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Srinivas Rao K

COVID-19 is causing a lot of fear all around. Fear of infection is there for each one of us. But this is only one type of fear. The Businesses are suffering the fear of uncertainty. Where will the topline come from? How will we pay the Salaries and Wages of the Employees without proper top line? It seems even the famous Venkateshwara Temple in Tirupathi is going through these uncertain times. They are not having enough money to pay the huge contingent of employees that the Lord has in terms of TTD! I am sure the TTD will find a way. But the Businesses seem to have big problem at least in the immediate term. It is not just about big businesses. Even the small businesses right from Barber shop to a Management Consultant to a Trainer to a Recruiter are suffering a high anxiety level. 

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Employees are losing jobs. There are many messages in my Inbox about Good and competent people losing the jobs. Wonderful professionals otherwise losing their way temporarily. 

Fear is also an energy. A negative one. But it can be a great motivator if used well. 

Businesses and individuals should use the current situation to reenergize their Plans for Growth. They have to go to areas where they never even tried to go. This is the time to learn new Skills, new methodologies and challenge the fear. 

Let us look at one area in the Business in this article. The Top line. How do companies rediscover themselves in the area of whom they are serving and how they are serving. How do we find higher Topline in these times. 

I am not saying I have some magic wand. But one needs undying Positivity during these times. A belief in themselves that they can transform themselves as needed. The Positivity can be a magic wand. 

Clarify ‘Why’ you are doing what you are doing! 

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One also needs to link to the higher purpose of what one is doing. Do not run after the Top line alone for the sake of top line!! A Consultant will have to find out what really motivates him. Is it the money that the client gives or is it the Development of the Businesses that gives you a kick? Can you get motivated by building high performance teams in companies? Can you get motivated by Companies adapting new technology and going to the next level? Can you get motivated by Indian Manufacturing becoming world class? 

Looking at bigger Businesses, a Foundry can look at the higher purpose of utilizing less resources and taking care of environment while they are chasing turnover OR you make the ‘Environmentally friendly and efficient foundry’ as your goal. Then the Business will follow. A Textile company can chase the dream of becoming an efficient company that can serve the humanity with its’ technologically superior products in these Pandemic times. The whole humanity wants Clothes / Bedding products / Home textiles that are safe to use. That can protect them from the Virus. A wonderful opportunity for a right-thinking company. 

An Engineering Company that is producing Capital goods can look at making their Products World Beating products now if they are not. If they are able to diversify into Products that are in demand right now, that is quite good. We can see many companies that are venturing into producing Ventilators. 

This re-orientation is a must to survive this short-term fear and help yourself to propel into a higher orbit. 

Do not chase the Top line alone to take care of your Top line. Re-orient towards the ‘why’ part of what you are doing. Find a higher purpose of ‘Why’ you are doing what you are doing.

Having set the context, we can look at a few options in front of Businesses in these Pandemic times:

01.  Look at Adjacencies: A Recruiter should look at helping the Companies to redefine the Organization structures, he can look at Coaching the Senior people to become effective. A Trainer should look at turning to Video training. But training methods suitable for this type of engagement have to be adapted. 

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A Textile Company should look at diversifying into Hospital products. A Capital goods company can look at providing the Services of their products in place of their products. Your Clients may not be interested in buying your products. But they may be interested in it as a service. A

Compressor company can look at providing Compressed air as a solution in place of giving a Compressor. They can set up Compressed air stations and provide Compressed air to the Companies around the Center. This may require more technology than what they have. But that is the challenge. 

A Stone Crushing Plant manufacturer can look at providing the service to the clients by setting up his own Plants owned by the Company itself. 

An Engineering Company that had been ignoring its’ Spares business will find it the right time to enter into it. 

02.  Look at introducing New Products to suit the new situations: Bring out all your New Product Plans that you have been shelving as your team was not free. 

This is the time to bring out the family of products that are more efficient. Bring out the Products that your clients have been waiting for. 

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An Automotive Parts company can look at introducing parts with higher efficiency. A Textile company would bring out the Apparel that may include matching Face masks, Face shield. Products with Anti microbial / Anti viral coatings. Earlier only Hospitals were looking for Bed sheets with specialized coatings. Now even the Hotels would be looking for it. A huge opportunity for the right-thinking company. 

An Engineering Products company can come out with more energy efficient products. 

03.  New Markets: No company is operating in ALL markets. Not for ALL products. This is the time for going into new Markets for all your Products. 

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If you do not have enough Exports, then it is the time to get into the Export market. A tough time to do that. But remember the problem of not being able to travel is there even for your potential customers overseas. But they are looking at improving their efficiency as much as you are looking for your growth. 

Same thing will apply to the various markets within India. 

If you have been ruling out certain markets as you do not have products, now is the time to look at those markets. 

04.  Diversification: You had been planning the Diversification into a different Product for a long time. But you had been too busy to complete this Project. This is the time to bring the Project forward and complete it. 

A Trainer may have been planning to get into using E-Learning to enrich his offering. Now is the time to find the right partner for this and take it forward. 

An Engineering Products that had been planning into Medical Engineering Products will find the current situation more than welcome.

A Foundry or Machine shop that had been planning a Diversification into their Product can go ahead now. 

An FMCG company that had been building its Brand will find this situation apt for launching different products. People are at home now and are having more time now to take a look at the new products. More snacking is happening now than ever. This is a wonderful time for new products from a known Brand. 

A Consultant who can give solutions for Companies to rediscover themselves can be in demand. 

05.  E-Commerce: Everyone knows that now the E-Commerce is going to boom and Customers would look at going online for more products than they had been doing. Now, how can you modify your offerings to suit this preference of the Customer? 

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A Trainer has to become effective on Zoom and deliver results. 

A Consultant should be able to inspire his client’s team to go to the next level online! This is an entirely new level for most of the consultants. 

E-Commerce can be used effectively whether it is B2B, B2C or C2C. This is already happening in terms of Amazon, Flipkart and so on. 

The question is how do you get into this yourself? You need to draw up a Plan for a big push in this area. A Big Goal has to be set up in this area. 

The right talent has to be brought in and the Company has to start off the journey in a confident manner. 

If you have not been selling using the E-commerce platform, then it is a huge opportunity for you. You can look at selling your Products / Services using the E-Commerce platform. 

Virtual Customer Relationship Centers

Every Company should look at building closer relationships with their Customers. Currently it is difficult to be in touch with the Customers in person. Hence every Company should find its’ own way of building closer relationship with the Customers using the Digital platforms. Companies need to invest into Digital Customer Interaction centers. You can use Zoom and give them Presentations. But you can go much beyond these normal Presentations. 

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You can let the Customers much more into your Company and give them peek into your work and your factories. There is going to be much more invention in this area. How can you tie up a bigger relationship with your Customer? Earlier they were coming to your Company once in few months. Only a few people would come from your Customer or few people from your company would go there. But now you have opportunity to build relationship with a larger team at the Customer Company and in more regular manner. They are available to you every day if you can interest them. 

So, how are you going to grow this year and beyond? 

