Infosys chairman Nandan NIlekani has said that coronavirus-forced lockdown has enormous economic consequences, adding that minimal business can be allowed while subsequently testing people for the virus.
Nilekani said that while the IT sector is seeing short-term challenges, there will be a lot of opportunities in the long-term as the role of technology will stand out. Nilekani was speaking on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on business and economy in a webinar organised by online education portal UpGrad on Wednesday.
“The lockdown has enormous economic consequences, especially for migrants and daily wage earners. The lockdown is also not very effective in dense urban populations. What it may be is not a full lockdown but some kind of minimal business while also rapidly testing people,” Nilekani said.
"To bring back a semblance of activity, we also need a good testing infrastructure. We can think of this lockdown as flattening the curve but also giving us the time to put a testing infrastructure in place," he added.
The Infosys co-founder said that the COVID-19 crisis is bringing several competing companies together, and that the world will see partnerships and collaborations that have never been seen before.
“Amazing collaborations are happening. The investment of Facebook in Reliance is a great example. Another example is Apple and Google coming together to create a new standard for contact tracing. Glaxo and Sanofi also coming together to create a vaccine is a great example,” Nilekani said.
“The crisis is so huge that companies normally competing have come to collaborate to take the world to a better place. We will see partnerships and collaborations that we have never seen before,” he added.
The Infosys chairman said that he was confident for the IT sector in the long-term, but said the short-term will be challenging.
“There is no doubt that demand for IT will go up. Because of digital infrastructure, there has been some semblance of working,” he said.
Speaking specifically about Infosys, he said the company was well positioned for the crisis and that it will not carry out any layoffs.
“Companies like Infosys have no debt and $3.6 billion on the balance sheet. At Infosys we had to do lockdown within matter of days, and get 2 lakh people working from home. Now 93 percent of employees are working from home,” he said.
“In the next few months companies may find challenges, but big companies like us are saying we won't do layoffs and I hope many companies will follow that,” Nilekani added.
He said that while the IT sector has seen crises earlier such as the Asian financial crisis, the dotcom bust and the global financial crisis, the COVID-19 crisis was unprecedented as it is both a professional and a personal challenge.“However, this time, situation is unprecedented. This is both professional and a personal challenge. Entire industries have been affected and even industries not affected have some degree of impact,” he concluded.