Businesses survive power outage, but concern remains

by Sohini Bagchi    Aug 01, 2012

power failureOver 600 million people across 21 Indian states were hit by one of the worst ever power outages on Tuesday. The blackout that was triggered by the failure of three grids supplying power to the northern, eastern and north-eastern regions of the country left hundreds of enterprises powerless including government offices, corporate houses, railway operations, hotels and healthcare systems in these regions.

Braving the crisis

However, what saved the face of several businesses was their strong back up and business continuity plans in place. Several enterprises across the north and east India braved the crisis by using backup generators that are run on diesel.

Anshuman Chakravarti, CEO-Relaso Product Suite, a Kolkata based software products company said, “We had a strong backup plan to deal with such disasters and therefore work was usual at Relaso.” However, he added that if such disasters continue to strike in a row, it would definitely be a threat to business.

Ritika Arora, IT executive at Trinity Touch, a manufacturing company in Delhi commented that business did not suffer even as the power outage has happened for the second day in a row. She attributed this to the strong backup and business continuity plan of the company. Even it was business as usual at Evalueserve, a KPO with its India headquarter in gurgaon that houses nearly 1,800 employees at its premises. “There was no downtime in our office. Because of a strong back up, we can survive for a few days on captive power produced by generators,” said Sanjoy Roy Choudhury, Country Head, India at Evalueserve.

However, Raman S, Chief executive of a mid-sized hospital in Chandigarh was reported to have used several large rented generators to power air-conditioners and dialysis machines. He believes that such eventualities may be harmful in the long run.

The bigger concern remains

Even though a number of big and mid-sized firms survived the power crisis this time, what worries CIOs and others in business is that a repeat of power grid failure, which they feel would not be tolerated. In fact, this time, India’s major business centers in Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad were not affected by the blackout, since they happened to be in the southern and western parts of the country that did not suffer this failure, but there is no guarantee of such faults in the future.

Some believe that alternate energy sources can prove to be useful in avoiding electric grid failure. Ayan Roy, IT Head –MPS Group of Industries believe that as the cost of running a datacenter is becoming so expensive, it is inevitable that alternate power sources will become mainstream in the near future. However, Chakravarti argues. “We have not yet reached the maturity level to deploy alternate energy sources on a massive scale,” he said. Owing to ambiguous government rules and regulations as well as high cost of installation and management, adoption of alternate power is still a distant dream.

India’s power generation capacity should keep pace with growth and the need of the hour is a proper management of the system. Analysts believe with government selling electricity at prices lower than the cost of generation, the public distribution utilities are at present in a sorrow state.

So even though India, recovered from its worst-ever power outage this time, the bigger concern remains. Unless the government identifies the key problems and adopts a holistic approach to deal with it, such problems may continue to happen again and in fact several times in the future – something that no enterprise backup plans can salvage.