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Description automatically generatedManufacturing requires stable manpower. The Manufacturing process has to be learnt by the team that is working on the shop. This includes the Workmen as well as the Staff. This team would eventually learn the process so well that they would be able to produce high quality products. Over years, the skill of these employees would become an Asset for the Company. I still remember the Shop Employees who used to just look at the Product and tell about the status of Quality of the product. They did not need any Quality instruments to check the Quality of the Product! That comes with involvement and experience. The relations among the employees was always harmonious. This is how the traditional Manufacturing used to work. Workmen used to join a company and they retire from the same company. 


But in the past decade, the Companies started exercising various options of employing people that focused on keeping them for a temporary period and getting rid of them when the demand is low. The care for workmen started coming down. The Migrant labor has become a major part of the Employees for many types of organizations. Not just Manufacturing. Even if you go to a Restaurant in any City, you would see only Migrant Labor serving you. They are there in just about every industry. 


The Workmen/Employees also are not having a great attachment to the Company as they know that they will be fired whenever the Market demand goes down. In many of the South Indian Companies the Supervisors / Managers do not even know the Hindi language that the Migrant Labor speak. There is no ‘relationship’ between the Company and the Workmen. Workmen go off on holiday whenever they want. They do not even care to inform their Company as there is no ‘relationship’.


Earlier even the MD of the Company would come to shop floor and be in continuous touch with the Workmen. There is always an emotional bond between the Employees and the Company. Now it is still there in some companies with permanent workmen. But almost every Company is employing temporary workmen in some form or the other. The Company does not have any relationship with these workmen. Workmen return the favor! 


Our observation is that there is no winner in this game. Both sides are suffering. Let us see how.

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Companies: Companies do have the option of firing the employees when the demand goes down. But they also cannot get the employees when they need. When there is huge Market demand and pressure from Customers, the Companies are not able to serve the full demand. Companies lose production for every major festival. Our observation is that Companies are losing the opportunity to do about 15-20% higher Top line just because they are not able to mobilize the people when they want. This is applicable to every industry. As the Employees do not have great attachment to the Company, the Quality of their work is not the best. Companies lose on this count too. The Quality losses due to this reason are at least to an extent of 3-5%. As there is high attrition, the Productivity of the Workmen suffers. Employees take a long time to come to 100% output level. Companies are losing about 30-40% output due to this. The nature of employment is one of the biggest reasons for the low Productivity of the Indian Manufacturing! Companies seem to simply ignore this and focus on short term gains!! Are there any gains at all? Companies are losing on Topline, Bottom line. Most of the Companies are in a hurry to show the short-term results and ignoring this elephant in the room! 


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Description automatically generatedEmployees: Employees can jump from one company to the other at their will. They are able to find jobs. But they also lose them at the drop of a hat! When the Economy is down or when a calamity like the current one happens, the Employees are undergoing unimaginable suffering. The fate of Labor in the current COVID-19 Pandemic is pitiable and it troubles the collective conscience of the Nation. The People who are making the Country move are moving on their feet for 1000s of KMs to reach their homes! Many are losing their lives on the way! Even in the normal times the Employees do not have a longer-term idea of their status. They do not know when they would be stopped by their employer. They do not have an idea of how they will educate their children, nor they have an idea of how they will build a house of their own and so on. 


So, who is winning? No one! There is a need for a larger solution that will take care of the interests of everyone involved and help India to improve the Productivity in its’ manufacturing. 


Here, we are suggesting a Solution to this Problem. 


We are not claiming that the Solution that we are proposing is the Best one. But we are pushing for ‘A Solution’. If the Powers that decide these Policies hear our voice, we will be happy. The current Government is having the Leadership and the mandate that are needed to take some bold steps! As a Country that is trying to step up to be a Developed Country, we need to address this area that is begging for attention. COVID highlighted many problems in the World. The issue of Temporary Labor in India is one of them. 


National Employment Grid (NEG)

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Today there are laws about Minimum Wages for every type of Industry. These are serving well. Government is updating them in line with inflation. So, we will not talk about how much to be paid. The Minimum Wages can definitely serve as the basis.


A National Employment Grid (NEG) for workmen should be formulated. This should be a Cloud based Grid that will allow every able person to register themselves as ‘willing to work’. To begin with this, Grid may serve the Workmen in every industry. It may cover the employees below a certain level in I.T and ITES industries too. 


An Indian Citizen should be able to register himself/herself on this Grid with some documentation to prove their Citizenship. They can denote their preference for the Place of work. They may indicate their experience or Training credentials. There are several Skill Training centers across the Country. The qualifications that these Centers give and the basic Educational Qualifications that they have will be updated on to the Grid. The additional training / experience data will be automatically updated on to the Grid from the Companies / Training institutions. The Grid may use the Aadhar card and the Aadhar number as UID. 


The NEG will address the following critical elements:


01.  NEG is a must: Every Company wanting to engage Workmen have to go thru only the NEG. No Company can recruit Employees directly. 

02.  Mobility of Workmen: The Mobility of Workmen across the Companies is not discouraged. It is left to the free will of the Workmen. This will ensure that they are not tied to a Company and they will be able to choose the Company that they will work for in the region of their choice. 

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Description automatically generatedWages: The Minimum Wages serve as the minimum Safety net from government. But beyond this, the Wages are determined by Demand and Supply in the respective regions. 

04.  NEG Core fund: Every Company that wants to use the Labor from the Grid will contribute a certain amount to the Grid for the Welfare of the Employees every year. This fund will be utilized for a few purposes that will be detailed later in this article. The Private Limited and Limited companies that have to spend on CSR will be encouraged to contribute to this Fund. Government may allow this as ‘spent on CSR’. The amount that a Company has to contribute will depend on their Turnover. The Companies that fire the employees most will contribute more. Those Companies that do not fire their employees will be asked to pay only a minimum amount. They will be encouraged to contribute more as it would be eligible as a CSR spend. 

05.  Unemployment allowance: The Companies can discontinue the employees when they do not have demand. But the Workmen will be paid a certain percentage of their Wages as ‘Unemployment allowance’. The amount of allowance will be directly related to the number of years of experience and Performance. 

06.  Annual Leave: The employees will be able to choose when they want to take their annual Long leave that may coincide with any festival of their choice. This will ensure that every Employees goes home, and it is not a surprise to the employer. Employer can balance their employees by taking those that have different preferences to ensure many people do not go off on leave at a time. 

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Description automatically generatedRecord of Employees: The Performance record of every employee will be uploaded by the Company on to the Grid every Quarter. The performance may be measured on the basis of few indicators such as:

a.     Productivity

b.     Quality

c.     Attendance 

d.     Discipline

08.  Independent Auditors: Government may appoint Independent Auditors to audit the whole system from time to time. 

09.  Skill Building: Government will open Skill Development Centers in partnership with Private Players to train the Workmen in various activities required in the Companies in various industries. 

10.  Continuous Education: Employees will be encouraged to continuously equip themselves with better qualifications. Government will subsidize the education through Skill Development Council. This will ensure that the Employees are upskilled in line with higher automation that will happen in every industry. 

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Description automatically generatedHousing and Education: The Employees will be provided with subsidized Housing and support for the education of their children wherever they are working. These benefits will be applicable to those Employees who fit certain conditions:

a.     Those who have a good Performance Record across companies that they have worked for.

b.     Longevity of their Service

12.  Higher wages for a Company that Is not able to retain its’ employees. A Company that is firing its employees frequently or not able to retain its employees as they feel the working conditions are not good will have to pay a higher Wage to attract employees.  While partly the demand and supply will take care of Wages, the Government may penalize those companies that do not take care of their employees.


