travel restrictions: Business travel resumes slowly in India

travel restrictions: Business travel resumes slowly in India


India Inc is slowly resuming business travel with caution, mostly led by employees in sales and customer services as well as the leadership teams.

Companies like Deloitte, KPMG, Mercedes-Benz, upGrad, Dabur, Panasonic and Simplilearn said their executives have started travelling for work when necessary.

“With improving sentiments, resurgence of economic activities and a growing sense of positivity and normalcy, we have gradually resumed business-critical travel once again, keeping a close eye on the developments,” said Martin Schwenk, managing director and CEO of Mercedes-Benz India.

The German luxury carmaker had resumed two days of work from office for all employees last month.

At professional services major KPMG, employees are travelling to other cities and other countries for delivery of work. In April, KPMG’s travel was close to 100 tickets, now it is mostly more than 1,000 tickets per month, its chief operating officer Arjun Vaidyanathan said.

“Business activity has improved significantly and clients are asking for meetings now,” he said. “Clients are expecting our people at client locations for project delivery.”

Most companies are using a mix of virtual and physical interface to meet with customers or investors in other locations.

“Just like with return to office, we are treading with caution when it comes to corporate travel, whether domestic or international,” said SV Nathan, partner at Deloitte India. “As far as possible, we continue to encourage the use of digital resources.”

A significant number of Deloitte employees have received at least one dose of the vaccine. “They are awaiting a second jab, such precautions are still prudent,” Nathan said.

At edtech unicorn upGrad, domestic business travel has seen an exponential spike, increasing 5x in August and September, compared to March-April levels. International business trips have also started.

With the company in expansion mode, senior executives and leadership team of upGrad are traveling to Mexico, Singapore, New York, London, and Chicago besides Bengaluru, Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata, and Hyderabad within India, its cofounder Mayank Kumar said.

Employees at consumer goods company Dabur, too, have started travelling since July. “Executives are travelling within India for customer meetings and we have this month resumed international travel selectively,” a company spokesperson said. A lot of the travel is due to the launch of a factory in Indore.

Travel for work has not reached pre-Covid levels yet, though companies say it will continue to show an uptrend, unless the third wave hits.

Sangeeta Gupta, senior vice president at Nasscom, said most executives across IT companies are traveling within the country. “We expect international travel (for the IT sector), especially to the US, to pick up post Diwali,” she said.

Consumer electronics major Panasonic said it is encouraging use of digital means for meetings outside the base location even as its executives have started travelling. “With branches and teams spread across the country, we have been able to manage operations smoothly without high dependency on travel,” said Adarsh Mishra, CHRO of Panasonic India. “We will evaluate our travel policy post Diwali.”

Travel has started in a controlled manner at skills training company Simplilearn. “Next quarter travel will become more prominent if the Covid situation is controlled,” its founder Krishna Kumar said.



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