what is happening). I will not recommend (this) to the board.

What kind of inference industry should draw from the slashing of growth outlook by Accenture?

Every company will have their own growth outlook. And, any kind of projections before 15 July, it is a best guess only.

The CEOs of IT firms keep on travelling almost three weeks a month, and you are no different. How does a day for you now?

I wake up at 5 am and start my day by 7.30 am. Travelling has been reduced to from one room to another. Sometimes it is frustrating. However, I am one those born-positive guys. Whenever I am little frustrated, I go to my terrace, look at the birds and sky and get back to work.

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First Published: Mar 30 2020 | 9:59 PM IST

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