While the NEG will be supported by Government and the Industry, the critical factors of how long the employer will retain the employees, how long will an employee work at a Company will be decided by the larger forces at play. A Company will be able to retain Employees for longer time if they take care of their employees. If they are firing the employees too soon, they will have to pay higher wages, they have to contribute more to the NEG Core fund and they may not be able to attract the employees like they are able to do it now as the workmen will have a support structure to find alternate employment. 


Employees will be encouraged to stay with companies and give good performance as that will decide whether the employee will be eligible for the Housing and Education benefits. Also, the next employer will take him/her only if there is good performance. 


Funding: How will the NEG get funded? How will this be a feasible option? How can Millions of employees get Housing and Education for their employees? We believe the contributions from the Companies and Government can make it happen. Companies will gain from this A picture containing person, clock, woman, holding

Description automatically generatedsystem more than they contribute as there will be a stability in the Workmen. While workmen can leave and join another company, he will be encouraged to stay in one Company as he will become eligible for Housing and free education for his children if he puts up good performance in companies. If the Companies pay a competitive Wage, they can retain good employees. 


Companies would gain in Top line, Bottom line (Productivity, Quality) by making NEG a success. 


A Stability will come about for the Companies as well as the Employees. The Longer-term objectives of both parties will be addressed by a NEG. 


We are sure that this suggestion can be improved in many ways. But we should look at solving this problem once and for all. 


With the current situation of hiring and firing, no one is winning! 


Sunday, 03 May 2020 00:00

Time for You:2.0

COVID is influencing each one of us and the whole world. It is creating a huge change in our lives. 

For some of us who have got infected by it or a family member infected by it, the change is very deep and emotional. None of us would have heard about this Virus couple of months back. To get infected and suffering due to the Virus would have been a big shock. From what I heard; this Virus causes severe damage to the body. Luckily for many Indians, the virus was not at its’ virulent worst. But still if you got infected by it and survived, it is definitely the 2.0 Version of you right now in circulation. You would value the life even more; you would believe there is something more that you have to do in this life. 

Lockdown and its’ effect

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Due to the Lock down and the effect of it, there are many changes that are happening. What I am experiencing and what I am hearing are as follows:

-       Everyone is spending more time with the family that is bringing them together.

-       Many couples are resolving long pending issues.

-       Many are able to connect with the Nature in a wonderful manner. Able to appreciate the beauty of nature. 

-       Many are working physically for the first time in their life as the Domestic helps are not available. 

-       Some are bringing out their talent. Like this Face book friend of mine who is cooking a wonderful meal every day and sharing the Recipes with everyone.

-       Someone started teaching yoga online.

-       Someone is sharing the importance of natural remedies. 

-       I have relaunched my YouTube Channel.

-       I have launched IMA’s ‘Work Management Systems’ initiative online for the first time in a Company. We launched it in about 20 companies so far. But doing it online is for the first time.

-       Many people have become more aware of the need for physical exercise. 

-       Many are learning several skills online. 

-       Several Parents are able to teach their children the household chores in this time. 

The Virus has inflicted an unimaginable suffering on some sections of the society. Especially the Migrant Labor and the Daily wage earners. These are the vulnerable members of the society. It has exposed how important is a safety net for the Vulnerable part of our Society. There is a need to address this section of people immediately.

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It is also exposing  how weak is our Health Care System in the Country. The stories emerging from the Hospitals are showing the valor of our frontline warriors and it is also showing the weak nature of our Health care system. 

The Virus will cause some deep changes in our society and the way we are working. There are some Changes that have started in our Businesses that are now becoming Tectonic Changes. They are gathering speed now. 

The biggest change that is gathering speed is one of ‘Improvement in efficiency’. Every Company would look to improve their efficiency. This would give rise to dependence on Technology much more than what it is now. Every Company would look to more efficient use of Technology. 


Now, you have to discover the next version of yourself. The next version needs to have the following characteristics: 

-       Highly Skilled: If you do not have a specific skill, then your job would be at stake. The Skill that you have should be in demand. Eg. If you have been an Engineer who had been a Supervisor in a Manufacturing unit, then you need to learn specific skills like Lean Manufacturing, Industry 4.0, Data analytics and so on that can help you improve the efficiency of your Manufacturing.

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-       Ability to Develop a new Vision for your Business: If you have been carrying on your Business in a particular way and making a certain profit, now you have to rediscover your Business. You may have to refocus your Business on to new areas. You may have to rediscover the methods of doing Business. Eg. A Company that had been doing business in a certain way is trying to improve their Productivities 10X. They are trying to eliminate the problems in Operations so that they can focus on the Market. This will transform their Business. 

-       Tech Savvy: You have to learn more about technology if you want to be relevant. Some of us are not even knowing how to get on to a Zoom call. I notice that even youngsters are not familiar with simple Technology. Now you have to learn the Technology that is relevant to your Business. 

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-       Health conscious: You have to be highly health conscious. You need to start going to the Gym, take care of yourself, start doing yoga and stay healthy. If not Carona, the next virus may get you. You need to be fit enough to fight it off. 

-       Connect with Nature: Your activities have to be in alignment with the nature. There will be much more awareness about this post Covid. 

How should you make this happen?

While you may have intention to do it, you need to find a way to make this happen. We would suggest the following way:

a)     Formulate the Goals: Work out the Goals for your Transformation on the basis of the knowledge that you have right now. You may have to modify your goals as you go along. But you need to get the Directions of the Goals right. You can talk to appropriate people around you. 

b)    Recognize the Urgency: Unless you are fully convinced, the change will not happen. You need to recognize the urgency of this change. You need to think deep and relate this change to your Life goals. You need to get the need for change right. You need to relate this Transformation to some higher goal of your life. 

c)     Find new associations: If you are trying to Transform yourself, then you need to associate with appropriate people. Same old associations will not take you there. Try becoming part of Social Groups that have people whom you may not know. Here, the CEO Groups, TIE Cohorts are useful. 

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d)    Take Coaching help: It would be good to take the help of a Coach in this journey. A good Coach can help your Transformation to accelerate.  An experienced CEO Coach can make a big difference for you.

e)    Motivate yourself: You need to keep motivating yourself with the small progress that you may make on the way. It would be good to form a group of your friends who may have similar goals. 

You would find more ways to make it happen after you start the journey! 

Let the ‘You 2.0’ start to emerge !! 


Sunday, 26 April 2020 00:00

How to manage with 40% of your Manpower?

Manufacturing will restart sometime. But you will not be able to deploy all your manpower in the current situation. To avoid crowding at the work place, the Government will not allow full manpower for quite sometime to come. 

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Safety is first Priority: When you reopen, Production is not the first priority. Priority is Safety of your Team. How do you ensure safe working of employees without infecting them. Already there are a few examples of Factories contributing to the spread of the Virus. The factory near Mysuru is a case in point. We need to ensure we take maximum precautions. We addressed the Risk Identification and Mitigation Plan in earlier articles. 

