Life turns turtle for MSMEs as lockdown chokes

Transporting men, machines and materials under strict curbs tests the sinews of enterprises located in smaller cities

April 03, 2020 10:46 pm | Updated April 04, 2020 12:50 pm IST - Bengaluru

 The CII has urged all enterprises, which are still suffering connectivity or business 
continuity issues, to report and reach out to the industry associations.

The CII has urged all enterprises, which are still suffering connectivity or business continuity issues, to report and reach out to the industry associations.

The lockdown ordered to stem the spread of COVID-19 has swept over millions of small and medium enterprises in tier-2 and -3 cities and across India like a tsunami.

Moving people and machines to facilitate work- from-home (WFH) options became a daunting task for many, as per industry executives of some mid-tier firms who narrate their harrowing experience.

In some cases, attempts to prove something as ‘essential’ turned into debates between business owners and local administrators. Consequently, many enterprises and their employees, across places such as Mysore, Hassan, Udupi, Kochi, Pune, Ahmedabad, Surat, Nagpur, Goa, Jaipur, Coimbatore and Salem suffered in terms of lack of businesses continuity and clarity, physical hardship and mental stress.

“It was nightmarish for many companies operating in Coimbatore and Salem. We were running [around] for permissions to move people and computers. We could easily move people and systems between Bengaluru and Chennai, but in Salem, the rules were different. And eventually, we lost several days of productivity and our employees suffered a lot,” explained Chocko Valliappa, CEO of IT services firm, Vee Technologies that employs 5,000 people across Bengaluru, Chennai and Salem.

The situation was in stark contrast with the promises of many State governments that vie with each other to attract investments to small cities in their regions.

Not enough time

Certain mid-tier firms are of the opinion that the lockdown came upon them all of a sudden though the government would have been contemplating it at least a few days before it’s introduction.

“Over 300 of our employees in Bengaluru and Chennai were thrown out of their respective hostels soon after the lockdown. We arranged some stay for them in Salem and tried to bring them to Chennai. But authorities made us send them back,” said Mr. Valliappa, whose company supports hospitals in the U.S. and in India by providing clinical documentation services.

Udupi-based Robosoft Technologies, a UX and UI application development and digital advisory firm, too, said small firms had suffered huge disruptions after the lockdown.

Robosoft and its arm, 99Games, together employ 600 people across Mangaluru, Mumbai and Bengaluru.

Rohith Bhat, founder- CEO at the company said, “Fortunately, we anticipated the trouble slightly in advance. Some of our customers in Japan [gently] alerted us; therefore, three days before the first lockdown call, we started moving our men and machines. But we went through a very tough time.

“Had we waited until the complete lockdown announcement, we surely would have faced huge downtime issues like many others.’’

CII acts

Realising the gravity of the situation, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) sprang into action. It met the respective State governments and industries departments to chalk out ways to ensure business continuity for the entire MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises) community in the country.

”We discussed a wide array of key topics with the Karnataka government and movement of people, material and machines was one of them,’’ said Ramesh Ramadurai, vice chairman, CII-Karnataka.

The CII has urged all enterprises, which are still suffering connectivity or business continuity issues, to reach out to the industry association for assistance.

Pradeep Bhargava, president of Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA) said most IT/ITeS firms in Pune were able to shift to WFH mode with relative ease; however, other firms, including manufacturing companies, big and small, struggled as the task involved touchpoints with facilities, staff, vendors and customers.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.