Ashish Chauhan, CEO of BSE reaches his office at Fort from his residence in Malabar Hill early in the morning to ensure that operations are running smoothly amid a national lockdown. Similarly, NSE chief Vikram Limaye moves between his residence at Dadar and NSE headquarters at BKC as stock exchanges have been kept operational. The executives at two of India’s largest exchanges have ‘pulled out all the stops’ to keep India’s stock markets open for trading in times of nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.
There is a technology team, consisting of engineers, at both the exchanges that has to reach their respective offices before sunrise to switch on the exchange servers, the sources involved with the procedure told BusinessLine.
While the BSE has housed its key working staff involving technology infrastructure team, web support, cyber security, compliance and regulatory officials close to the exchange office in and around Fort, the NSE has also made similar arrangements and even special transport services across the length and breadth of Mumbai, the sources in the know said.
Both the BSE and NSE have put into force high level of Disaster Recovery (DR) and Business Continuity Plan (BCP), the sources said. These enable the exchanges to keep the markets running even in times of crises such as floods, heavy rains, war, earthquake or extended communal riots when recovery of market related services require use of alternate processing site as well as off-site offices for employees over an extended period of time. Some BSE officials are also ensconced at nearby hotels according to the BCP.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a complete nationwide lockdown to ‘break the chain’ of Covid-19 spread. Government has invoked Disaster Management Act. But the Centre has also announced that both stock and commodity markets will remain open. There has been a disruption of public transport services for nearly a week. Stock market brokers and its ancillary industry has a work force that runs into millions in Mumbai, most of whom are required to travel to office for work. Those who are not physically required at offices have been provided with digital connectivity to work from home via VPN (virtual private network).
Apart from a main office in Fort, BSE has another BCP office at Belapur, Navi Mumbai and a DR site at Hyderabad that can take over when Mumbai servers are not operating. Similarly, the NSE has its DR site in Chennai. There is a millisecond based synchronisation between production and DR site, the sources said.
“BEST and BSE are working together now to provide daily morning and evening chartered bus services dedicated to stock brokers and stock exchange staff from Borivali and Thane to Fort to begin with. NSE too is operating such services. BSE has also divided people in various teams, which are working in three shifts.
“At NSE they are working with 25-30 per cent staff in shifts. Technology infrastructure, data feed, compliance and regulatory officials are the ones who are being asked to report to work. Index and business development team for both the exchanges are largely connected via VPN,” the source said.
Currently, all visitors entry has been barred at all the exchange offices and the employees have to sanitise themselves at regular intervals. Both BSE and NSE have sanitised all their offices and it would be a regular affair for a next few weeks until the spread of virus is controlled, the sources close to the exchanges said.
“We have approximately 20 to 30 people in two offices separated by 40 km in Mumbai in the main shift and smaller number of people in other two shifts. These are largely IT and people in operations. Across all departments, employees are continuously on video conference with their colleagues in different offices and at home. BSE has also ensured that in the main BSE building not more than 6 people get into a lift at a time even when the capacity is for 20 people. Entrance to building requires all to be checked with temperature controlled gun,” a BSE official said.
At NSE, doors and handles of all the lifts sanitised fully every two to three hours. Pantry has been asked to take special care, an official close to NSE said.
“NSE has successfully completed live trading and other operations from its DR site on March 2 and 3. Entire technology and business operations were executed from the DR site located in another city and is a replica of the main production site in Mumbai. The live trading was to simulate a level 4 city wide disaster, in which the main site would not be available. The exercise was done in a smooth manner and has successfully demonstrated the robustness of its DR capabilities. The entire activity was done without affecting the market participants including members, clearing banks and depositories. The live trading on these 2 days was followed by a successful revert of operations to the main site on March 4,” a source close to NSE said.
Both the BSE and the NSE had allowed brokers to shift trading terminals of brokers to the respective dealers home. Stock brokers are also suppose to submit their own BCP plan to both the exchanges and they are working accordingly. Brokers have arranged their own private vehicles for the staff. But in most cases officials have told them they were facing trouble from police to reach offices even though they were armed with SEBI and government notices, which had exempted stock markets from lock-down. Brokerage staff has told them that many societies have locked down their gates and restricting movement of people. Brokers association ANMI has made repeated pleas for halting market trading till the lock down is relaxed.