Demand may bounce back: Now let us look at how we can manage with only fraction of manpower that Government is going to allow. From what I hear, probably you will be allowed only 30-40% of manpower. When the Lockdown is ended in a gradual manner, the Demand may bounce back. Let us hope for the Best. If the Demand is going up and you have only 40% of manpower, how do you fulfil the demand? 

Low Productivity: Indian Manufacturing Companies have been sitting on huge Productivity improvement opportunities. We have been talking about it in many articles earlier. The Manpower is used in excess both in Shop floor and in offices. Both Blue Collar and White Collar Productivity opportunities are existing for a long time. 

Double Your Productivity: This is the time to Double Productivity at your Factories. You need to quickly put Teams together for this purpose. Let the Teams formulate Paper plans immediately and then you can try to take permission for small teams to go to the factory. 3-5 People teams are already visiting the Factories. These team members can be rotated and each line can be taken up for re-engineering by rotation. Our experience is that most of the Companies do not require huge amount of changes on the shop floor to double the Productivity. If a team is very clear about Lean Principles, then a Small team is enough to re-engineer a line. The Team can live telecast their work to a larger team sitting at homes. You need to re-engineer each operation. The target is to get same output with 50% manpower. 

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The other day a Company was allowed to start Production as they are serving the Medical fraternity. They had 140 people in place of the normal 275. The Team started Production. The motivation of the Team was high as they felt they are serving the nation in these troubled times. In 5 days, they started giving 95% of their normal output. In their words, they cut down on 'non-essential' work (NVAs). I am sure their high motivation would have helped. We need to study it and ensure it more sustainable. Some more work is definitely needed. But the team has shown how a Calamity can be turned in to an Opportunity. 

The Productivity improvement may continue after the Factory reopens too. But these Projects have to be made the top priority for the Company. Productivity can be improved no matter how good is the efficiency in the Company. 

We would recommend that the Companies do not go for high investment on Robots and so on immediately. We need to arrive at a situation where only Robots can add further value. But many companies can improve Productivity in a big way just by looking at their work methods and may be some small investments. We recommend that you put a very small budget for each line. This will ensure that the team will come up with the most Frugal Engineering ideas. We do not want to encourage temporary and flimsy work. But we should also not throw away big money when it is not needed. 

Using Industry 4.0 diligently : If Companies can use Industry 4.0 elements diligently, they can improve the efficiency in a big way. 

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Eg. A Machine shop will be able to use their machines much more effectively if they can schedule their Machines with the help of a Software that connects all the machines and monitors their loading. 

Eg. A Task assigner software can be developed to drive all the Routine work in a Factory like Process Quality monitoring / Machine monitoring / Production monitoring and so on. This software may work on smart phones. The time of the Executives can be used much more effectively with the help of this Software as it can schedule activities dynamically and ensure there is less unproductive time. 

Look for Immediate return on every Rupee that you spend on Industry 4.0. It will pay back!! 

Digitalisation: This is the time to go for Digitalisation in a big way in your office Activities. If you have not been acting on this agenda, now you have enough motivation to do it. The White Collar Productivity can be addressed with this. Each Department should take up the work of re-engineering their work and reworking the SOPs. If you did not have SOPs, then this is the time to write them. With all the team members sitting at home, they have all the time to write SOPs. Every Team should take the target of managing their work with 50% of the Man-hours that are available. 

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Companies like Siemens and Wipro are supporting Companies in Industry 4.0 and Digitalisation agenda. Already there are good number of Projects that are happening in the Country. But I would suggest that you do not look for examples. You need to be trail blazer and create examples. 

Senior Management Awareness and Commitment: The Senior Management has to educate itself on these possibilities and ensure they motivate their teams to take up this agenda. We notice that many Senior Management members may not be aware of these opportunities. Their conviction is important for this agenda to come even on to the table. 

What will you do with the Excess manpower? 

If you are able to improve the Productivity by two times, then you will have many excess employees. It is also a Social responsibility of Companies to ensure that they do not send out big number of Employees in these tough times. We are here to contribute positively to the Society. Trying to just take from the Society is not sustainable!! 

You can try different options.

  • If you are having growth, then you need not fire the Employees. You will simply not recruit more.
  • If you have been having plans to go for some Vertical integration, then this is the right time. Cost advantage will help you. You have the People ready. 
  • If you are not able to do any of these, then train the teams in Vocational Programs. Help them to become independent professionals like Carpenters / Electricians. There is huge demand for this. 
  • Help a few employees to become your Suppliers. It does not take as much money as you imagine. You will be able to help them to get loans from Banks with your guarantee.
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This way there can be myriad ways in which you can take care of your Employees. Have a firm resolve that you are not going to send any employee away without a solution for him/her. You would be able to do it. Be Patient and give it some time. Meanwhile you can ask all other employees to take a cut in their Salaries / Wages. This is a much better option than putting some on the road! 

You can use this Calamity to emerge stronger! Are you using your time well ?

Manufacturing Companies are getting ready to reopen. Some will reopen in full and some in part. Government is going allow this depending on the criticality of the Industry to the current situation and to the Country and its' peoples' existence.

Already the companies are working out Detailed safety Plans. There are several Power point files in circulation.

It would be good to approach this work much more systematically and at greater depth. The Risks have to be identified very carefully. It would be good to use a Tool to identifying all risks.

RIM Plan (RIM - Risk Identification and Mitigation)

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Please look at this simple format.

Every Work activity at the Company would be a potential Hazard area.

I have read that in Germany a factory played a big role in spreading the virus in the initial time. In this factory the virus passed on from one employee to the other when the person passed a Salt dispenser. So a simple act of passing salt can spread the Virus! Such a simple act has become a Hazard now !

Methodology for each Function in the Company

Prepare RIM Plan: Each Function in the Company should prepare a RIM Plan as illustrated above and identify ALL activities that happen in the Function. Teams should not look for short cuts here. There can't be a lazy approach of identifying just some activities. Just an act of opening Door can be risky. A Coffee vending machine can dispense the Virus too if we don't take care. 

Slow down: Teams need to slow down and identify every small activity. In the normal situation we may not pay attention to several small activities that we do as routine. It would be useful to ask the Team to write out a 'Micro SOP' that captures every small activity for one particular activity. This will slow them down and make them look at details. For many Team members, it is a struggle to slow down! Recognise that and help them to slow down!

It is good for the teams to Prepare the RIM Plan and then take it up for revision a few times before settling down.

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Some Company Level Solutions:The Company should look for innovative solutions. We can already see videos of several Soap / Sanitizer dispensing solutions without touching the Dispenser. We are capable of solutions when the need comes! 

There are some situations that can be given Solutions at the Company level. Look at the list below:

a) Opening Doors : You may encourage the employees to open the Door with Elbow instead of hand. You may simply keep more doors open to avoid this need!

b) Hand sanitising : Any solution like the above can be designed and make them available across the Company. 

c) Handling Files : It would be good to ensure that a set of files are handled only by one individual. It would be good to prepare a few more files if the next person has to use them too. Any way the Digitalisation agenda can be taken up now! 

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d) Using Computers / Laptops : Providing Disinfectant for everyone and specifying the frequency of cleaning can be from Central level. 

e) Handling Company Gates : Again it would be good to limit the Gates that are being operated. Release one procedure for handling Gates.

