On Friday, 6th November the Central Government has announced easing out the compliances for BPO/ITES industries, especially the Other Service Provider (OSP) regulations so that the employees of these industries can permanently work from home.
This a revolutionary step which although was pushed in because of the COVID-19 pandemic but has nevertheless caused the tectonic shift in the market leading to huge cost cutting for these companies and service providers. At one hand these companies which are going to take benefit of these changes which shall improve their bottom line and at the other hand all those companies which are into building huge commercial spaces for leasing out to the companies are going to experience a serious bad impact to their topline.
Since last one decade all the business houses had one common dream or desire, apart from growing revenue wise, to own or rent an office space in a premium commercial building or location. The reason was quite simple as psychologically a big office meant a successful running business and also it was felt that a good office will enhance the brand image of the business and thus will attract more customers who are willing to buy the product or the services. This all had driven the commercial working space market which has led to exponential growth in the rental income for the commercial space owners.
Those demands of commercial space also inspired some of the start-ups like wework, 91springboard, Awfis, Innov8 etc. which launched their businesses riding the high demand wave of commercial space. Every commercial working space project wanted to cash in the business and psychological need of having a swanky office.
As they say nothing is permanent but the change itself and the whole world has undergone 180-degree change in last 9 months. The situations created by the current pandemic has forced everyone to relook and revisit not only their personal lives abut also the business model that they have been running all these years till the beginning of March 2020.
There is a common and daunting question to everyone’s mind. Do we really need a costly working or office space to run the business or services? My answer is absolutely No, we do not need to spent lacs of rupees as rent for a space which just provides a workstation for the employees and meeting rooms to conduct meetings.
As said earlier we all wanted to have swanky office to impress our clients and customers and thanks to the pandemic that even the clients and customers have started accepting the fact that we can have a meeting through alternative channels and still maintain our brand image. The world has suddenly become so accommodative that even if a child is projecting himself in the camera during the virtual conferences the other participants are not getting irritated. So, it sends a signal that we, as human beings, have broken the psychological barrier of associating brand image and formal working place. The house and no so formal environment have replaced the crimson lit walls and are well accepted by the working fraternity around the world. This also has drifted us towards the more important aspect of all that is work. Last few months we all have paid more focus or kind of increased the focus on work rather than the working environment and the formal dressing to appear before the meeting.
Lately there have been news that some of the big industry players have already started to terminate their long-term lease as they do not need the office spaces anymore since most of their employees are happily and efficiently working from the comfort of their homes. This has certainly got dual benefits- one to the employee as he/she is able to stay more at home without spending the unnecessary time in commutation and the employers are able to save lot on rental expenses. This has certainly started the chain reaction of optimizing the financial strengths of the companies.
Since last few years most of the companies around the world had already started the virtual meeting through Video conferencing (VC) for their own employees and internal meetings but they could not resort to the same channels for the clients as it was assumed that face to face meeting will help them win over the clients and will have more chances to impress the clients by giving them a walkthrough of the office or service delivery centres. But thanks to the pandemic that we have been able to win over this dogmatic thought process too and have moved ahead in leaps and bounds.
I being an advocate was a bit apprehensive initially that how do we survive in this changing world and we all presumed that we advocate cannot survive without meeting our clients or going to the court for physical hearing. I guess we kind of underestimated the legal industry and our system. When the lockdown was stretched and we all were pushed to the wall by the fact that physical hearing and appearances in courts are not going to happen for such a long time, I felt a bitter taste in my throat. But as they say that a good lawyer needs to be made of iron (will) and my team and I started upgrading ourselves to move with the time and technology.
Thankfully, we were earlier using the technology to serve, deliver the services, communicate and update our clients hence we did not find it so tough to upgrade ourselves to the new normal of lawyering and bringing justice to our clients. Since the beginning of the lockdown my whole team has been working from home. We use google meet, skype and whatsapp to have internal meetings and discussion and also conferences with our clients.
The biggest challenge of representing the clients in the court room was very comfortably resolved by our Hon’ble courts through the acceptance and implementation of online hearing using the Microsoft Team and Skype. And that has brought life to the whole idea of lawyering/advocacy and providing justice to all.
We have not opened our chambers and don’t intend to looking at the rising COVID-19 cases. Many lawyers like us would have done the same as they are currently able to do exactly the same from their “Home Chambers” what they could have been doing from their swanky and formal environment chambers. Like the other industry the legal industry has also undergone a paradigm shift and learnt to adapt to the newer ways of doing business or service or delivery of justice.
The question now remains open that who needs an office now when we all can do and deliver the same with similar quality from the precincts of our homes? The another mute and bigger question is, do the companies which are into office real estate business need to revisit their plans for the future? It is expected that those companies should do little bit of introspection before they arrive at the answer.
Calcutta High Court.
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