2020 will go down in history as a year of change. The year has brought about many changes right from the way we live to the way we study to the way we work and it is not just one set of people or one set of industry that has been impacted with the virus. All sectors and industries witnessed a shift in the way they operate and do business.
One of the sectors that witnessed a dramatic transformation was the building materials industry. However, as adapting to change is not a new phenomenon for the building material industry, it sprung back fast. Today, from a near nil situation the industry is rapidly regaining its lost ground. Not only has production resumed, the sales and revenue are moving fast to the pre-covid levels. The recovery wasn’t easy. It required a conscious shift in approach at all levels. The industry had to accept many changes.
The building materials industry in India was always traditional in its approach to employment and work. The need to work remotely was minimum to nil depending on the place of business as the industry primarily involves manufacturing of goods. However, the pandemic forced everyone to the safety of their homes, which in turn led companies to re-look at the way it functioned. They weighed different models of working to ensure business continuity. Some adopted Work from Home models faster. They tried and provided infrastructure like computers and laptops so that work wherever possible was not halted. With people working across cities and employees unfamiliar with the concept of WFH led to coordination issues in the initial phase. It was a steep learning curve for many but with the history of adaptability that the industry has, people stepped up to the work from home culture.
While the industry managed to set its house in order, it had to face the challenge at the customer's end. Building material industry heavily relies on the construction industry which itself was going through a manpower crisis after the lockdown was lifted. Adding to this was the logistics nightmare. It affected the sales and revenues badly. It even led to an increase in inventory affecting the work at the factories and affecting the morale of the people involved in the industry. The sector had to face the most difficult challenge that it never had experienced before - to keep the morale of the employees positive. Most of the companies in the sector stayed in touch with their employees continuously and assured positivity to the workforce. Companies adopted different formal or informal measures to constantly update their talent. With the gradual release of the lockdown, the factories began production in stages. As the organizations took required measures to ensure both liquidation of existing stocks and safety & security of workers, in no time the business and production started coming back to normal.
While lock down had presented a new set of challenges, unlock also was not a smooth sail. With the pandemic still in force, the confidence of the employees to return to work was still low. In fact, unlock was far more challenging for the management and HR teams. Apart from following the safety protocols many companies invested in improving the morale of the employees. They tried and ensured all safety protocols. In a nutshell, it made HR teams get deep into employee engagement and communication.
The pandemic has taught valuable lessons to us. It has sharpened the bend of mind towards resilience. It has further opened the doors to technological advances and hybrid mode of operation, but what stands out was the way the industry and its stakeholders stood for each other during these testing times and sailed forward successfully.