There can be more such Solutions that can be given from a Central level. 

Posters : After identifying all the Solutions, the Team can prepare Posters and display them at respective places. These Posters should have many Photographs. These Photographs should be Company specific and not downloaded from Internet. This is to ensure that someone tries it out practically on the ground before demanding that every employee should practice it! 

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Training: After preparing the Posters and Power Point files, the Employees need to be trained on the first day of operations starting. Every Company should devote good amount of time for this. We have to be aware of the fact that Employees have been working in the Company for years and they got used to working in a specific manner. It would require some effort to change their regular practices. We should not approach it like another Procedure ! It is unfortunate that many Companies do not have full adherence of Procedures already in place!! 

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System Auditors : For the first 2 months, all the Senior People should don the role of Auditors. In addition, few full time Auditors also may be identified who will be going around and identifying the Adherence and Adequacy issues. The Auditors can use the CC TV footage too to identify potential risk areas. The Auditors will identify the Potential risk and also implement a Solution.

Course Corrections: We should expect that we will not cover all Risks and we should expect that we need to improve the practices continuously. These Course Corrections have to be encouraged. We should not be under the false belief that we have set up a system and it will work well forever. 

Videos : Videos of each new practice can be taken when the Employees are actually practicing it and use them for Training the employees. 

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E-Learning and Certification : It would be good to put together a simple course of having all the new practices, train the Employees using the E-Learning course and Certify them. This Certification may become the most important one in the Company! 

It is important for Companies to take this effort seriously. This is a wonderful opportunity for companies to improve the Discipline in the Company. This effort has to be led from the top! If the Senior Management treats this effort as one more ISO efforts, then the Company may soon have COVID Positive cases and put its' employees and its' own Business to Risk!

How Seriously are you undertaking the Safety Practices implementation ?? 


Tuesday, 07 April 2020 00:00

New Behaviours for New Situation!

Manufacturing Companies will start work sometime! The Economy has to roll on. It may start in certain pockets to begin with. The Companies will find themselves in a situation where they have to work with much more Discipline! 

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Several Companies have varied level of Discipline in their Operations. Till now if your Employees and Leaders are not Disciplined, probably you were losing money and may be in a few cases a few Customers or Opportunities of Business! 

But now if your Employees and Leaders are not Disciplined, you may have People falling sick and worse, you may have loss of Life! Companies need to drive a Change quickly and now! 

If a few employees fall sick in your Company, your Company may very quickly get into a ‘Critical Situation’ ! 

If we compare ourselves to say Japanese, we have long way to go in terms of being Disciplined. Right now, Japanese are struggling to contain the Virus once they looked the other way. They thought they were in control. The Virus is giving them tough time. 

We need to recognize the progress that we have to make and be as ready as humanly possible. The Travel that the Leaders in Indian Companies have to do is very steep and tough. But not impossible. We are capable of responding to a tough situation. 

Some of the aspects of Discipline required are as follows:

01.  Planning: Planning is one element that is not given its’ due in the Manufacturing Industry. We will require a lot of Planning in the new environment.

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A Sales Manager needs to plan his priorities more carefully. Changing the Production Plan and rearranging the Production Plans will be much tougher in the new environment as the Procurement team may be working from homes and they will not be able to visit the Vendor Partners as frequently as they may want. 

A HR Manager has to Plan the recruitment and Induction training more carefully. He has to ensure he trains all the new recruits in the ‘Heightened Safety practices’.

An Admin Manager has to Plan the staggered lunch times for employees more closely. 

A Security Officer has to manage the Visitors in a better manner. Maybe he has to go for an App that asks the People wanting to visit his Company to give an advance notice! 

Every Employee has to Plan his next move (Literally) in the Office / Factory so that he/she will follow the Heightened Safety Rules. 

02.  Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for every activity: In conventional way of working, the Work is somehow done as the help is always available immediately. A Worker always has a Supervisor to call when he has a doubt. A Production Manager will always be able to call the Vendor partner if he has some problem with the parts he supplied. 

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But in the new situation, the Team is not going to be very close by. They will have to learn how to manage the work with less interventions and it should happen in more standard manner. 

The SOPs have to be prepared and followed rigorously. Physical changes in the Office / Factories has to be made as needed. Eg. The Physical distancing marks have to be put in areas where you expect more people coming together like at Employees gate, Canteen and so on. 

A fulltime team has to be employed to help the Employees to prepare the SOPs and also audit the following of them. 

Employees will follow the Rules if the overall environment is that of a structured environment. Take the example of an MRT and MRT station. The whole structure of MRT station and Metro trains is very well defined. The Trains come and stop exactly at the same place. There are automatic gates controlling the movement of people. Security team nudges the Passengers to behave in a certain way while getting down and getting in. Every Person going in to the MRT Station follows the rules. You very rarely see someone violating it. Hence if overall environment is well defined and the whole system is well thought of, then the Discipline will improve in the whole area. 

03.  Regular Exercise and managing health: Many of working People are not very health conscious. They do not do regular exercise. They are all focused only on the Work and nothing else. Health of Employees had always been a matter for the Company too. But now it is much more so. 

The Company has to encourage the Employees to take care of themselves and stay healthy and strong. The Company may introduce regular exercise activities for the Employees. 

Introducing a Yoga Teacher can be a good idea for the Employees. Everyone including the CEO should participate in the Daily exercise regimen. 

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04.  Clear KPIs for everyone: When the team is going to be away from each other and when they have less opportunity to make mistakes due to the multiple restrictions that are going to be there, it is important for employees to be clear about what they need to do and what Targets they have to achieve. 

Clear KPIs and Targets can be very useful to the team to just focus on what they have to achieve and plan their activities towards that. 

It would be good to break up the KPIs to the level of action required on a daily basis to achieve the Targets of the KPIs. 

05.  Online Training: The days of having many people in a Hotel Room for training are behind us now. At least for few more months, we cannot hope to do such training to our Employees. 

We now have to train our Employees on Micro skills and the training has to happen online and more often. Probably we should ask our employees to allot a few hours for learning every week. 

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We need to ensure the Skill levels of Employees on all the Functional Skills are improved and they are made more effective. 

We will have to address the Micro Skill / Practices that the employees have to learn in the new environment. 

The Training has to be re-engineered. 

06.  Become slow and steady as against Fast and Furious: The normal way of working of our teams is to go all out and try to do everything in a very fast manner. The Quality takes a back seat. For example, if we are setting up a factory, we pride ourselves in saying that we have built the factory and started it in 3 months flat / 6 months flat and so on. But after starting the factory, every day the people working the factory will suffer due to Bad layouts, Bad Material handling arrangements, Badly planned Canteens and so on. 

In the current situation the Companies have to find ways and means of becoming more efficient immediately. Hence, we should act after considering all angles of an issue. We may have to slow down to speed up. 

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07.  Tech savvy: Now the Employees have to become more Tech Savvy. They need to identify the ways and means of using the Ind 4.0 Technology. For example, you may use a Video analytics app for identifying the violations of Physical distancing rules. Much better, the employees may be warned of Possible violation 

It is not enough if only the IT department is thinking of Technology. The users will be able to suggest much better applications. The overall guiding factor is to become more efficient and avoid the Violation of Physical distancing rules. 

