Chennai is slowly limping back to normalcy after being hit by Cyclone Michaung, but not without some bruises on its image.
Between December 2 and 5, the two city observatories, at Nungambakkam and Meenambakkam received half a metre of rain each, much more than the devastating double-spells of November and December 2015.
For a day, the overwhelmed city resembled a huge lake dotted with islands, the waters of the Adyar river kissing the bridge above it, but by the evening of Wednesday, floods had receded in most parts of the city—though not all. For example, the busy Sivasamy Salai in Mylapore, which houses the famous Vivekananda College, is practically out of bounds with flood waters and fallen trees. An elderly resident who had shifted to a higher floor told businessline, that when he went to his ground floor to pick up some stuff, he found the refrigerator floating in water, lengthwise.
Surging hotel tariffs
Budget hotels and serviced apartments are besieged by Chennaiites with flooded homes, and room tariffs have risen in sympathy. For instance, The King’s Park, a small hotel with 32 rooms in Chepauk, is full; many of its occupants are from far-off places in the city, as they couldn’t find rooms in their neighbourhood.
As Swiggy and Zomato delivery boys mount their motorcycles, as autorickshaws begin to temper the unconscionable rates they charged during the rain, as a skeletal public service trundles down the wet roads carrying office-goers returning to work, and as some supermarkets roll up their shutters, the spotlight shifts on to the physical and figurative bruises the city has sustained.
Manufacturing units hit
Manufacturing units have been badly affected—it will take them days to return to normalcy. Padi, an auto component manufacturing hub and home to many TVS Group companies, is heavily waterlogged. Machines are under water, and the damage done will be assessed after the water is pumped out. “The situation is far worse than we anticipated; we are assessing the damage and hope to be up and running by this weekend,” Arathi Krishna, Managing Director, Sundram Fasteners, told businessline.
The situation is not much different in the nearby Ambattur industrial estate, home to several MSMEs.
The situation is not as bad for large companies, especially MNCs in IT, ITeS, and GCC sectors, but that is only because these companies have multi-layered ‘business continuity plans’, many of which incorporate the lessons learnt in the 2015 floods. The Global Capability Center of a large European bank, for instance, had moved all the critical operations to higher floors, made stay-back arrangements for employees (bedding, kitchen), provided employees with higher-capacity UPS that could out-stay a power outage, and even bought an inflatable dinghy. The BCPs include redundancies in other cities to take over in case one city is crippled.
Question of viability
Yet, Chennai’s lure as a destination for IT/ITeS/GCC operations has not gone unquestioned. “With no power, no internet, and no cellular service, WFH was not possible. This raises a question of Chennai’s viability as an ITeS/IT/GCC hub,” said Gopal Srinivasan, Chairman, TVS Capital Funds, on X.
Some others whom businessline spoke with (and requested not to be named) agreed with Srinivasan, saying that while the city may have been overwhelmed by the downpour, better planning could have easily ensured no disruptions to communications. The government could have told the cell tower operators to keep a 72-hour power backup ready, one source said.