Article: Battling COVID-19 crisis with ‘people at the core’ & ‘tech at the fore’


Battling COVID-19 crisis with ‘people at the core’ & ‘tech at the fore’

In a recent interview with People Matters, Rajesh Gupta, Director Finance & Group CFO, Havells India shares how the company is battling COVID-19 crisis with ‘people at the core’ & ‘tech at the fore’.
Battling COVID-19 crisis with ‘people at the core’ & ‘tech at the fore’

While the impact of the pandemic is inevitable, the current situation has presented a unique opportunity for organizations to adapt to the ‘New Normal’ with effective scenario planning and unfold the digital potential to drive business growth. For some organizations which already had technology in place, the transition to the new reality of work has been much easier. 

Rajesh Gupta, Director Finance & Group CFO, Havells India discusses how the presence of digital solutions and a digital mindset has helped the company sail through the crisis. 

How has the way you do business and the way you work transformed in these three months amid COVID-19 crisis? Which of these business and work trends do you think are here to stay?

The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged socio-economic developments globally. It has fundamentally changed the way we live, work, and have made ‘Work from Home’, ‘Social distancing’, and ‘accelerated use of technology’ as the ‘new normal’. 

During the lockdown period, our employees worked from home to contain the spread of the virus. Utilizing the lockdown period, we conducted various online training/upskilling sessions for employees and partners. We also took this opportunity to continuously stay in touch with our dealers, distributors to allay their fears. Our factories have resumed operations with strong compliance on hygiene and social distancing. The offices are being operated on a rotational basis to ensure adequate safety of employees. The business is gradually gaining traction as we strive to fulfil consumer demand through efficient production and supply chain.

Use of technology has come to fore with this lockdown. 

Physical presence for meetings and discussions are being replaced by virtual meetings. Social distancing will dictate the continuance of these practices along with a strong focus on hygiene and health practices at work. Fortunately, we at Havells quickly adapted and responded to the challenges as we are clear that this ‘new normal’ is going to stay for a longer period.

How has the role of digital increased in these three months? Are you planning to further accelerate digitization at Havells in 2020?

We have been investing in technology since decades and that has been a differentiating point at Havells. Be it technology for employees, or manufacturing or R&D, Havells has always been ahead of its peers.

With the current scenario at hand, it was critical for us to pick digital mediums to connect with all our stakeholders. Our employees, while working from home, had access to the latest technological tools, ensuring continued support to our partners and customers. The service team was accessible through multiple channels and was able to close customer calls through audio and video assistance. In a first-of-its-kind engagement with trade partners, live streaming was held for 9,000 dealers across India, apprising them of actions we are taking to protect their interests.

With the resumption of work at our 14 state of the art manufacturing units in the country, the already deployed AI and IoT solutions are only enabling us to maintain a safer environment for the workforce.

We recently implemented an AI solution to monitor that the COVID guidelines are strictly followed at all our plants. COVID-19 has expedited the role of digitization, it has changed the business scenarios completely. We will continue to unfold the digital potential with innovative solutions to manage our operations seamlessly and cater to consumer demands.

What are some of the challenges you are facing while making this transition to the new normal of work? How are you as a leader and as a company managing these challenges?

In these testing times, we as leaders had to mobilize and also sensitize the workforce to the new normal. While we introduced tech interventions and solutions to maintain business continuity, we had to make sure that each stakeholder is comfortable with the change.

Fortunately, at Havells, we have always kept technology at the core of our operations and that philosophy has rendered itself efficiently in these times. We also made sure to train the workforce adequately to address gaps, if any.

Everyone realizes that this is a unique situation, and hence every stakeholder is quite open to new forms of communication. At the same time we believe that it is equally important to nurture relationships and create an atmosphere of transparency. Once that trust is established, all the other logistical challenges are easy to fix.

How are your expectations from HR changing? What are some of the top business and talent priorities for you at present?

Like most roles, HR is also transforming with the times. There is a lot of focus on in-house training, upskilling and finding the right talent. At Havells, we follow ‘people at the core’ ‘technology at the fore’ ideology and that reflects in the HR model as well.

Havells being a hub for Research and Development, in-house designing and manufacturing focuses immensely on finding suitable talent that can contribute to our endeavours to create a more technologically advanced future.

What will be some of the critical factors driving business growth for the industry? How will it impact the demand for skills and talent?

While the impact of the pandemic is inevitable, the current situation has presented a unique opportunity for organizations to adapt to the ‘New Normal’ with effective scenario planning and unfold the digital potential to drive business growth. 

In the longer term, brands should focus on how the right set of talent and technology can help develop more resilient, sustainable, and robust businesses that are better equipped to deal with disruption in the future. 

The skills and talent in demand, while always evolving, is only increasing with time and that is an exciting space to be in.

How do you expect the future of work to shape up? How are you preparing your workforce for these changes?

The pandemic has fundamentally changed every aspect of the professional working pattern. We believe the virtual collaborative platforms will be at the centre of the new work model. 

The fathomed situation has awakened us all to address the need for contingency planning and execution. Our philosophy of ‘people at core’ helps us deliver a higher level of outcomes for all our stakeholders. The company has spent nearly 10,000 man hours of training for employees centred around upskilling, enhancing soft skills and also focusing on physical and mental wellness for a holistic development.

With our production facilities increasingly embedding smart technologies, the need for routine manual work is reducing, giving our workforce more time to focus and build their expertise on critical tasks, leading to improved efficiencies and productivity.

Personally, as a leader, how are you coping through these tough times and helping others also to sail through these choppy waters?

I think one big change that leaders of all hues have seen, is gained humility. The very fact that there would always be things beyond one’s control, would be a new lesson to many amongst us who believed in the dictum “anything is possible if you try hard enough”. The presence of a force “bigger” than us, has awakened us all to the need for contingency planning. 

At the same time, investments in training, new avenues of sales like- on-line, online to offline models, will gain in intensity. The biggest challenge every senior executive has had to face is the concept of personal space. While in office he/she has a personal space, but working from home, where spaces are shared, it sometimes becomes difficult.

I believe our team is quite understanding and open to help in these unprecedented times especially to the challenges that have come our way. The level of maturity people have shown is commendable. As soon as we were hit with a lockdown, employees were able to adapt to the new working style almost instantly. Infact to our surprise even the team members who were considered ‘conventional’ and slow to adapt to technology, given that there was no option, quickly changed and adapted well.

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Topics: Technology, #ResetwithTech, #TechHRIN

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