Till now your company would have been only talking or thinking of Digitalization. Now the time has come to do it now! There is greater incentive for this. If you do not do it, the consequences are much worse! 

08.  Accepting Mistakes: Generally, the Employees may not be very open to accepting the mistakes that they would have done. This is largely based on the Culture of the Company as driven by the CEO and the senior team. Most of the Companies have this trouble. 

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Now the CEO and the Senior Team have to drive a culture of accepting the mistakes and improving to the next level. This is absolutely essential when you are trying to change the culture. 

If you do not accept the mistakes, then you would be living in denial. Then there will be no improvement whatsoever. 

09.  Willingness to learn: Employees may not be focused on Learning. This is the normal situation in most of the Companies. They are busy in achieving the Targets. Learning is out of their Horizon once they have come out of their College! 

Now the Employees have to be encouraged to work out a Learning agenda for themselves as they have to become more effective. 

Learning can be there in Functional Skills / Leadership skills. A Company may make it mandatory for every Employee to have a Learning agenda for the coming Year.

10.  Follow up Practices: In the Pre-Carona situation, you could have had the luxury of visiting Vendor Partners / Other Stake holders as required. Now, suddenly you cannot visit them at the same frequency. 

You need better Follow up Practices. You cannot irritate the Vendor Partners. At the same time, you need to follow up like a Champion! 

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11.  Regular Business Reviews: The Business Reviews are very important in any scenario. But now in the current situation when you would have Several Variables, much more than the Pre-Carona situation, you need to keep conducting regular reviews to see what is stuck and keep helping the teams to get over hurdles. 

The hurdles will be many more and we should expect the Hurdles. Expecting them can help you prepare better for the hurdles.

The Purpose of the Business Reviews is to help the Employees to formulate successful ways of achieving the Targets in the new situation. The purpose of Business Reviews is not to ‘Chase’ the employees. 

12.  Deep Dives by Leaders: The Leaders in this situation have to be on the Shop floor / Market as needed. The new ways of working have to be formulated by the Team and the Leaders should participate in all the new ‘way of working’ to understand the problems that the teams will face. 

Leaders should help the teams to solve the problems in the new way of working and establish the new ways of working. 

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These are some of the new ways that Leaders will have to Learn! 

When are you going to start unlearning and Learning?


From what it looks like, COVID-19 is not going to disappear in a hurry. It will go on for longer period. No one knows how long. But, to me it looks like at least another One year to 18 months there will be restrictions. If not the lock down. Till the time we have a Vaccine, we may not be able to get away from these restrictions. Indian Manufacturing has to reopen. Closing it for too long will have serious impact on the Economy and the People of India. 

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We need to find new methods of working that will minimize / eliminate the risk. Let us look at some of these methods.

Work from Home

Probably all the functions below have to work from home with probably once / twice a week trip to office depending on need.

a)     Procurement

b)    Vendor Development

c)     Sales 

d)    Marketing

e)    Engineering

f)      Finance

g)     Part of HR

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Better connectivity has to be provided by the Companies to the Employees to work from home. In many cases there may be a need to provide a Laptop / Desktop to work from home. If the Employee is having a machine at work, it has to be shifted to the home of the employee. 

A Small cubicle has to be quickly designed of probably 5x4 = 20 Sqft that can house all that is needed for the employee to work from home. To the extent possible the Company may shift the stuff available at work. If need be the company has to get some things made. Many of the Employees may not have an office chair at home. They should not start developing new physical ailments coming from working ‘somehow’.

There may have to be some routines for taking the Documents from /to the Workplace. This may have to happen once in a day/ week as appropriate. 

Speed up the Digital Drive: It would be good for companies to push for the Digital Drive that they may have been thinking for long. This is the time that you can go document free in your office. Prioritize that project. 

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Companies have to be ready for drop in Productivity at least in the first few weeks. A ‘Productivity team’ has to be constituted that will continuously look for improvements possible in the new way of working. 

There will be a demand for many more Internet connections. ACT / Dongles from various service providers will have to spruce up to handle this higher demand. 

Field Visits / Customer Visits 

The Sales team / Purchase team may have to visit the Field. First of all these visits have to be restricted to the bare minimum. 

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It will be good for companies to appoint Resident Representatives quickly in all major cities where they have Customers/ Vendors. These Resident Reps should do the travelling to the Customers/Vendors. This will minimize the Train / Air travels. Allow these Resident Reps to work for other companies also if one Company cannot fill up the time of one Rep. This can be decided on case to case basis. 

The Vendors will have to be encouraged to set up the Video conferencing facilities as needed. Probably companies like Cisco have to get ready for a bigger demand for their products. 

This is very crucial to maintain the Productivity. Otherwise there can be many frustrations. 

Vendor Digital Connect: This is again the right time to connect all your Vendors and start getting crucial information thru the net. You have to think of connecting your Suppliers and Critical machines in Supplier place in such a manner that you would get much more data than you had been getting earlier. This should make the Remote management much easier. 


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The Core functions like Production / Quality / Process Engineering / Product Engineering/ Stores have to work from the Factory. But as we have asked a good number of people to work from home, there will be much more place at work. 

The seating of all Staff has to be modified to ensure Physical distancing. Government / Companies have to formulate Physical distancing norms. The seating has to adhere to these norms. 

Every Company has to formulate a list of new Behaviors that the team has to practice. Some Behaviors may be as follows:

-       No Hand Shake. Practice Namaste.

-       Monitoring the Body temperature at the gate as well as at the Canteen entry/Exit points. 

-       No Staff meetings. The meetings have to be from their Desks only using a meeting tool.

-       Staggered Lunch / Breaks to avoid crowding.

-       Mandatory usage of hand sanitizer every hour.

-       If there are Manufacturing Processes that require crowding, the processes have to be re-engineered quickly.  Eg. If Assembly lines are designed to keep the operators very close, now you may think of pushing stations away a bit to ensure Physical distancing. 

-       It has to be mandated that everyone in the Shop floor will wear Face masks and Gloves that will be discarded every shift. 

-       An Initial Sanitizing process has to be introduced at every line / every station. 

-       Shop floor PA system has to be used to good effect for the Shift beginning / ending meetings. This is to avoid crowding of people at one place.


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Every Contact point between Two people has to be thought of and it has to be de-risked. Companies that are certified for ISO 14000 would know the ‘Hazard identification and Risk assessment study’ HIRA Study. The HIRA Study has to be taken to entirely a new level. 

Rule Implementation

It is easy to make several rules within the organization. But the weakness of Indian Teams is adherence to the Rules. 

The fear of the invisible Virus is a good motivator for following Rules. But every Company has to put in place a close monitoring system to avoid violations. Willful or otherwise. 

A Company can start with a Small Cross functional team whose only job is to ensure the Hygiene rules are being followed. 

Digitalize the Hygiene Rule Monitoring

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After understanding the problems in following rules and improving the system, a Company can consider going for a Video analytics software that can detect the violations of the Hygiene rules of a Company through CC TV Video. 

With the help of Video analytics, it is possible to monitor the Rule following by the teams.


