In crisis, BPOs cut home drops and arrange stays

A company that works 24 hours in shifts has offered to book guesthouses for employees, particularly women, near the office.

Another will give allowances to staff travelling on their own. Some will even reimburse cab operators for the fines police slap on them.

Desperate measures are being deployed to tide over desperate times that the ban on diesel cabs has brought on software and BPO firms and MNCs in Gurgaon that pick up and drop employees from home.

Transport managers, having to work with severely depleted fleets because a bulk of cabs still runs on diesel, are wracking their brains for solutions.

One US-headquartered company has stopped home drops for male employees at night so that it can give cabs to women staff. So, a male employee whose shift gets over at 1 am or 2 am must wait for the Metro in the morning or pool a cab with others.

"The company has asked all its employees to arrange for their own conveyance," said a woman employee who works with the BPO section. "Only women will get a cab after their shift gets over. All employees will get an additional Rs 650 for conveyance. It is very cumbersome for people living in Ghaziabad and Greater Noida," she added.

Such measures, however, can only be short term and IT body Nasscom warned that if the NCR governments did not find solutions, software and outsourcing firms will be forced to think of abandoning NCR and relocate to cities like Jaipur. This could spell economic doom for a city like Gurgaon, which in IT circles is also referred to as the "world's back office".

On Monday, Nasscom officials met Delhi Police officers but the talks yielded nothing because the ban is the result of a Supreme Court ruling. "The whole industry is struggling as there are not enough CNG cabs. If the situation does not improve, it will kill the BPO industry," said Sangeeta Gupta, vice president, Nasscom.

"Our worst nightmare is a non-compliant cab getting impounded with a female employee in it. For a day or two, as a part of the business continuity plan, the process can be moved to some other location, like it happened during the Chennai floods. But if this drags on, people will start moving out of this region," she added.

Big players like Genpact said their immediate priority was to ensure women employees got cabs. "The situation is tough and we are trying to cope. We have some CNG cabs and we are making sure women travel in these cabs. Their safety is our utmost priority," said Vidya Srinivasan, senior vice-president, (infrastructure and logistics).

"We are also giving our employees the option to work from home. Where it is absolutely necessary for them to work from office, we have made arrangements for them to stay close by in a guesthouse. Also, we have tied up with carpool apps and anyone taking a ride need not pay for it," Srinivasan added.

Cab operators who provide cars to the industry are scared. "Many of our drivers were harassed on Monday and some of our cabs were impounded," the owner of a cab company said.

"Most of our cabs are a year old or two and we are paying EMIs to the bank from whom we have taken loans. Now the Supreme Court has decided to ban them. Where will we go? At least BPO cabs should be exempted so that the safety of women employees is not compromised."

(With inputs from Indrani Dasgupta)

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