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View from India: WFH becomes permanent for IT industry

Image credit: Noracarol/Dreamstime

In a game-changing move, the Government of India (GoI) has done away with compliance issues required for the tech industry to work from home (WFH).

The guidelines have been simplified for the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry and IT-enabled services (IT-ES). Officially announced over the weekend, this statement is a signal for other countries to invest in the Indian IT industry. “India’s IT sector is our pride. The prowess of this sector is recognised globally. We are committed to doing everything possible to ensure an environment conducive for growth and innovation in India. Today’s decisions will especially encourage young talent in the sector!,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted optimistically.

As reported in the media, the revamped guidelines have altered many of the existing operations. Various procedures involving the deposit of bank guarantees for static intellectual property (IP), along with obligations related to frequent reporting, publication of network diagrams as well as penal provisions have also been eliminated. So basically any form of constraint for WFH and work from anywhere in India has been removed.

 Unnecessary bureaucratic restrictions will be taken out of the system. Consequently, it will be an opportunity to foster growth and innovation in the IT sector. Companies can scout for talent anywhere in India including small towns. “Registration requirement for Other Service Providers (OSPs) has been done away with altogether. The BPO industry engaged in data-related work is out of the ambit of OSP regulations. Many other requirements have been done away with. These steps will further flexibility and productivity,” said Modi.

OSPs fulfill the role of providing applications, IT-enabled or any kind of outsourcing services using telecom resources. Broadly, it encompasses BPOs, KPOs (knowledge process outsourcing), IT-ES and call centres. The Prime Minister tweeted: “Committed to furthering ‘Ease of Doing Business’ and making India a tech hub! GoI has significantly simplified OSP guidelines of the Telecom Department. Compliance burdens of BPO industry will be greatly reduced due to this.”

India’s IT trade association NASSCOM issued a statement expressing gratitude to Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication, for this landmark decision. The apex body also indicated that it is heartening to see the government’s commitment towards Ease of Doing Business. “There are some security-related obligations for voice-based OSP which appear to be fine,” Nasscom stated.

Access to remote working will give the industry an epic boost and significantly expand access to talent, increase job creation, catapult the Indian IT industry to the next level of growth and innovation, thereby making India a global tech hub.

Already the IT industry had incorporated WFH as a regime when the pandemic struck. Giving WFH a sense of permanence comes in the wake of the pandemic as the IT industry has voiced a felt need for relaxing WFH norms. This is to enable IT employees to continue with WFH operations on a permanent basis.

Going forward, many IT companies are working out hybrid operation models, which allow a section of its employees to WFH while a segment of the workforce could report to work as it was in pre-pandemic times. Some companies may even bring in their employees on rotational basis. These options would point to a blended working model for the IT industry, which requires flexibility in approach.

The Government’s declaration is appropriate as the IT-BPO industry is a catalyst for the country’s economic growth. IT companies can lower the commercial real estate footprint by encouraging employees to work from home. Expenditure related to office space and operations can be cut down.

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