AMCHAM’s Karnataka Chapter hosted a webinar on April 24th in which Mr. Gaurav Gupta, IAS, Principal Secretary, Government of Karnataka, addressed members on the impact of COVID-19 on industry in Karnataka and the efforts taken by the state government to mitigate the challenges posed by the pandemic as well as the outlook for industry as the lockdown begins to be lifted in the state. Mr. Gupta mentioned that the government was grappling with new issues to enable companies to go live and to see how economic activity could recommence. Their objective was to see how the investment is protected to the extent possible. Lots of countries are looking to pivot their investment from China to India and the state governments are looking forward to moving more business into Bengaluru. The state government would support that, as far as the Industries Department was concerned and from IT and bio tech their role would be to facilitate trade and business.
Key takeaways from the session included:
Hardware Support: AMCHAM to send a representation to the Industries Department about the need for industry to import hardware like laptops and ancillary products for companies to work from home as well as enablement of servicing requirements
Passes: Too many people out on the street has resulted in resurgence of the virus. Passes would continue to be there for the foreseeable future. 50% was permitted in the MHA order issued from Delhi. Keeping the unique position of Bengaluru in the tech sector. 50% is too large for any government to handle.
If AMCHAM can take the initiative to adopt standard protocols taken up by member companies, the Department would like to hear from companies on these measures. In so far as how many people can function – IT enabled services with barest minimum staff 1,3,5% is the discretion of the company. Definition is up to the company to decide how many people need to work. If companies approach the state government for help, IT companies are being co-ordinated by IT Chief Sec and other industries by Mr. Gaurav Gupta.
Industry Support: There have been issues on financial contributions, medical supplies, food supplies they will regulate and let companies know what can be done. Contribution in kind (testing machines, test kits), the state government would hand hold companies. There is no crisis on food supplies as lot of issues have been sorted out regarding interstate movement of food grains and food material. Things are moving silently behind the scenes so people are able to see basic provisions. The issue is loss of revenue and revenue credit to the government so for that economic activities need to start in a phased and calibrated manner.
Transport: Would the borders open post the lockdown being lifted? The government would look at imposing a lockdown when the situation lifts. Public transport is intended to start from May 3rd – buses (scheduled and on company charter on intra city), intercity and interstate there would be some limitations on the days to come. Interstate would be the last one to be lifted. First intercity, second inter district and third interstate. If workers are willing to travel the state government would enable travel within the state if there is sanitized way of travel from Bengaluru to other parts of Karnataka, companies need to make requisitions from which point to which point, employees need to be transferred within the state.
Physical Movement of Essential Supplies: The state government has tried to keep all lines of physical movement of goods open. There have been bottlenecks as the lowest level of police have not envisaged activity and that has posed challenges. There has not been any kind of scarcity across the country.
Rapid Testing Protocols: On the issue of rapid tests, while it is good as a surveillance tool it is not good as a diagnostic tool. The ICMR has asked to put rapid testing on hold. This is evolving and Mr. Gupta offered no further comment.
The webinar was very well received by attending member companies of AMCHAM. Some of the companies represented were TIMKEN, Saggezza, Goldman Sachs, MOOG, First American, PwC, KPMG, Collins Aerospace, IBM and others.