Business as usual for IT firms in the Middle East

Monday, 24 March 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: Many Indian software development and services majors say they are carrying on with their business in the Middle East despite the U.S.-led military operations in Iraq that entered its fifth day Monday.

India's high-profile software industry, which has built up a vast customer base in the Middle East as their clients in the U.S. cut back orders, says the U.S. attack on Iraq does not have it overly concerned about business in the region.

"We have not asked for a general evacuation yet. At the moment, we are adopting a wait and watch policy," said Atul Takle, vice president (corporate communications) of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Asia's largest software and services firm.

"TCS does not have a very large presence in the Gulf. Overall, the total number of people is approximately 20 to 25. They are located in the United Arab Emirates and some in Saudi," Takle told IANS in an e-mailed message from Mumbai headquarters.

"We have ensured that they and their families have the freedom to take a decision on the ground if their continued stay is unsafe."

TCS, a division of India's powerful business conglomerate Tata Group, has more than 100 branches all over the world, including over 40 offices in the U.S., India's prime software export destination.

TCS has been working on several high-end prestigious projects in the Middle East. The company has offices in Dubai and Riyadh and had earlier announced plans to open more offices in the region.

It has executed several projects across various industries, including government, banking and financial services, manufacturing, aviation, insurance and retail, in the Middle East.

Satyam Computer Services, India's fourth largest software exporter, said its business activities in the Middle East region are "normal" despite the ongoing U.S. attack on Iraq.

"Satyam's business presence in the Middle East is predominantly in the United Arab Emirates and Oman, which are considered to be safer locations," said a company statement.

"However the company has taken all necessary steps to ensure the safety and well being of its people working in the region.

"A team is constantly monitoring the situation and all arrangements have been made for rapid evacuation of the people if that becomes necessary," said the Hyderabad-based software development major.

The New York Stock Exchange-listed Satyam Computer became the first of the top five Indian software services companies to open its facility at the hi-tech Dubai Internet City in 2001.

The facility caters to the Middle East market. Satyam's customers in the region represent transportation, manufacturing, financial and banking, telecom, government, energy, and retail sectors.

It clients in the region include Kuwait University, Emirates airline, Dubai Duty Free, Masafi Mineral Water Company, Mashreq Bank, National Bank of Dubai, Al Futtaim and Public Warehousing Company.

Infosys Technologies, India's largest listed software development and services company, refused to disclose the impact of the war on the Middle East business, saying it is in a "silent period" as annual results are due early next month.

Others, however, emphasised that they have already put in place measures to ensure continuity of businesses in the region even if they have to evacuate their professionals for safety reasons.

"Business continuity measures, which are standard operating practices in such situation, have been kept in a state of readiness so that all activities can be carried on as normal from different locations around the world," said Satyam.

"Alternative communication links and backups are available to allow business to function as usual," the company added.

Takle of TCS said: "The business continuity plans and the disaster recovery plans for TCS have been in place even before 9/11 happened, and they continue."

Indian software makers realised the need for setting up disaster recover centres, also known as business continuity centres, after India and Pakistan came close to the brink of war in May 2002.

The border tension between nuclear-capable India and Pakistan had triggered concern among clients of the Indian companies about the safety of outsourcing IT projects from India.
Source: IANS
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