Trudi Machado, Manager Human Resources, and Chrishan de Mel, Chief Marketing and Corporate Affairs Officer at 99x, explain why 99x is investing considerable resources behind a broad-based strategy to overcome the challenges and uncertainty caused by the unfolding economic and political crises.
What is 99x’s stance on the evolving political and economic crisis?
Trudi: To first set the context, we made our position clear to our staff and stakeholders. We believe in the fundamental rights available to every citizen to voice their concerns freely and allowed our employees to also engage in peaceful protests.
As a company, we want to see a change: we look forward to good governance, integrity, competence, and credibility in the administration. All of us at 99x remain committed to rebuilding our nation. We are bracing for challenging times ahead and taking every conceivable measure to see what we can do for our employees, customers, and the industry so that we journey through this difficult time together and grow.
These are unprecedented times for the industry. How is 99x responding to these challenges?
Trudi: Many IT companies have provided their people with a cost-of-living allowance to counter the burdens of rising inflation and the rupee depreciation, and we have done the same. From 1st April 2022, all Xians – what we call ourselves at 99x – get a special allowance to see them through this difficult time. We have also worked on securing sufficient reserves such as fuel and alternate power sources to run our office premises smoothly amidst power outages.
We have also explored several regional work locations in Kadawatha, Galle, with uninterrupted power and internet for our staff to move in and work productively. We chose this approach so people can work at venues closer to their homes, contributing to reducing fuel consumption. This initiative will also provide long term opportunities for more employment in those regions.
These measures ensure that our team members are enabled, empowered and motivated to give their 100% towards our customers. We have always been a life partner to our employees, be it during the pandemic or other disruptive events in the past, and we are determined to walk through these challenging times together. That is the assurance we give our people.
Startups and smaller IT companies are finding it even harder as a result of the crisis. Is there anything that 99x is doing to help these companies?
Chrishan: Yes, we have allocated 20 seats with uninterrupted power in one of our premises exclusively for startups and SMEs. We are working with ICTA to extend to everyone in the ecosystem free.
We also want to offer interest-free short-term loans for companies with committed work facing cash flow issues and allocate a revolving fund of Rs15-20 million towards this. As companies who have borrowed settle their dues, this would be made available for another company in need. We hope to work with industry partners such as ICTA, SLASSCOM and others to operationalize this.
How are your customers responding to this situation in Sri Lanka? How is 99x addressing their concerns?
Chrishan: As you may be aware, all our clients are in Europe, mostly Scandinavia. Obviously, they are concerned as we are an integral part of their value chain. For many of our customers, we are their only trusted development partner, so they are concerned about the well-being of our teams, both at a professional and a personal level.
We kept them informed and made them aware of our contingency plans. To deal with the power outages, we have already distributed power banks, powered wingles and a separate allowance for all our staff to purchase equipment that would allow them to stay productive, despite power interruptions.
The other measures like the regional locations are in case these measures aren’t adequate. We are also preparing for the worst-case – what do we need to do if our teams cannot be productive within Sri Lanka. We are encouraged that our customers continue to be willing to work with us through this difficult time.
At 99x, we will forge ahead with the conviction that we have to overcome the challenges together. Our stance is clear. We will invest and do whatever it takes to fulfil our collective aspirations through all the challenges – especially for our people and customers. We have our employees and customers with us, and we are doing all we can to empower the tech industry and startup ecosystem. We will ride through this storm. We will overcome and ensure the growth of the business, our people, our customers, the industry, and the country.