Indian Companies have not been focusing on the Training. Now it is mandatory for the Companies to take Training of its’ staff more seriously. They have to improve the Productivity of staff to make up for the possible drop in Productivity due to new Hygiene practices. 

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This Training also has to be done remotely as far as possible as getting Employees in to one room is not advisable. 

Companies have to go for E-Learning practices sooner than later on. 

Extended Responsibility of Companies

Companies will have to take the responsibility of avoiding the crowding of Public places by their employees. 

Companies will have to pick up their employees right from their doorsteps to ensure they do not crowd the public transport system. 

It would be good to have the Companies tie up with Grocers and Vegetable suppliers to let employees buy these essentials right at the Factory and take them home. 

Many Companies provide accommodation to the Migrant labor. This has to be continued even when the Business is down and for next 18 months no company should discontinue any Migrant labor. 

Wellness focus

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Companies should take up a focus on Wellness of Employees by supporting them with activities like Yoga, Zumba and other practices. This will ensure that the Employees are in good Physical and Mental health. 

Government may mandate this and ask this internal initiative to be linked to ‘Banega Swasth India’ campaign. 

Government Support

Government needs to support the Manufacturing Companies by way of Direct benefits that would put Cash in the hands of Companies to bear all this additional expenditure. The Companies can be given a Target to improve their efficiencies to cover the additional expenditure in ‘x’ months. 

Government will not be able to sustain the subsidies forever. 

Every Company has to find its’ own set of practices. But following the Physical distancing norms of the Government / Company should be the goal all of us chase.

Without this, the Companies will start suffering badly. It is in our interest to ensure the Industry is in good health so that it can support the society at large. 

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Digitalization and Industry 4.0 can come to the aid of the Indian Manufacturing in all these efforts. 

Definitely this way of working will add more hardship and expense to your company. But I suspect , you may not have much choice. 

Carona may not be the last virus to hit us. We have to prepare for Bio warfare anyway. The time has come! 

Are you Working on your Safe Re-opening Plans?

Sunday, 22 March 2020 00:00

COVID-19: Leadership in Crisis

COVID-19 the Global Pandemic has presented a further toughening of the Business conditions for the Businesses across the World. Already the Businesses in most of the countries had been suffering due to slow economies. Now this Crisis is going to really push the Businesses to the brink. 


Let us examine the Leadership aspects of such a situation. What type of a Leadership is required in this situation? How do you guide your Business with a Clear Head? Let us examine some aspects of it. 


A group of people riding on the back of a truck

Description automatically generatedIndians are generally not very Rule abiding citizens. We violate rules in just about every sphere of life. From Traffic to Income Tax. The Current crisis requires People to practice Social Distancing. The Prime Minister had given a call to the Citizens to practice a Janata Curfew on 22nd March’20 from 7 am to 9 pm. So far, the response had been very good. There may be some amount of underlying fear with the Indians about the virus. But Modi’s clear communication also helped in a big way. You can only see probably 5% of the normal crowds on the roads as reported by TV Channels. This is a very good example of good Leadership in Crisis. 

Support the Government


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Description automatically generatedAll of us have our own Political affiliations. I do not have any particular Political affiliation. I support whoever is doing good work. I do not try to be burdening myself with one Party as against another one. I do not support everything that Modi does and same is the case with any other Parties. I believe we should support the Political Leaders in the Country as they are the people who are leading us. We are electing them. I may or may not have voted for the Party that is in power now. We may not like their ideology. We should protest about that in the right forums. We should try our best to influence them. But when it comes to Nation Leading, we should support the government in Power.  This is very much needed to ensure Governments have fair chance of succeeding and doing something for us. 

Leadership in Crisis

Right now, the Businesses are in a deep crisis. The Order cancellations / Holds are happening as you read this article. The Businesses are scrambling to tackle the situation. Every Company requires good and Clear Leadership now. 

Every Leader will have to address at least two areas:

a)     Taking care of your Employees in the current situation.

b)    Taking care of your Business and giving the Leadership it requires. 


First things first, you need to take care of your Employees immediately.  


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Description automatically generatedIt is quite possible that you may be confused about where to begin and what decisions to take. Most of the Companies might not have had similar situations. So, there are no precedents. 


Right now, all your employees would be filled with a certain fear and uncertainty. You need to address that first. 


We need to work out the revised way of working for all the employees. Do not ignore this. Do not behave as if it is work as usual. Do not wait for the employees to start protesting. Be Proactive in this and address the fears. 

Take Decisions

Some of the following decisions may have to be taken:


-       How will the Employees come to work? If they are coming in their own cars / Two wheelers the risk is lesser. But if they are using Public transport, then you need to provide them with alternatives. The number of Buses is cut down in many cities. The Buses that are there may be crowded. If they can work from home, it is a good solution. If they cannot, then you need to bring them from home. Do not hesitate in spending this money. The Employees only are going to help you come out of this crisis. No one else. 

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Description automatically generatedWhat precautions to take? Take the help of Experts in training your Employees about the precautions to be taken by them and their families. There is overload of information on the net. Everyone is an expert now on the subject of Corona! Take the information from authentic sources. 

-       Introduce new practices at work. On the basis of what you learn from the Experts introduce new practices and behaviors at work. These practices may involve washing the hands more frequently, using hand sanitizers before after meetings, not shaking hands, having more remote meetings than face to face and so on. 

-       Do not be ‘Top down’ in these decisions. While you should definitely lead the progress in the area of Employees, it is better for you to involve more employees in deciding what all specific measures to be taken. Let not HR be the only function that will decide everything. We can avoid the ‘Not invented here’ syndrome and avoid negative fallout from employees. It is after all their working conditions that we are defining. Let them participate actively. 


Try and reduce the risk of exposure to your Employees to zero. You may not arrive at all the measures in one day. But keep reviewing the progress every day. You have to make the Employees comfortable again. It is very important. 


Address your Business


Many Businesses are suffering now. There may be cancellations of orders / Postponements. You need to lead your Company in this area too. 


The Sales of March and at least the first quarter of next year will get affected. That is for sure. But you cannot accept a meek surrender to the situation. 


 If one door closes, surely there will be another Door that can open. Consider some of the following:


-       A group of people sitting in chairs

Description automatically generatedRight now, the Hospitals will require a lot of Products to handle the spike in the activity.  There can be big business waiting in terms of the Hospital equipment like X-Ray equipment, BP Apparatus and several other equipment, Support equipment like Air Compressors, Hospital clothing, Bed linen are all required in big numbers. The Hospitals are bound to be overburdened now. So, any products that help them to set up temporary hospitals quickly will be helpful. If you are not in this area, you may not want to get into this equipment now. But if these are related to your Businesses, then you can contribute a lot to the situation by producing more of all these.  

-       If you do not have anything to do with the Hospitals and their equipment, still you can look for opportunities to expand into. What can be the New Products that you can launch? What are those Products that you wanted to launch but not able to due to pressing commitments? Prioritize them now and bring out a bunch of New Products that will give you additional Sales once the current crisis diminishes. 

-       If you had been planning to get into New Markets, it is time to do the background work now. If you have to prepare some products for these new markets, this is the time to prepare. You may not be able to get your team to the new markets right now. But all the planning and background work can happen now.

