In my first attempt to write, I had mentioned that we are sure that the world will restart. We are also certain that nobody knows when the world will limp back towards normalcy. Unfortunately, I have been correct. Several studies in top universities across the world using advanced predictive modelling; experts from politics, epidemiology, microbiology, and related areas had predicted life to move towards normal from the month of July. Economists had advised that governments must make a choice between lives and livelihood. Most countries have taken definite steps towards reopening markets, offices, and malls to restart the economic activities and to boost the morale of the public who has got fed up staying at home during extended periods of lockdown. Work from home and living in small cramped spaces have led to psychological and physical discomfort. My take is philosophical. Let us only worry about what we can control and try not to worry about what we cannot. One must grind out this period of crisis and remaining uninfected and healthy is the key survival tactics for all of us. In India, the first phase of unlock has witnessed spiralling of the numbers of infected people. We need to wait and watch how it progresses. However, life must move on. We consult with several client organizations and the discussions with the owners/senior teams of these organizations have been never like before. HR, marketing, sales, and CRM feature prominently in our discussions. People development through training is being considered by few organizations. Two questions which we are trying to answer with our client organizations are- what now and what next? The shifting goalpost about life getting towards normal is complicating matters for all of us. There are few lessons that we have learnt from this dynamic ‘scenario building’ which I want to share with you. The first lesson is live and act for today. Let me illustrate through a case study of a large player in the skill development industry which has more than 100 centres across India. Two challenges stared at this company- when will the government allow the commencement of the operations of centres which are dedicated to the skill development initiative of the government? Second challenge was how to continue the training of students who are enrolled for the training in the non-government (paid by student) business of the organization? Revenues stopped suddenly with staff remaining intact. The first decision was based on the conviction that the world will restart without anybody knowing when it will. Instead of retrenching, the organization opted for leave without pay option for majority of employees to survive this crisis. Indications are that the centres executing the government skill development programmes will be given permission to restart within this month. The planning at this moment is focussing on how to start and with which staff to be recalled to duty. The next steps will be decided after the centres open and students enrolled are contacted to understand their motivation to visit the centres to attend the classes and their preparedness to undertake few classes online. The second lesson is from the ACG-9-Box Framework for business strategy which I had discussed in my last article. The concept was applied on a client who is a premier jewellery brand. Jewellery is discretionary buy unless it becomes a necessity for occasions like wedding. Personal experience suggested that several families postponed wedding plans by couple of months based on the initial impression that life will return towards normal from the month of July. It did not. Moreover, customer behaviour suggests that somehow jewellery purchase for wedding is done during the ‘auspicious’ months i.e. the months when wedding dates are available as per the astrological calendars. April-July and November to February are the main windows for weddings. The brand we consult does not believe in making numerous offers throughout the year. The steady and increasing price of gold and the client not offering discounts during this period intersected to create an opportunity. The brand made an attractive offer to customers during June and July to get the wedding jewellery purchase advanced for the next season. Results showed that few customers also looked at gold as a ‘safe’ investment during these uncertain times. Results have been much beyond expectation. The customer footfalls during the promotion has been far less than regular footfalls as compared to June 2019. However, the average purchase value per customer is far higher and the conversion ratio of people purchasing to the footfalls is 100%. Additionally, the cost of media and advertising to inform customers about the promotion has been one-third the cost of normal times. The third lesson is crisis is an opportunity for few brands. This third case study is from the healthcare sector. One of our client organizations has invested in creating a state-of-the-art hospital in one of the north eastern states. The hospital has been in operation for nearly eight years. The business had stabilized over the years. However, it was nowhere compared to the estimated potential of the state. The reason was simple. Patients who believed that they had complicated illness to be treated preferred to fly out to larger cities for their treatment. Several hospitals from all over the country had invested in ‘information centres’ to aid this process. The suspension of flights was the key to the sudden spurt in business for this hospital. The potential of the place has been validated by the business numbers. The key is to build the confidence of the population at large in the state on the efficacy rates, cost of treatment and overall patient experience at this hospital. The focus is on delivery of service and experience instead of business development. The shift in the customers’ path to purchase in the healthcare business is being closely tracked and monitored to reengineer the processes, policies, and competencies of the employees to prepare for what is next. The fourth lesson is desperation should lead to structured thinking instead of random decisions. This is an interesting case study. We were asked to deliver a training to all the managers in a travel services company on embracing and managing change. This session was delivered in the early days of lockdown i.e. last week of March. In that session we had impressed upon the team that travel services will be one of the worst impacted sectors for obvious reasons. To negotiate this crisis, the team must focus on the core strengths of the organization and the reason why their customers chose this company over their competitors. The discussions to find the answer to this crucial question was the foundation for several diversified businesses which this organization has started to generate revenue when their primary business has collapsed. The fifth lesson is people matter most in this period of crisis. We have embarked on an interesting initiative with a large media house on offering our training and people development services to small businesses who normally do not pay as much attention to the development of their employees. The media house has created a personal motivation for the owner of the business where we are supporting the initiative as the knowledge and training partner. The proposition is simple- most organizations have reduced their manpower as the first step in cost control. Why not get higher productivity from those who have been retained? The concept has been understood by these business owners. We expect to introduce pragmatic HR practices and customised training to help these businesses grow their businesses profitably. This has been the promise that we have made since the beginning of the journey and remain committed to that in whatever services that we offer. Let us all focus on the now. Next needs to be anticipated with a dynamic and fluid plan instead of rigid strategies.

1 thought on “What now? What next?”

  1. Sir,

    Great insight and relevant case study wrt pandemic,,, but in my views the org, thought about their survival, but not about employees ,,If you navigate google you will come across org. who survived and so were the employees, Dont you think the basic difference between mid-cap and well being org. is mostly because of the Management mindset and prudence.

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