In the last few years, Chennai has been losing its image as a major destination for information technology sector due to lack of support infrastructure such as roads, sewerage and sanitation. This image took a further beating in the last few days when the city was marooned due to heavy rain.

The city choked due to lack of water management system. The State government did not anticipate so much rain. Though operations in IT companies were unaffected, employees had tough time reaching home in the flood, which in turn led to the heavy traffic, said an official of a large software company.

Infrastructure in places like the IT corridor (Old Mahabalipuram Road), Velachery, Ramavaram, Porur and Ambattur where all the IT companies are located ‘went for a six’ due to water-logging. Nearly four lakh employees work in the IT sector in Chennai with over half of them located in the IT corridor.

And, pictures of the city getting marooned went viral in the social media. Many took selfies in front of their flooded campus and posted them on the social media.

“Such images will have cascading effect on the city's image among customers and potential investors may hesitate coming to Chennai. Even customers may not want to have their vendors located in such places worried about employee safety,” said a senior official in an IT company.

Nagaraj Mylandla, Managing Director, FSS Ltd, said: “We need to improve our infrastructure to handle such natural phenomenon else places like NCR will take over business from Chennai.”

The company located inside the Sipcot IT park in Siruseri was unaffected due to water-logging as the building was a high rise. However, the biggest problem was delay in arrival of employees due to flooding everywhere, he said.

Contingency plan

Large IT companies have good contingency measures in place to face any emergency. “We activated the Business Continuity Plan and other centres took the critical deliverable of Chennai operations. This is a usual practice during emergency,” said Ravi Viswanathan, head of Chennai operations at TCS. The Siruseri IT park that houses companies such as TCS, Cognizant, FSS, Aspire Systems and Engineers India Ltd, was inundated with water entering from two nearby lakes.

Employees had horror stories to tell on reaching home on Monday evening. “I left my office at 7 pm and reached home at 11.30 pm,” said an employee working with Cognizant in Ramavaram. It usually takes 30 minutes to cover the 7 km distance, she said. An employee said that trucks and tractors were used to move people from the campus as company buses were struck at various places and was more than knee high.

Many employees stayed overnight at companies such as TCS and Cognizant. TCS provided nearly 1,500 sleeping bags to its employees who stayed at the Siruseri campus. Employees were also given the option of working from home or go to the nearest TCS centre to work, said Viswanathan. According to Gowri Shankar Subramanian, CEO, Aspire Systems, which has its main software development centre in Sipcot IT, except declaring a holiday on November 16, it managed successfully rest of the days.

The major impact was in the late arrival of employees and accommodated them as part of its flexi working hours policy and helping them with food and transport facility whenever they stayed late to complete the days’ work. With employees unable to reach their homes at odd hours, Aspire tracked their movement back home and relaying information of slow moving of vehicles in water-logged areas to anxious relatives and ensured that everyone reached safely back home by insisting on a phone/SMS confirmation.

Work from home

Those employees whose houses were inundated were allowed to work from home to the extent possible, subject to the availability of power and internet connectivity, he said.