The Standard (St. Catharines)

India’s terrible virus pandemic grief is your long-term loss

- VISHAL SHAH Vishal Shah is an Indo-canadian businesspe­rson. He is the owner of the technology services company Webmyne Systems Inc. and co-founder of the Edtech company Edusity.

India is the world’s IT Department. Imagine half of your department walking out of the company one evening never to return. Unless massive help lands in India over the coming days, that is exactly the scenario the Canadian and other western economies will face.

India, a country that graduates 1.5 million high-tech engineers from its universiti­es every year is running out of low-tech hospital beds and oxygen to treat the Covid-stricken.

Western IT companies save up to 72 per cent on developmen­t costs by offshoring work to India. According to Gartner Forecasts that work will be worth $93 billion (U.S.) in 2021. Conservati­vely, to complete that work onshore with domestical­ly trained would cost between $122 and $161 billion. In recent years, Canadian investors, including the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, have invested $22 billion in India’s IT infrastruc­ture. Having started my first It-related outsourcin­g project in 2002, I’ve seen the IT talent pool in India grow by leaps and bounds. India has become indispensa­ble to the IT world. I estimate 75 per cent of my IT Devops are within my own controlled premises in India. If this wave of COVID-19 gets worse, the lights will go off. Every company in the sector is in the same position.

India’s contributi­ons to Canadian IT companies do not stop on the subcontine­nt. Indian-born immigrants, many of whom also keep onshore IT department­s running, now account for 25 per cent of all newcomers to Canada.

Having completed my undergradu­ate degree in engineerin­g in India, getting the opportunit­y to go to graduate school and start my career in the United States, and then moving to Canada to start my own business, I have personally seen the intricacie­s of setting up an offshore IT unit and creating the cohesive process that is optimized for efficiency from all sides.

Global IT companies and Indian tech companies alike have made huge investment­s in overcoming time zone difference­s, cultural difference­s and other barriers. The result has been an abundance of skill and will. The world of Indian IT workers is one that has created a level playing field, but this stage of the pandemic has made it a precarious one.

Mainstream Canadians may only be able to imagine both onshore and offshore population­s of high-tech Indian tech workers affected by COVID. My Indo-canadian colleagues and I do not have the luxury. The risk of death from COVID is higher for those who live in multi-generation­al homes. It is also true that the loss of aging parents and aunts and uncles in a society that reveres its elders represent tragedies not easily recovered from. It has become normal for Indians abroad to discover their entire family has been infected overnight. Used to being sources of support and comfort to their families back home, Indians outside India are now experienci­ng feelings of guilt and helplessne­ss.

Grief, survivor guilt, and physical recovery from COVID will be part of the Indian experience for years. We can only hope it doesn’t get worse. Whether we live in or outside India, IT workers share a knowledge of our history that has taught us India and Indians are resilient.

Regardless of how the rest of the world treats us with aid during this crisis, we will get better. The only question that remains is whether Canada’s IT industry and global economies will recover their losses.

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