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Small businesses continue to operate via generator during the power outage…at least as long as they have fuel.

The headlines are hard to comprehend.  The data points are stunning:

  • The world’s largest blackout
  • Affecting almost 10 percent of the world’s population

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This massive blackout has crippled roughly half of India for a second consecutive day with officials scrambling for an explanation. The power failure spread across 22 of the country’s 28 states, an area whose population is nearly 700 million!

It is hard to fathom!  Getting around Delhi is impossible on a good day…with hundreds of trains stopped across the region and, in Delhi, the subway system stalled, the massive traffic jams are a site to behold.

Indians are however taking this all in stride, unless you run a business. India’s grid is still being developed and does not reach into many homes. An estimated 300 million Indians have no access to electricity as a matter of course. And as most of us know, localized failures are routine. No one bats an eye when the lights blink out in a restaurant or a business…many of them have generators. With so many businesses using backup generators life continued without much of a hiccup.

The root cause of the vast power failure was not immediately clear. India has struggled to generate enough power of its own to fuel businesses and light homes, and the country relies on huge imports of coal and oil to power its own plants. There is a lot of finger pointing going on right now.  While top government officials blamed several northern states for pulling more power from the national grid than they had been allotted, those states have been power needy for years.

It is also unlikely that power demands suddenly spiked this week since monsoon rains have lowered temperatures in recent weeks across much of northern India. An investigation has been started, with some government officials pointing to a relay problem near the Taj Mahal as the prime culprit.