The iconic motorcycle brand Royal Enfield has its own fan base. When the lockdown was announced the riders were devastated to know that they won’t be riding down a long stretch. The pandemic has also got the manufactures to ride through a rough road. Over the last four months, the company has closed some of its factories. The regional offices today are also not operational. The majority of employees are working from home and trying to function the same way they were doing before corona days.
We caught up with Vinod Dasari, CEO, Royal Enfield, to talk about their journey amid the pandemic, how the company is managing the workers during this crisis, and more.
Here are the excerpts of the interview.
COVID-19 seems to be accelerating digital transformation in the workplace across industries. What's your take on fast-tracking the digital agenda amid this crisis?
Royal Enfield has always focused on bringing more value and engagement to our customers across all levels of brand interaction to create an involved purchase and ownership experience that is seamless and hassle-free. In line with that, we have rolled out a slew of initiatives that offer contactless purchase and service experience. We are enabling customers to own the motorcycle in three simple steps without as much as walking into a store. We have enabled home test ride, online booking and e-payment. And then the product is delivered at the doorstep.
During the lockdown period, we rolled out several digital campaigns with the idea of creating an intrinsic connection with our riders and to keep the momentum of the riding spirit high. We have received a great response from our customers. Our mentions and conversation around the brand on social media platforms have witnessed an upsurge with an increase of more than 50 percent. The engagement across platforms has been at an all-time high.
At Royal Enfield, we want to provide a platform for our employees to help them come together, learn, and engage, and be motivated
There will be large portions of the workforce that will not return to a traditional office post-pandemic. How prepared are you for that?
The pandemic situation has forced all of us to remain confined to our homes. People are working from home, have limited social interaction, and are perhaps dealing with uncertainty and anxiety. As organizations and leaders, it is important for us to empathize and help employees overcome their anxiety.
At Royal Enfield, we have been actively engaging in programs that have been preparing us for a new normal, if we may call it so. We want to provide a platform for our employees to help them come together, learn, and engage, and be motivated. Taking inspiration from the Ted Talks, we launched our very own RED Talks (Royal Enfield Discussions). The RED Talks is aimed at enabling employees to learn from each other’s experience and thereby making full use of each other's creative potential. From leadership and management lessons to technical DIY sessions, to general musings on travel and music, and to tips and tricks to better your culinary skills, RED Talks have had employees taking the platform and speaking to others to help each other learn something new every week.
Going beyond employees, we have also opened up RED Talks for our external stakeholders and business partners. We have regularly remained engaged with all our vendors and business partners, through this period, through formal and informal forums to keep them apprised of our plans, and more importantly to support them in whatever manner required.
Our aim is to keep people constructively engaged since despair can set in during this period of near solitary confinement, especially for those who are braving the lockdown without the support of their families.
Additionally, we’ve also made accessible learning courses that worked out to nearly 10,000 hours of learning. As an organization, we want to make the most of the given situation and would like to come out sharper both physically and mentally.
What kind of impact have you seen on the business and workforce due to this pandemic and how are you preparing your business and workforce for the post-COVID-19 times?
Our focus has always been to offer a pure motorcycling experience with all our products and propositions, complemented by our community engagement initiatives. However, in the wake of the pandemic, we have also prioritized the immediate need of the hour and channelized our energies to become a survivalist brand which not just foresees but caters to the evolving needs of the customers. We have digitized our services and have rethought the entire supply chain and distribution with contact-less retail, online configurator, and digital experiences at dealerships. On the customer side, we provided services like test ride at your doorstep, contactless servicing, and seamless ownership experience.
Royal Enfield has shut down various offices across the country due to the crisis. There is no certainty of this crisis coming to an end. How are you planning to get back into action?
Royal Enfield has been thinking about making the workplace more efficient even before the pandemic. We have ensured that maximum number of employees work from home for roles that can be delivered remotely to reduce employee concentration at our offices and plants. That has worked very well for us and in fact many of our regional offices will continue to work from home. In a lot of places, our field force used to complain that they have to travel a lot between the regional office and their own homes and then visit the dealer in between and so on. So travel was a major headache, especially in crowded places like Delhi, Bombay, Bangalore, and Chennai. This has also increased work-life balance and hence efficiencies.
What are some of the leadership lessons that have guided you in the current times of crisis?
Leadership at these times becomes crucial to steer everyone in the right direction. A good leader not only understands this but instills a collective vision and hope for the future. During a crisis, incentives and motivations change, potentially leading to new cooperative behaviors and even to the creation of new systems or structures. Crises can get the collective adrenaline flowing, focusing minds to solve the problem at hand.
The need of the hour is to stay aware, be empathetic towards each other, and lend a kind hand in whichever way possible
In moments like these, when the choices we make are so impactful, people look up to leadership to not just be empathetic but astute and agile as well. The mantra to run with would be to stay - Hungry, Humble and Humane. At an individual level, what this means is that the need of the hour is to stay aware, be empathetic towards each other and lend a kind hand in whichever way possible.
One cannot expect to write something on the wall and hope for people to follow it. It is about the ability to do more, show people their true potential, and show them a better world. One has to show how it is possible. The only way you can build this is to build a connection. Leadership is the capacity of the person to connect with others.