That sinking feeling in London office
SKALYANA RAMANATHAN London, 12 January
The underground rail services to Canary Wharf is once again jam-packed as financial services professionals head back to work after a long festive holiday in Europe – like their counterparts in most other western markets. The mood outside No.1 Canada Square hardly reflects the sombre outlook for the tenants on the buildings 10th Floor.
This floor is occupied by Satyam Computer Services, which had last week managed to earn the unenviable title of "Indias Enron" for doctoring its balance sheet and overstating its liquid assets balances by a billion dollars.
Even as heads rolled back home in India, nervous IT professionals and their more swanky colleagues in the sales teams in Satyam London offices are taking interviews with competing Indian IT companies who also have operations in Europe.
The offshore development centre for Satyam in London is at Basingstoke, Hampshire, while the Canary Wharf office is considered more a "hot seat office" used by travelling sales team to park their laptops to hook up to the companys global network. Satyams current staffers in Europe who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that there is clear sense of despondency among them. Above all, most feel completely let down by their senior management in India. They have more questions in their mind than answers to give a reporter.
The biggest question among Satyam employees here that remain unanswered is this — when the mandate from senior management does not allow them to sign on deals with gross margins less than 30-35 per cent, how can net profit margin can be in single digit.
"Unlike Infosys or Cognizant, we had to fight a tough battle within our own offices to sign in new accounts. The guidelines were way too stringent to ensure that only the best and wellpaying clients were booked. All that seems to be a waste now," said an employee.
A former Satyam employee from Europe adds that until last quarter collections from the European operations was in the order of $30 million a month. A Satyam spokesperson in Secunderabad confirmed that 20 per cent of the companys $2 billion global revenue, which is around $400 million, does come from the European operations. Until the bolt from the blue hit the company last week, both current and former employees of Satyam had no clue of the internal problem that Raju made public.
The ones worst hit are those sitting on large stock options with this company. "Since the stock market slide and until Raju confessed of his misdemeanour many of us have lost a few crores of our personal savings. My life savings have been wiped out for no fault of mine," says another Satyam employee.
The re-constitution of a new board at Satyam does bring a sense of confidence among those left fighting-fire at Satyam. "We have some great clients in Europe and the cash flows are good too. What we need is a good top management to return to normalcy which is what we expect from the new board," says a senior member of Satyams European operations.
Some of the premium clients of Satyam in Europe such as FIFA, ArcelorMittal, Unilever have not made any statements on their future relationship with the Secunderabad-based IT company.
PHANTOM TOWER: No. 1 Canada Square, on the 10th floor of which Satyam has its office in London SKALYANA RAMANATHAN