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Clockwise from top left: The IT team - Antony, Karthik, Deepan and Yogesh. And our General Assistant who moved into the office to help manage the server, Sivakumar

How our paperless brag was put to test: enabling a team of 80 to work from home just hours before the lockdown in India

On March 15th, a week before the lockdown began in India, Satish Sridharan (co-founder and partner, Ventura Pranas) thought to himself, “what if an indefinite lockdown happens and things get worse”? India had time to react after watching much of the Western World see the number of Corona virus cases grow exponentially in their countries. Still, a certain amount of cognitive dissonance in all of us leaves us unwilling to acknowledge that this could happen to us too.

At Ventura Pranas, we’ve always maintained that we need to use technology and physical spaces as if we’re a paperless company. This means that geography doesn’t limit us (travel, rent a space, work out of a laptop, use technology for video calls) and technology means we should be able to work out of any place. Thinking this way has allowed us to engage in cross border work, but we never imagined this would be put to test as it was a few weeks ago.

Satish decided to prepare for the worst (and hope, as they say, for the best) by doing whatever it took to get the entire company working from home. In theory, for a consulting firm, this should be simple, but any entrepreneur knows that even the simplest of things in theory are tough to execute.

The steps involved looking into the intricacies of how people will actually be able to work from home in terms of adequate computer and tech facilities. The IT team managed to get all the hardware and software needed in case things came down to providing staff the equipment need to work from home.

Then came the toughest part: jumping through high hoops to figure out their server access. We ended up having to quickly build our own server, upgrade office internet connection to fiber optics for better speeds and figuring out a way to get all 80 staff to get access to VPN. Yes, we say it so simply as if anyone can do it, but it’s a pretty ambitious undertaking to do on March 19th, just a couple of days before lockdown. What else do you do when the cloud won’t host you, right? You go old school.

We gave first priority to work from home to those who stayed in hostels and who might be leaving town, then to those who live in Chennai but who take public transport to work, then to those who live in Chennai but with private transport, and then finally to those who live within walking distance from the office. By the 21st evening, 50% of our team could work from home, and by the 23rd, we set up the rest of our team. Our team has been incredibly flexible- many of them don’t have a proper work space in their homes, but they’re all figuring out ingenious ways to get their work done.

We share this story with you for a number of reasons. Well, for one, we’re pretty pleased with ourselves and our persistent IT team for making this happen in a matter of days and we’re grateful to our team of 80 for being so cooperative and flexible about working from home. We’re so fortunate to be in the kind of business that can afford to do this. Our hearts go out to migrant labourers and daily wage workers who just don’t have this as an option. Lastly, we also want to say that we’re fully functional to handle all your work, we have pertinent information we want to share about government schemes related to Covid-19 and it’s financial impact, and our co-founder and partner, Prabha Srinivanas, is in Los Angeles to handle questions and take calls in that time zone.

We don’t know how long this will last, but we hope you’re giving safety the biggest priority in your life.