Bangalore Gone Wild

Steve Hamm

This is kind of a late-blooming story, but worth the wait. Remember those reports of civil unrest in Bangalore last April when Indian film actor Raj Kumar died? A bunch of the tech operations had to shut down for a day because bands of Kumar fans were roaming the streets breaking windows and forcing storekeepers to shut down their stores to show respect for their hero. Not only did they want the stores closed, but they didn't want anybody driving on the roads, either.

Bill Ireland, IBM's director of Global Delivery Center, India, told me a wild tale about that day when I visited with him in Bangalore last month. I thought I might use it in a story, but decided not to, so here it is:

IBM stayed open that day, and brought food in for its people. At the end of the work day, Ireland headed home in his car. "It was chaos in the streets," he says. "People were shutting down the shops and throwing stones at the cars. A bunch of young punks stopped me. Like an idiot, I got out of the car and confronted them. I said, 'Don't you do it.' I waved my finger at them. And, fortunately, they scattered. They backed off."

The next time there was a civil disturbance in Bangalore, on Oct. 4, people massed in the streets from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. to protest a border dispute with the neighboring state of Maharashtra. All the tech outfits knew this one was coming, so they planned ahead. IBM had its people come to work before the strike started and leave after it ended. That made for a long day, but avoided any confrontations like Ireland had after Raj Kumar died.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.