After Covid-19, clients will look at WFH issues: HCL Tech's C Vijayakumar

C Vijayakumar, president and chief executive officer of HCL says, sectors like financial services, telecom, professional services have not seen much impact.
HCL Tech said it does not see a major long-term impact from Covid-19 on its business. C Vijayakumar, president and chief executive officer, tells Neha Alawadhi that though demand has fallen in some sectors, others continue to be strong. Edited excerpts:

How has the pandemic impacted HCL Tech since March when it really became a global problem?

The way we should look at this is in two parts — first is from our ability to service customers, which is the supply side.

I think that is very much under control. Second is the demand side where there are industries that have been impacted in a big way, mostly in manufacturing, entertainment, non grocery retail, etc., and it will take some time to get back to normalcy. So, the volumes have reduced in those segments.

But some sectors where the impact is not much are financial services, telecom, professional services. And there are some that are very insulated like technology services, life sciences, and health care.

So, to focus on revenue and margin is possibly not the right thing. If we start focusing on doing all the right things for the customers, and for our employees, I think we may be in a much better position to capture the demand when things come back.

Do you have a sense of how the workforce will change?

It’s too early to predict. We do recognise it will significantly transform. Today, work from home is productive, but it’s all in a shutdown environment. We will have to see what productivity will be in a post-lockdown world. Clients are much more accepting of the fact that we're working from home.

But in a normal world, they will look at issues like privacy a lot more stringently before allowing large-scale work from home. In 12-18 months, this will settle down at 50-60 per cent of the people coming to work. I don't think there is going to be any significant reduction in real estate costs, because even if half the people come to work, you may maintain social distancing that will require more space per person.

Have you seen any project cancellations due to the pandemic?

Customers have told us to delay certain activities for 3-6 months. Except some sectors like travel. Like airlines possibly canceled some projects because they do not know when they will come back to much more stable operating model. Other than that there are some delays and deferrals, there are not cancellations.

How are things looking like for your offshore staff in light of these delays?

In the US, or in other geographies, where people come on visas, they continue to be employed, and they're getting paid.

Anyway they can't travel back. If they don't have work, we will look at the option of helping them go back to the home countries and see if they can operate from there.

From an India perspective, there are some people who are becoming free because the projects are getting deferred. But we are looking at redeploying them in our internal projects of creating intellectual property. We're thinking of moving some of our top software engineers into our products and platform business, to accelerate some of development work.


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