Even as India created history on Tuesday with the world's largest blackout, its $100 billion Indian IT-BPO sector managed to keep the lights on, drawing power from diesel gensets and keeping the links on with clients in Europe and US.
Image of India as the new destination for foreign investment got dented, as jittery clients starting calling IT providers back home, if they would be able to provide uninterrupted services.
India runs IT operations for airlines, banks and rail services across world. A large amount of back office of City of London is outsourced to back offices in Gurgaon, Noida and Delhi. Indian companies also handle back offices for Eurostar, the official partner for rail for Olympics.
"The blackout has impacted the perception of India at a country level. India's image has taken a beating," says Som Mittal, President for Nasscom, India's IT association.
As images of traffic jams and shutdowns of railway services were splashed across news websites and TV channels, #powergridfailure, started trending on Twitter as one of the world's most tweeted topics.
"Earlier power cuts and load shedding a a major problem were less known to clients. But with a massive blackout at a country level, India's power issues are now known to everyone. It can impact business perception," Mittal adds.
India's largest BPO NYSE Genpact said it was keeping the lights on with a double back up strategy with UPS and diesel gensets, across North and East India. "Business was not impacted. Though we did see some employees getting stuck in traffic jams," said a Genpact spokesperson. Genpact has about 12,000 people working in Delhi and NCR alone. It has 15 centres spread across Delhi, Gurgaon, Dehradun, Jaipur, Kolkata.
Traffic signals across Delhi and NCR were non operational and Metro services were hit, leading to traffic snarls.
NIIT Technologies which has about 3000 people working across Delhi and Greater Noida, says it has estimated a cost of Rs 7 lakh per 24 hours to keep the lights on. "Even though business remains unaffected, worried clients are asking us about the impact in India. Power failures lead to increased fuel and transport costs for us. We are working to arrange pick and drop till home for all our 3000 employees," says Piyush Srivastava, head commercials and SVP at NIIT Technologies. NIIT Tech has its largest delivery centre in Greater Noida, about 40 km from Delhi.
Nasscom added that India should use predictive technologies used in power grids to prevent such blackouts. "There are technologies available today and we hope government would start using them to prevent such incidents in future,"said Mittal.
Gurgaon, which houses the India sales headquarters of companies like Microsoft, Google, Nokia and Oracle, was also impacted. Though the companies managed to remain unaffected with power back up.
But executives faced massive traffic snarls in evening even when power to Delhi was restored. "The traffic signals and street lights in Gurgaon were not working till late evening. And roads leading to Delhi had massive traffic snarls, as metro services were impacted," said Syed Shahnawaz Karim, marketing and communications Head, for Holland based Nimbuzz, which has its India office in Gurgaon.
US listed firms like Qualcomm, Accenture, Sapient, Ericsson, WNS, Alcatel Lucent, Convergys, UnitedHealth Group are also based in Gurgaon, which houses about 3 lakh professionals, mostly employed in IT and BPO sectors.