The Asian Age
Bangalore,May 15, 2005

The city has to learn to live with power cuts. Come summer and various parts of the city experience this. It is unevenly distributed. Mr Chiranjit Banerjee, general partner of Peopleplus Consulting, executive search and training firm, explains, “East Bangalore which includes Airport Road/Marthahalli and Brookefields experiences unscheduled power outage almost everyday extending to three-four hours. It is not the same in other parts of the city, including old Bangalore — areas like Sheshadripuram, Sadashivnagar, Rajajinagar, Banashankari, Malleswaram and Jayanagar.” He adds that another demographic feature of East Bangalore is that majority of residents are working executives who are hardly at home, which probably works against a mass protest, as was witnessed in Jayanagar where several senior (and influential) citizens stay.
While residents bear the brunt in India, government institutions and commercial establishments have access to diesel generator sets. Anything between three and four hours of power is generated by these sets on any given day.

Mr Banerjee explains, “Almost all IT-BT companies have power redundancy built into their facilities which, in the long run, will give a major cost push to their operations, thereby impacting their cost advantage. Along with unreasonable wage expectations and high attrition, additional expenses on generating power will turn out to be the last nail in the coffin for outsourcers, who get their work primarily due to the supposed cost advantages of India.”

Small-medium enterprises don’t have the kind of deep pockets that MNCs and large Indian IT-BT companies have. They tend to simply shut off their production lines, if the power outage is for extended periods. PSUs are again rather unaccountable in their expense profile. “Power cuts need to be evenly distributed out so as not to be discriminatory as they are now. With so many new entrants to the city, he feels that the Bescom personnel need to be groomed in customer service and be bilingual,” he adds.

All new condominiums come with back up diesel generators that take care of minimum power requirements of homes. The most affected are the apartment blocks over five years old as well as single units, who can’t share the costs of DG operations with others.

As an active citizen of Bangalore, Mr Banerjee feels that the situation could considerably improve provided power began to function as a public-private initiative.

“In Shanghai, IT workers go home to a pleasant environment where they don’t have to put up with power outages, but in Bangalore, their productivity is dented by the frequent power outages that they suffer. Even Manila does not experience frequent power outages. Sykes Enterprises, one of the largest US third party call centre operators, has laid off the majority of its Indian staff in Bangalore and are now consolidating in Manila and Shanghai. This could be the beginning of a grim trend,” he concludes.