Desolate IT parks put many out of business

Only around 15% of employees in IT parks have returned to work from office in Kerala, with many companies adopting a wait-and-watch approach.  

For more than nine years, Manju Chandran and 35 other women colleagues have made their living washing cars at the Technopark in the capital. Though the earnings were not huge, life was comfortable, until COVID-19 struck. Now, with most of the companies still in work-from-home mode, and most employees preferring that or a hybrid mode with a few days in office, their business has reduced to a trickle.

“We used to get around 50 cars daily, earning ₹9,500 in fixed salary and commission for extra cars washed. Now, only seven of us are here, with the rest moving on to other temporary jobs. We now work only three days a week and get not even five cars to wash on most days. The salary has come down by half and there is no commission either. Most of us have been struggling to get by since March last year. Unless the work-from-home trend changes, things will not improve,” says Ms. Chandran.

Although the job scene in the IT sector has improved with more recruitments and fewer job losses over the past few months, the other businesses around the tech parks, including restaurants, vehicle services, hostels and house rentals are struggling as only few companies have partially reopened their office operations.

Autorickshaw drivers

Lalu has been an autorickshaw driver in and around Technopark for 17 years, witnessing the expansion of the IT park over these years. Two months ago, he sold his autorickshaw for a mere ₹20,000, and now does odd jobs.

“Around 45 autorickshaw drivers used to depend just on the Technopark. Now, there are only around five in the area. In the past few months, I have done everything from masonry work to fish sales. I now ride a pickup autorickshaw on hire, because it had become impossible to survive driving autorickshaw around the park. I need to take care of my three children. From the look of it, it will take some time for things to turn around,” says Mr. Lalu.

Restaurant workers

Nessi Shiju used to work at a restaurant inside Technopark, which has 16 staff members, including 10 women. With the restaurants closing down during the pandemic, her family has been surviving on her husband’s meagre income as a photographer, which has also come down after the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Some women from the rural areas have now taken up Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Schema works. Some do housework in flats. I have not landed any other job. The expense of the education of our two children and the home loan are becoming too much to bear,” says Ms. Shiju.

Hostel owners

Vineetha Antony, who has been running a hostel for IT employees at Kazhakuttam, is now seeing signs of revival. Her facility, in which 12 people used to stay, had remained closed since March 2020. This month, two have returned. But, normalcy is still a long way away.

John M. Thomas, CEO, IT Parks Kerala, says that only around 15% of employees in IT parks have returned to work from office. While some companies have been proactive in shifting back to office, many are taking a wait-and-watch approach.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 9:55:01 PM |

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