Report: Most companies in India unprepared for terror attacks

Systems reportedly not in place to help protect workers, residents

Some such as the Aditya Birla business group, the local unit of PepsiCo Inc. or India's top tech and back office service firms say they have processes that address situations arising out of attacks or emergencies.

PepsiCo India Holdings Pvt. Ltd has, for the last six years, in place what is calls a crisis management team comprising six managers from different functions and headed by a non-executive board member. The Gurgaon-based company, which spends Rs5 crore a year on security in India, is looking to install a digital system, which will help zero in on an employee's location. "There are technological solutions available which can help us track our employees and also enable them to reach out in case of emergency," says Pavan Bhatia, executive director for human resources at PepsiCo India.

After last week?s attacks, a travel advisory was sent out from PepsiCo's Purchase, New York, headquarters against its people travelling to Mumbai, he added.

At mining company Vedanta Resource Plc.'s Indian operations, "top performing management trainees are given the opportunity to work as shift security officers periodically before they take on their respective roles," says A. Thirunavukkarasu, president, group human resources, at the company that engages 15 different agencies to take care of its plants and its 20,000 employees.

Thirunavukkarasu says the company has installed biometric entry protection systems at select locations.

In Bangalore, Infosys Technologies Ltd, India?s second ranked tech services company by revenues, has a business contingency group that takes over when a crisis happens. ?It is activated immediately. They will do a round-the-clock monitoring? in the event of a crisis, says T.V. Mohandas Pai, director and head of human resources at the firm.

Infosys says it has disaster recovery centres, mandated in customer contracts, spread across multiple locations that it doesn?t disclose.

Like Infosys, Aditya Birla group firms and several others mandate that no two senior staff take the same flight when they travel and provide personal security to senior personnel.

Santrupt Misra, group director for human resources at Aditya Birla group, which includes companies such as Grasim Industries Ltd and UltraTech Cement Ltd, won?t reveal details but says his company has in place clear processes for events that require ?drop-dead succession?. The group works closely with firms such as International SOS Online Inc., a top name in worldwide emergency health care assistance and security services.

The oil-to-steel conglomerate, Essar Group, keeps its emergency response system on its toes by internal and external safety audit checks by risk management companies, said a senior executive, who did not want to be named because he is not authorized to talk with the media. Some 90% of the group's sites in Hazira and Vadinar, both in Gujarat, and its corporate office in Mumbai follow the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration norms that focus on workplace safety and health.

Insurance-related processes help, this executive said. "We conduct mock drills (nine in the last 18 months at the refinery) and rehearse it to insurance companies for cover," he said.

Mahindra and Mahindra group, whose flagship is an eponymous auto maker, set up Mahindra Special Services Group, a team to protect the business group's assets, in 2000. The unit has since evolved into a business that serves the likes of Hindustan Unilever Ltd, ICICI Bank Ltd, Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd and Essar. It devises contingency plans for emergencies.

Says Raghu Raman, chief executive of Mahindra Special Services Group, "Certain locations that have been identified will be turned into a command centre, where external lines will be laid out, fax machines set up, additional mobile phones set up and several new communication lines are opened up."

Formerly an army captain, Raman rues what he calls the "moralistic" attitude of Indian companies and chief executives who lay the responsibility for security entirely at the government's door.

"It is high time corporate India wakes up; it cannot be an individualistic selfish view," he says, hoping this lesson has been driven down into the heads of the influentials for the first time after last week's attacks.