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Business not as usual: Auto, IT firms fear disruptions over Jaya death

Jaya unwell Updated: Dec 06, 2016 15:59 IST
Anirban Ghoshal

Supporters gather to pay their respects to late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram as she lies in state ahead of her funeral at Rajaji Hall in Chennai on December 6.(AFP)

Major auto and IT firms, the engines of Tamil Nadu’s economic prosperity, remained shut or deployed emergency work plans on Tuesday, a day after its chief minister J Jayalalithaa died of prolonged illness, leaving the state paralysed and in weeklong mourning.

From schools, offices and shops to the factories of Ford, Nissan and Hyundai, everything remained closed in a state where Jayalalithaa was lionised by millions of her doting and often hysterical supporters. Top IT firms, including Cognizant and Tata Consultancy Service (TCS), also remained closed.

Much of the shutdown across Tamil Nadu was out of respect for the departed leader but some also remained closed on fears of violence by her grieving admirers.

Some companies triggered their business continuity plans (BCP).

“All our offices are closed in Chennai today. We have invoked BCP to ensure seamless service delivery for our customers’ mission critical operations,” a TCS spokesperson told Hindustan Times.

Jayalalithaa’s legacy: TN among India’s best in industrial, social indicators

It wasn’t immediately clear when business could return to normal. Most big businesses said they were hoping to reopen soon.

“It is too early to say. If there is a bandh for three days, it will have an impact as in most bandh situations… the auto industry is not insulated from such situations,” Vishnu Mathur, director general of auto lobby, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), told HT.

Auto-part makers were also keeping their fingers crossed.

Jayalalithaa defied the conventional logic of Tamil Nadu politics

“I presume the state machinery will ensure that production contniues and the industry is not affected… However, if the state or city comes to a standstill for a prolonged duration, then there will be an impact,” Vinnie Mehta, said director general of Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India (ACMA).

Chennai and its suburbs account for at least 30% of the turnover of India’s $58 billion automobile industry, industry figures show. A smaller auto components sector also has a major presence in and around the Tamil Nadu capital.

Much of the credit for building up the state as a manufacturing hub with foreign investments goes to Jayalalithaa, a six-time chief ministers who fought economic hardship as a child to become a popular film star before foraying into politics.

She also helped forge a strong IT and IT-enabled services (ITeS) industry in a state with the country’s largest economy.

Nasscom, a top IT industry lobby, said businesses were closed for a day as a mark of respect for the departed leader.

“She contributed immensely to the growth of IT sector in the state,” a Nasscom spokesperson said. Industry officials hoped the situation will be normal by Wednesday.

Tamil Nadu accounts for some 14% of all revenue generated by India’s software services, which is valued at $143 billion, according to official figures.

(With Kalyan Subramani in Bangalore)