Fighting coronavirus: It's a mixed bag for Indian firms in Britain

According to Forbes, the net worth of Lakshmi Mittal, Gopichand Hinduja and Anil Agarwal has taken a hit because of the economic meltdown.
Among Indian companies with a presence in Britain, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has sailed through virtually unaffected by the grim situation for businesses worldwide in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The company’s revenue in the financial year 2019-20 (FY20) increased 10.4 per cent year-on-year (YoY) in the UK and 14.6 per cent YoY in Europe. The Q4 YoY CC growth in the UK was 5.4 per cent and in Europe 11.9 per cent.

TCS, which has 19,000 employees in the UK and Ireland, had a solution in place called Secure Borderless Work Spaces (SBWS) before coronavirus struck. This facilitated staff to work from home (WFH) regardless of whether they operated back-office or customer-facing operations. The stay-at-residence restrictions hastened the roll out and expansion of the programme.

Amit Kapur, head of TCS in the UK, was quoted as saying: “What the pandemic did was that it forced a challenge and an opportunity to take this model into what we are seeing as a dispersed model, but technologically coupled.” TCS said its working practices would change permanently after the crisis.

Jaguar Land Rover, another marquee entity of the Tata group, has, however, been majorly hit by the freeze. Its retail sales in Q4FY20 were down 30.9 per cent to 109,869 vehicles. China had generated double-digit growth in Q2 and Q3, but in FY20 as a whole, the turnover declined by 8.9 per cent YoY. Sales of the new Range Rover Evoque, though, were up 24.7 per cent and of the all-electric Jaguar I-PACE by 40 per cent.

The carmaker announced it would resume production in Solihull in the west midlands of England, Slovakia and Austria on May 18, having restarted its joint venture plant in China in February. The factory in Halewood near Liverpool will reopen on June 8, and the one in Brazil on June 15. “In China, we are beginning to see recovery in vehicle sales, and customers are returning to our showrooms,” a spokeswoman for the manufacturer indicated.

Among the billionaires of Indian descent based in the UK, Lakshmi Mittal, chairman and chief executive officer of ArcelorMittal, the world's leading integrated steel and mining company, said: “We moved swiftly to temporary idle furnaces, cutting production across markets and reducing operating and capital costs.” “The remainder of this year will be challenging, (but we) went into the Covid-19 crisis with the lowest net debt since the creation of the company, which is a matter of considerable comfort,” he added.

In Q1FY20, the firm reported a net loss of $1.12 billion, which was less than Q4FY19 ($1.882 billion), but more than the corresponding quarter in FY19 ($414 billion). It stated it aims to reduce net debt to $7 billion “in the near term”.
Gopichand Hinduja, co-chairman of the Hinduja Group, said: “While manufacturing has been severely impacted with the economic shutdown in India, in other parts of the world our plants have continued to operate with due consideration of the laws and new social distancing and other regulations in place.”

“The restoration and transformation of the Old War Office in Whitehall into the first Raffles Hotel in London, which is billed to be the most prestigious construction project in Europe, did stop for a while, but now construction is in full swing while adhering to the new norms,” he said.

Anil Agarwal-controlled Vedanta Resources said: “Our offices are operating with less than 33 per cent of our strength and most employees are being encouraged to work from home.

According to Forbes, the net worth of Mittal, Hinduja and Agarwal has taken a hit because of the economic meltdown.

Taj’s luxury hotel in London, St. James’ Court Hotel, is closed. But Quilon, its Michelin Star restaurant, and Bombay Brasserie, another fine dining outlet of the Tatas, are aggressively offering takeaway and delivery services. Their celebrated executive chef Sriram Aylur’s email to customers promised: “We are delighted to offer the best of Quilon and Bombay Brasserie in the comfort of your own home.” From mango curry to Kovalam fish curry, vegetable biriyani to Kerala lamb roast, it’s a gourmet's gratification in abnormal times.


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