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Halted for 34 Hours
si Team
Tuesday, May 2, 2006
Bangalore the bustling Silicon balloon of India bursted and hung low for about 34 hours following the passing away of Karnataka’s most beloved Son – Thespian Dr. Rajkumar on April 12. Emotions overwhelmed the city after the 77-year-old actor suffered a massive cardiac arrest at his house around 2 p.m. that fateful Wednesday.

Thousands of mourners took to the streets as news spread within minutes of the demise. Tens of thousands of people came out, and in some stray incidents, crowd activities turned ugly. Eight people, including a policeman who was beaten by mobs, were killed in the sporadic rioting that resulted from grief and anger. Some mourners were angry they were not able to get closer to the funeral cortege.

Bangalore remained essentially shut for one and a half days, putting a stop to most business in the city, including commercial entities such as banks, cinemas, shops and hotels. All transportation, including public modes such as buses and taxis, were forbidden on city roadways as authorities made arrangements for the actor’s state funeral. It was reported that cable television operators in the city blocked entertainment channels to mark the actor’s passing.

According to the BBC, more than a 1,000 IT firms and other businesses were closed on Thursday before the situation was brought under control the following day. The shutdowns were prompted by a mix of factors and for a variety of reasons: voluntarily out of respect for the great actor; practicality in that many workers could not get to work because of the dearth of public transportation; and involuntarily out of safety fears for workers and company property.

Many IT companies and outsourced call center services providers shut their offices down for the duration of the official two-day mourning period. Angry mourners stoned the Bangalore office of Microsoft Research Lab, which is located near the late actor’s house. Companies, including many outsourcers, declared Thursday April 13th a holiday, and were forced to inform their clients (many U.S.-and U.K.- based companies) of the closures.

The rioting will have cost the technology hub of Bangalore approximately $160 million, with software firms losing $40 million in revenue, according to the HR chief T.V. Mohandas Pai of Infosys Technologies, who said that his company lost $4 million, when angry mobs shut down business in Bangalore. “We will make up by working one extra day,” said Pai.

Several companies have business continuity plans in place and calls were re-routed to centers in other cities. A Progeon employee said that whenever there is a problem in Bangalore, the company’s Pune facility has the capacity to take the extra workload.

Some companies admitted they faced angry callers and clients from places like the U.S. However some also said certain clients understood the problem because many U.S. publications and websites had reported the situation.

In the “always up, always on” world of IT and call centers, anything less than 99.999 percent uptime makes companies and investors nervous. The cultural disconnect may be a strong factor: it’s hard for American or British workers to imagine that an entire city could be brought to a stand-still in the event of a death of an actor or pop star, no matter how beloved.

Also Bangalore-based IT workers appeared to be very conscious of the fact that the photos of the rioting and news that businesses were shut down, that were broadcasted around the world, potentially gave a black mark to Bangalore as an outsourcing destination.
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