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NEW DELHI : The $191 billion Indian IT industry is facing its most challenging time, with the covid-19 pandemic having disrupted the global economy, said Infosys Ltd’s chief operating officer U.B. Pravin Rao, who has recently been appointed chairman of the IT industry body, Nasscom. However, Rao sees an opportunity in this adversity. Edited excerpts of an interview:

How has the IT sector been affected by the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of covid-19?

These are challenging times for the world, including the Indian technology industry. During these unprecedented times, maintaining business continuity, keeping in mind the safety and well-being of all employees, has been the topmost priority for the industry. The industry has shown tremendous resilience and has done a phenomenal job in adapting to the new normal by implementing work-from-home policies and delivering uninterrupted business continuity during this time of crisis. A small percentage of the staff working on mission critical applications are working from office.

While we deal with the crisis, what’s heartening is how technology companies and startups are supporting the government in fighting the covid-19 crisis.

As businesses move towards greater digitization, can the pandemic actually turn out to be an opportunity for the IT and ITES industry?

There is and will be an economic impact of this pandemic. However, I believe there is also opportunity in this adversity. As an industry, we must look beyond this pandemic and think about how we will partner with our clients, communities and governments to help them navigate the post-covid times. For global enterprises, technology is, and will remain, a key differentiator as they figure out new ways of operating their businesses, building resilience in their supply chains and making their distributed workforce more secure, and collaborate in more meaningful ways.

Even today, technology is playing a huge role in enabling businesses to run remotely. In the new normal, this role will only amplify. In fact, covid-19 is a tipping point for the digital transformation of the workplace. The sudden switch to remote digital work has the potential to accelerate digitally-enabled environments and workplace transformation.

What are the stimulus measures needed to revive the IT and ITES industry?

We are also a very diverse industry. More than 80% of our members are small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and small and mid-sized BPO companies and startups. They are impacted the most in the current situation. While the larger players have staying power, they will also be adversely impacted in the event of a prolonged lockdown and an impending recession.

Hence, in this environment, it is important that the government looks at providing some stimulus package to the smaller players and at the same time relooks at policy imperatives for the industry as a whole. Nasscom has given a recommendation to the government to ensure minimal disruption in businesses and organizational impact.

Do you think the country is staring at a recession? How severely will your industry be hit?

Covid-19 is creating disruption globally and businesses across countries are facing major demand-side challenges. However, the industry is part of a global supply chain and any disruption in that supply chain will have a ripple-off impact on our industry.

We have not assessed that impact yet. Our priority at present is to maintain business continuity and at the same time ensure the safety of the employees. We will have to assess the impact once the present crisis is over.

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