Many Indian and foreign technology companies based in Bengaluru, including e-commerce major Flipkart and software giant Infosys, told their employees to stay home on Tuesday as the city remained tense in the aftermath of widespread violence the previous day.
The incidents of rioting and arson across Karnataka, which reportedly caused losses amounting to nearly Rs 25,000 crore (according to trade body ASSOCHAM), were spurred by a Supreme Court decision on a water dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
Police arrested as many as 365 people in this connection on Tuesday, clamping a curfew across the city to prevent further incidents of the kind. A protester was killed and another injured in police firing the previous night as rampaging mobs set fire to dozens of vehicles and business establishments across the state capital.
None of this sat well with the multinationals, who – quite understandably – believe that any kind of violence is detrimental to business. E-commerce major Flipkart announced that it has halted operations in the city for the day because “safety of employees is paramount”. A decision on its future course of action was to be taken on Tuesday night. Many IT companies also undertook similar measures to prevent its workers from being harmed in the violence.
Rajya Sabha MP and entrepreneur Rajeev Chandrasekar claimed the episode had taken the sheen off Bengaluru’s reputation as a global business hub. “More than the destruction, it’s the psyche of the city’s working population that has been scarred. It will have long-term implications for Bengaluru,” he said.
Though Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani declined comment, his former colleague Mohan Das Pai made no bones regarding his views on the matter. “All this vandalism has destroyed the image of Bengaluru as a peaceful city,” he said, adding that the administration had allowed the matter to get out of hand by delaying action.
ASSOCHAM also expressed fears that the widespread damage to vital urban infrastructure and interruption of transportation facilities could dent Bengaluru’s image as the Silicon Valley of India.
However, Biocon CMD Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw struck an optimistic note – stating that Bengaluru can move on if the government manages to alleviate the situation soon. “This seems to be an emotional problem stemming from the heat of the moment. The government must tackle it swiftly,” she said.
The riots have come as a wake-up call to the Karnataka government, which knows how much would be lost if the numerous outsiders who call Bengaluru their home decide to give up on the city. For now, the firms in the city are simply playing it safe.
“Today, most companies are shut. But as Eid is not a holiday, our higher-ups have told us to work from home,” said a senior executive with an IT major.