India’s largest private bank, HDFC Bank, should have seen it coming. After all, its woes have been at least three years in the making. On Saturday, 21 November, at about 4 PM, the bank’s chief information officer (CIO) and group IT head Ramesh Lakshminarayanan got a call from the head of its data centre operations. Transactions were not going through. 

By 5 PM, transactions across its entire payment stack—from internet banking and UPI UPI Unified Payments Interface UPI is a real-time digital payments system that’s owned by the central bank-promoted NPCI  to mobile banking—began failing. “It’s then that we realised that something was wrong at the data centre,” said a senior HDFC executive. HDFC’s data centre is located at the Reliance Communication (RCom)-owned Dhirubhai Ambani Knowledge City (DAKC), a sprawling 133-acre campus in Navi Mumbai with five internet data centres.

While HDFC Bank and DAKC have not been forthcoming with the reason for this outage, The Ken learnt that there have been similar instances in the past when there have been outages because of unpaid power bills, said a senior HDFC executive. In addition to that, the senior executive added that the data centre’s power backups had also failed in the past. A second source who is associated with DAKC confirmed this. HDFC Bank and Reliance Group did not respond to specific questions about these issues. 

Data centres need an uninterrupted power supply, so they have two levels of fail safes. First, a UPS system that will keep the lights on for 10-15 minutes. This is followed by power from a diesel-run AC generator that will ideally keep everything running for at least two days. But there have been problems with the backups in the past, said the senior HDFC executive.  The Ken asked both HDFC Bank and Reliance Group about these claims via email, but received no response.

HDFC’s data centre issues are long-standing, according to at least three sources The Ken spoke to. India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), even came down hard on it. It banned banned Business Standard Irked by outages, RBI asks HDFC Bank to halt fresh digital launches for now Read more HDFC from issuing new credit cards, one of its more profitable businesses. This sent HDFC, the largest credit card issuer in the country, running to fix its systems. Last week in a call call Livemint HDFC Bank submits blueprint to RBI on plugging e-banking outages Read more  with analysts, it said it was laying out a plan to the RBI, which the regulator has to review.

AUTHOR

Arundhati Ramanathan

Arundhati is Bengaluru-based. She is interested in how people use money in the digital age and how new economies will take shape based on that interaction. She has spent over 10 years reporting and writing on various subjects. Previous stints were at Mint, Outlook Business and Reuters.

View Full Profile

Subscribe to read this story

The Ken is the only business subscription you need. Questions?

 

Premium

  • 5 original and reported longform business stories every week
  • Access to ONLY India edition
  • Close to 250 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters
  • 4 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to ONLY Southeast Asia edition
  • Close to 200 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to all paywalled stories since March 2020
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters

Rs. 2,750 /year

$ 120 /year

India Edition
Subscribe Subscribe
Most Asked For

Borderless

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories

Rs. 4,200 /year

Subscribe
 

Echelon

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories
  • Bonus annual gift subscription
  • Priority access to all new products and features

Rs. 8,474 /year

Subscribe
Or

Questions?

What kind of subscription plans do you offer?

We have three types of subscriptions
- Premium which gives you access to either the India or the Southeast Asia edition.
- Borderless which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions
- Echelon which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions along with a bonus gift subscription

What do I get if I subscribe?

The Premium edition gives you access to stories in that edition along with any five subscriber-only newsletters of your choice.

The Borderless and Echelon subscription gives you complete access to The Ken across editions and unlimited access to as many newsletters as you like.

What topics do you usually write about?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics. We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

Our specialised subscriber-only newsletters are written by our expert, award-winning journalists and cover a range of topics across finance, retail, clean energy, cryptocurrency, ed-tech and many more.

How many newsletters do you have?

We are constantly adding specialised subscriber-only newsletters all the time. All of these are written by our team of award-winning journalists on a specialised topic.

You can see the list of newsletters that we publish over here.

Does a Premium subscription to your Indian edition get me access to the Southeast Asia edition? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

We recommend the Borderless or the Echelon Plan which will give you access to stories across both editions.

Do you have a mobile app?

Yes! We have a top-rated mobile app on both iOS and Android which allows you to read on-the-go and has some amazing features like the ability to bookmark stories, save on your device, dark mode, and much more. It’s really the best way to read The Ken.

Is there a free trial?

You can sign up for a free account to experience The Ken and understand our products better. We’ll send you some free stories and newsletters occasionally, and you can access our archive of previously published free stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

The vast majority of our stories, articles and newsletters can be accessed only by a paid subscription.

Do you offer any discounts?

Sorry, no. Our journalism is funded completely by our subscribers. We believe that quality journalism comes at a price, and readers trust and pay us so that we can remain independent.

Do you offer refunds?

No. We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Just write to us at [email protected] with details. We’ll help you out.

I have a few more questions. How can I reach out to you?

Sure. Just email us at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter.