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Power cut in US, offices shut in Calcutta
- Relief in call centres as blackout ends
New York’s Times Square glows once again on Saturday after a 29-hour blackout. (Reuters

Calcutta, Aug. 16: When America sneezes, India catches cold.

When power goes out in New York, phone lines fall silent in Calcutta and computers are switched off in Bangalore.

A massive power outage swept across swaths of eastern US and Canada on Thursday, leaving sections of New York City, Detroit, Cleveland and Toronto without electricity. Despite the disaster management packages — very much in circulation since the 9/11 attack — business got hit due to the 29-hour power crisis and the ripples were felt in India.

The IT and IT-enabled services companies — which were open on Independence Day to cater to international clients sticking to their 24 x 7 principle — took the US blackout blow. The phones weren’t ringing at the call centres and the software pros couldn’t link up with their clients’ servers for over 24 hours.

“We had to shut down our office as the phone lines were down,” said a spokesperson of BNK e-Solutions, a 120-seater call centre in Salt Lake Electronics Complex (Saltlec), Bengal’s IT hub. Not only could it not serve its US-based clients, the UK operations also took a beating. Though there were reports of work disruption at GE Capital, which has multiple centres in the country, no one was available for comment despite repeated attempts.

“Companies like WorldCom which provide the telecom infrastructure to carry these calls got affected and we were not receiving any calls. We couldn’t even serve our clients in UK as the calls there are routed through the US,” the BNK spokesperson added.

Vishnu Solutions, another Calcutta-based call centre, was closed with no calls coming on Friday and though no one was available for comment at the Convergence Contact Centre, sources said the shutters were down at its office in sector V, Salt Lake.

“There weren’t any calls from the client sites. But today we are working in full swing as it’s business as usual in US,” said Aditya Bajoria of Vishnu Solutions. With lights back on the US streets and the offices springing back to normal, there is a sigh of relief in this part of the globe.

“To access the client offices based on East Coast, where the impact was maximum, from off-shore sites, we routed through our West Coast hub,” said Siddhartha Mukherjee, vice-president of Cognizant Technology Solutions.

Sources in IBM and TCS also confirmed that the power cut in the US led to disruption in off-shore operations.

But there were exceptions, too. Raman Roy of Wipro-Spectramind claimed: “The power outage didn’t have any impact on our operations.”

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