With active COVID cases showing a declining trend, Telangana’s IT hub Hyderabad could soon be reopening office spaces for employees, who have been working from home for nearly two years now. The state government is hopeful of restarting the IT corridor as early as September.
“Vaccination drive has gained momentum while the infection rate has dropped drastically. With adequate precautions in place, offices can start opening up just like other sectors including retail and hospitality," Telangana’s IT Secretary Jayesh Ranjan said, adding that many small businesses dependent on IT firms have been majorly impacted due to loss of livelihood.
Hyderabad Software Enterprises Association (HYSEA), which is associated with nearly 300 IT firms in Hyderabad says many Indian companies are encouraging their employees to come back to office as close to 60% of employees are either fully vaccinated or have at least received their first dose.
“Smaller companies have started recalling vaccinated employees in small batches especially those catering to foreign clients on crucial projects. Multinational companies have opened up to 10%. We are expecting the numbers to go up soon," said HYSEA President Bharani Kumar Aroll.
Telangana has nearly 7 lakh odd IT employees working in different sectors, but Aroll says only 5-6% of them have started attending office physically. The rest are still hesitant to log out of work from home as the threat of a third wave looms large. While many have been working from their hometowns since last 2 years, those with children say they can only think of stepping out of their homes once a vaccine is available for the under-18 population.
“My entire family including my children have already suffered from COVID. Any exposure to the outside world will puts us at risk once again,” said Naina Shrivastava who works for an Indian IT firm in Hyderabad.
“We are habituated to work from home, no matter how stressful it is. But going back to office is not an option at this point in time, and thankfully my office isn’t forcing me," she added.
Global giants in likes of Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have more than 90% of its employees working remotely whether it is in India, the United States or any other part of the world, but most of these companies are now setting up ‘hybrid workplace’ where 20% of employees will work on-site while the rest continue to work from home. Recently, WIPRO founder & chairman Azim Premji also endorsed this model calling it a game changer which will ensure double digit growth of the Indian IT industry in the current financial year.
But large MNCs aren’t willing to take the risk. Despite a lull in the economy owing to coronavirus-induced restrictions, Telangana recorded 13 per cent growth in IT exports according to the annual report released by the state’s IT Minister KT Rama Rao. Revenue registered in 2020-21 till June stands at Rs 1.45 lakh crore as against Rs 1.28 lakh crore recorded the previous year.
A survey conducted by HYSEA in 62 companies earlier this year showed more than 60% companies reported 90% productivity compared to pre-pandemic levels.
“Most IT companies are happy with their performance and the general consensus is that unless everyone gets fully vaccinated, work from home will continue for the time being," Aroll said.
“But the IT industry cannot be looked at in isolation since it supports a large ecosystem, which needs to be revived. Today or tomorrow, employees will have to return to their office because COVID is here to stay and we need to circumvent our lives around it," he added.