KOLKATA: Employees of India’s third largest software services firm, Wipro, are set to face disruptions in their sleep, reading and daydreaming when they travel to work in Bangalore’s pot-holed roads. Technology has taken a U-turn to haunt them.
Azim Premji’s Wipro is in advanced talks with Sistema Shyam Teleservices ( SSTL) to implement a Wi-Fi-based data connectivity solution in company buses to prod the employees to make better use of their commuting time, two people familiar with the matter said. The move is aimed at improving staff productivity and the company has initiated a pilot project which may be extended to other locations.
Under the deal, likely to be inked later this month, Sistema Shyam would equip some 100-odd Wipro staff buses in the country’s IT capital with wifi hotspots. A large proportion of Wipro’s employees based in Bangalore travel for at least two hours on average on the bus, according to the people. “Access to high-speed internet either on their smartphones, laptops or tablets is considered a powerful tool to reduce unproductive hours spent in commuting to office,” one of them said.
While the jury is out on whether such connectivity will actually improve productivity, anyone familiar with the notorious Bangalore traffic, where covering five kilometers could take up to an hour in peak traffic, can well understand the reasons for Wipro’s move. “Wipro is examining the possibility of making available high-speed data connectivity on the bus service for employees.
However, this is at an exploratory stage,” said a Wipro spokesman in an emailed response to ET’s queries. Sistema Shyam declined to comment. A larger proportion of Wipro’s 1,46,000 IT employees are based out of Bangalore, of which many would use the buses to get to work. ET spoke to a cross-section of IT professionals, including Wipro employees, to get a sense of their enthusiasm to the concept of connectivity, at data speeds of up to 9.8 mbps, on their
bus rides to office.
While nearly everyone conceded that high-speed connectivity on the move could help in responding to urgent official mails, they felt it was unlikely to work in accomplishing core IT functions. “Even with high-speed Wi-Fi connectivity, it’s virtually impossible to do critical coding, web services or testing as these functions require back-up logistical support like access to web servers, database servers, a coding repository and embedded devices, which are unlikely to be available inside a bus,” said a 28-year Bangalore-based Wipro technology professional on condition of anonymity.
“Some sleep during the long journey in the bus would also help staff be fresh for the hard day ahead,” the professional said. Another software engineer working at one of India’s biggest IT firms in Bangalore said that it would be tough to replicate an office environment inside a bus, given the distractions inside a bus and the rickety Bangalore roads. Also, the lack of privacy in a bus wouldn’t allow for confidential peer and client communication.
Some HR professionals, however, expect Wipro to pitch this as a staff empowerment or a personal productivity enhancement drive that allows employees to spend their long commuting time more usefully. “I doubt Wipro will insist that the high-speed connectivity is being offered in buses purely for office work. If employees also agree to do office work during commute time, it would be win-win for Wipro in increasing productivity,” says E Balaji, former CEO of HR firm Randstad India.
Sunil Goel, managing director of HR firm GlobalHunt India, says Wipro can gain if it can convince employees to spend just 30 minutes every morning to clear their backlog of emails on their way to work. Project leaders can also assign tasks to team members from the bus itself. If the deal with Wipro comes through, Sistema Shyam is likely to target similar corporate accounts. The company is learnt to have set up business development teams across its nine-circle footprint.
Data services currently account for 35% of SSTL’s revenue. The company, which runs CDMA-based mobile services in nine regions under the MTS brand, is likely to source the routers from Airlink Wireless for the Wipro deal. These routers will initially be integrated with SSTL’s mobile network in the city to provide Wi-Fi access inside the buses, which will become mobile hotspots.