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Issue of May 2006 

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BC: More than IT

It was business as usual at Godrej Industries during the July 26 floods last year that brought Mumbai to a halt. A look at how the company managed

Mani Mulki

Godrej Industries’ business continuity plan is divided into two. The first part looks at the non-technical side of business continuity such as suppliers and distributors since Godrej depends on suppliers who provide vital ingredients for its business.

The BCP involved here is to find alternatives in case the supplier says that it does not want to work with the company anymore, or if it goes out of business. In that case, other suppliers are identified and materials are sourced from them after checking whether they match the company’s specifications.

The other part of BCP is technology-related. Here, all the major processes or areas critical to the company’s day-to-day operations (such as logistics, supply of key items, IT and despatches) are included in the DR set-up. This is critical since their disruption can bring the business to its knees.

Billing takes place all over the country. To avoid the situation of billing not being possible from a particular Carry and Forwarding Agent (CFA) who has been affected, backups are done daily.

For this, an authorised person takes the call that billing is affected, and that it must be done from another location. The alternative procedure entails an elaborate recovery plan. This plan first identifies the disaster levels and then guides the emergency alternative procedures. Godrej uses the Reliance Data Centre in Navi Mumbai for backups.

Dedicated Group

A joint team consisting of personnel from corporate audit, assurance and IT looks after DR. The team visits locations, creates awareness, and conducts educational sessions to inform staff of the risks involved. Topics covered include vulnerable areas, how certain processes run in times of disaster, their criticality, and their impact on the business.

The team disseminates the standard operating procedures (SOP) to be implemented in case of a disaster. Some of the areas covered include how to take a call and whether there is an alternative emergency procedure to be adopted. There is an elaborate recovery plan which first identifies the disaster levels. Emergency personnel are trained in how to return to normalcy when the disaster abates. “The moment a disaster strikes, there is a champion who is nominated by the SOP to take a call and identify the disaster, and put emergency plans into action as per the intensity of the disaster,” explains Mani Mulki, General Manager, Information Systems, Godrej Industries.

Annual Tests

Two types of mock tests are conducted on a yearly basis. The first is the informed mock test where a site is informed that there are going to be DRP drills on a specified date. This is done by a team consisting of the corporate audit and IT departments. The team goes to a particular location and brings the required infrastructure to a standstill. This helps them see the emergency procedures in place to ensure that business operations do not come to a halt. All this is reviewed and a report is prepared.

The other is a surprise mock test where the team goes unannounced to a particular location and conducts drills to see how they are managing. There is a periodical summary report which goes to the business head.

Managing Risks

For identifying potential threats, an evolved and detailed risk management assessment is done regularly. The processes and stringency depend on the risk involved.

At present Godrej has a warm site. It has operations at 45 locations. These locations send back a database instance to the servers hosted at the data centre at the end of each day; this ensures that data is replicated. Backups of the ERP database for a particular location are preserved at another location.

The most important part of Godrej’s business is goods shipment. This was not affected since Godrej’s key processes were hosted at the data centre which was safe from flooding. Since the Internet was working, people could still take stock of the situation and give instructions. Even though Godrej’s warehouses and CFAs located in Mumbai were flooded, it was still possible to make decisions because the data was stored in the central server which was accessible from anywhere. Business operations thus continued without a hitch.

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Indian Express - Business Publications Division

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