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At a tragic time, show your face, Mindtree!

IndiaTechOnline OPINION
Bangalore March 11, 2015:   For any one who has covered the Bangalore IT scene for some years, there is a tired feeling of deja vu in the manner in which   Mindtree  seems to be reacting to the tragic death of one of its employees while walking home, late,  after performing  her duties in  the Sydney, Australia, unit of the India-headquartered  IT services and solutions company.  
The violent death  on Saturday last, of  senior Analyst Prabha Kumar  who seems to have been attacked while she took a short cut at around 9.30 pm,   through a wooded area that lay between the suburban railway station of  Paramatta and her home half a km away,   was heart wrenchingly  poignant -- she was speaking on her mobile phone to her husband in Bangalore and  he could hear her pleading with the unknown attacker before she was violently cut off. 
The news  made  headlines on television and print media all over India and Australia.   
( Sydney News  Facebook;  Memorial page, Facebook)
But other than a bland and anonymous  statement of regret that one Bangalore newspaper carried,  there has been stupefying silence from  the leadership of Mindtree.  Maybe they are working to help the bereaved family --  but once  an incident like this is in the public domain,  one would expect the senior-most executive of the company to  show his or her  compassionate face to the public  not hide behind a press release.  
Where is Subroto Bagchi now -- the Chairman of Mindtree? He  delivers his thoughts and wisdom often enough -- through his regularly published books of advice. Where is  N Krishna Kumar, the CEO. Is it enough to surface  at financial results time?  
I am particularly disappointed at Mindtree's  action or rather lack  of it,  because this is one of those high minded enterprises who from start have  made no secret of the fact that they are 'different' in  many  human ways. Indeed Bagchi, if I mistake not, was designated "Gardener" -- cultivating the delicate  blossoms of  Mindtree's  skilled  work force.   Would it have cost too  much to put a face to the company's  collective grief?
 As of this moment (9 pm on March 11) , the Mindtree website is innocent of any  mention of the  passing  away, in harness,  of one of its senior consultants, while  carrying  out the company's business, 9000+ kms away from home.
Chairpersons  and CEOs are tested at such times: when an airplane  crashes, as has happened sadly 2-3 times in  last 12 months, the entire public across continents, expects as a matter of course,  to hear from the head of the operation and see him or her  lead the relief. We would be outraged at anything less.

Why do Indian IT companies like Mindtree think they are exempt from such  normal impulses?
And why am I not surprised?  Subroto,   will understand my reference to a 19th century French phrase: plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose . The more things change, the more they remain the same.  About ten  years ago in December 2005, another female employee -- Prathibha Murthy, 28,   a BPO worker of HP Globalsoft  was  raped and killed by  the driver of the cab sent to pick her up for the  night shift.  Then as now, the company concerned -- and its MD, Som Mittal,   avoided media and public   and  never presented a compassionate human face  of the employer. I remember at the time, media colleagues saying this was to be expected from HP -- where  Palo Alto, USA   exercised an iron grip on all announcements anywhere. I know; I have tried to get the most mundane  clarifications about technical matters at media events and have had to wait for weeks till the India guy's statement was whetted and cleared. But surely Mindtree doen't   suffer such a debility?
In that particular event,  Mittal  challenged  in the Supreme Court  (unsuccessfully)  the complaint lodged against him in his capacity as head of HP's  India BPO,  by the local police for  not providing effective security to employees  required to work the night shift. I am not aware of the  current status of this particular case, but it didn't hurt Mittal professionally -- he went  on to serve a full term as NASSCOM President.
I have seen  in the media, some insensitive remarks made by other IT honchos and head hunters last week, when quizzed after the  Prabha murder.  Their  mercenary mindset doesn't rise above the stiff costs and logistic problems of providing to Indian professionals serving in the foreign arms of the IT  outsourced services business, the same  security, transport and comfort that government has mandated to workers in India  who work the night shifts.  I do believe this is a fit case for the government of India to intervene and examine the working conditions of  the hundreds of thousands of young Indians  who are the life blood of the India brand of IT enabled, offshore services.   
My long standing  admiration  for Mindtree as a company , from the days it was founded by a group of   motivated Wipro executives, will only  be reinforced if its leadership, emerges from the shadows and takes the lead in this current tragedy, setting standards  for the rest of the Indian industry to follow, of employee safety and security -- where ever in the world they may be posted.  -   Anand Parthasarathy, Editor IndiaTechOnline

 




    


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At a tragic time, show your face, Mindtree!
by S. Ramani on March  12,  2015
  "Yes, I do believe that Indian companies should show greater compassion for their employees and families of employees in times of grievous loss. It is Indian culture. "