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Description automatically generatedIf you had been struggling to reduce the Costs, now this is the time to make progress on certain Projects with Task forces working on Cost reduction. Create an internal competition with Cost Reduction Brainstorming Sessions. Try to make big progress in the area of Cost. You can aim at re-engineering your Costs during this period of Crisis.

-       If you had been planning to implement Skill Based Training, this is the right time for it. Define skills for various functions in your Company and start taking the help of E-Learning to skill up your Employees. E-Learning is the right tool for training Employees in this situation. It will not require employees to group in to one room. Your team should be able to deliver much more by the time Business comes back. Set up the Online Training school for your Staff and Workmen. 

-       If you had been planning to implement Industry 4.0 to improve efficiency on your shop floor, this is the time to implement Specific projects in Safety, Productivity, Quality Improvement and so on. 


It is good to reorient your Goals for the year 20-21. You can prioritize areas business other than top line alone. As earlier said, you cannot meekly accept the going down of the Turnover in the next year. You should find alternative ways of growing. You should infact discover a few more areas of growth and overall emerge as stronger company from this disaster! 

Sunday, 15 March 2020 00:00

COVID-19: Corporate Response


A group of people standing in a room

Description automatically generatedWhen I checked with a HR Head of a Company recently about how they are handling COVID19, his response was that probably there is some amount of overreaction and Social media hype about it.  But looking at the rapid spread of the Infections, maybe he changed his mind by now. COVID19 is declared as a Pandemic by WHO and India declared it as ‘Notified Disaster’.  I think we need to take it seriously to ensure we stay in control. 


Why a response is needed from Corporates?


COVID-19 is currently coming from People who travelled abroad. Corporates contribute to a good proportion of the Foreign travel. Foreign travel either for Business or for pleasure by the Employees of the Corporates. If we include the Children of the Corporate Executives studying abroad, the Corporates contribute to a lot of Foreign travel. Hence, Corporates can play a very important role in controlling the spread. 


Indian Companies are perennially in Crisis! 

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If you look at the Eisenhower Time Matrix, most of the Indian Corporates are perennially spending a lot of time in the Q1. ‘Urgent and Important’. There are too many Crisis and we keep handling the issues right at the brink. Not a good thing. But we keep doing it. Indian Corporates are experts in living at the edge of the Chaos. We don’t quite get into full time Chaos. But we keep going in and out of them just like experts! 


My experience with the Indian Corporates is that when a Project is taken up, we ask for a lot of time. We fight for more time for the Project with the Boss. You would think the team would really do a great job by working on it systematically over the period of time taken. But most often I start getting calls from the team two days before the Deadline agreed. They would be asking for clarifications about the Project. They work very hard over those  last few days and Complete the Project. It would never be a Perfect job. But it won’t be a bad job either. I am not saying 100% of Companies and 100% of the Executives work this way. Maybe you do it much better in your Company?


Because of this dubious ‘capability’ to work well in a Crisis, I expect the Indian Corporates to do a very good job. 


But what is Critical is that they should identify it as a focus area and attend to it. A Clear Leadership is required for this Pandemic / Notified Disaster.  Otherwise everyone will be busy with their existing Crisis situations and wait for COVID-19 to become ‘Urgent and Important’ !! 



What are the areas for focus in this Disaster?


There can be at least 4 areas that a Corporate should address. 


a)     A group of people in front of a crowd

Description automatically generatedYour Employees: First focus area has to be your Employees. If you take care of your Employees, you are maintaining a big group of Healthy Citizens who can do more in this situation. Even if you do not do anything for the Society directly, maintaining your Business and contributing to the National GDP in this situation is a good enough contribution. Many companies are slipping on their growth right now. 

b)    Your Vendors: Second focus has to be on your Vendor Partners. If you are a Big company having several small vendors, then you can contribute a lot by helping these vendor partners to face the Challenge. It would also help you to keep the Production going without supply disruptions.

c)     Your Customers:  Then comes your Customers. If you are able to keep your Employee flock together and healthy, have uninterrupted supplies you can take care of your Customers. You would contribute to Economic growth in this challenging time. 

d)    Your City / Society: Then the City in which you are operating. If each corporate can contribute to taking care of part of the city that you are operating in, it can be a great help to the Government. 


There can be more angles to a Corporate’s Circle of influence. But let us start with these.


What can you do?


01.  Recognize the Problem: First of all, we need to recognize this as a Serious Problem. We cannot be lost in our ‘Urgent New Product Projects’, ‘Customer Line stoppage issues’ and so on. Please look at handling the COVID-19 as in the same direction as attending to all the Business Emergencies that you have. You are only modifying your approach and attending to an underlying issue for every project in your Company.  Special effort is required for Corporates to recognize it as Problem as we are used to responding in the last minute. This is one problem that you would not like to respond in the last minute. 


Data says that just a month back there were just 4 cases of the Infection in Italy on 21st Feb’19. On 13th March, there were 15,000 with 1400 deaths! Containment is the critical action that you can take. There is right now no medicine for this Virus. 


02.  Learn about the Problem: It would help to learn about the Problem from Experts. You may not be generally in touch with these Experts. You may have to contact A screenshot of a cell phone

Description automatically generatedsomeone in WHO or AIIMS or any of the Private Corporate Hospitals where the knowledge may reside. Invite an Expert to your Company and let your teams understand the Problem and the precautions that we need to take. 

03.  Formulate Teams: Formulate teams to address the four groups of Stake holders that you want to address. Depending on the resources that you have, you can prioritize in the Stake holders. Have clear leaders for the teams and Objectives that they have to focus on. 

04.  What can be the Goals: Single biggest Goal is for everyone to stay healthy. But the Process goals have to be the New Behaviors that you want the Stake holders to Practice. Some of the new Behaviors can be as follows:

a.     Spreading the knowledge about the Problem and the seriousness. 

b.     Not shaking hands. Practice Namaste instead.

c.     Working in Shifts to reduce the density of the employees.

d.     Using Video conference even for local meetings.

e.     Maintaining some distance between you and your colleagues.

f.      Avoiding non-essential travel. 


There can be many more practices that you may define in your Company. This article is not meant to define a complete list of Best Practices anyway. 


05.  Create Champions for monitoring: Some of our Colleagues are naturally more disciplined and keen observers. Eg. Audit department colleagues, Quality Department colleagues and so on. Use their services to monitor the practices that you have defined. As these are new practices / behaviors that we are trying out, there are bound to be violations. These Champions have to identify the violations and keep talking to the Teams. 

06.  A picture containing object

Description automatically generatedQuick Decisions: In a Crisis, there have to be quick decisions. There can be a small team of Senior people who can be authorized to take decisions as needed. The Teams have to be informed about this. 

07.  Communicate, Communicate and Communicate: Communication is another important aspect that is very critical in this situation. It would be quite okay to over communicate. Let the Problems and solutions be known to everyone in the Company. Maintain transparency. Especially in the light of Bad news. Whatever is construed as Bad news can be screened before relaying. This is to ensure spread of undue panic. 


Through your efforts if you can keep your Employees healthy and also create Soldiers who can contribute to the immediate society around you, then you have done a great job! 


You would have also trained your Team to handle a real Crisis before it really hits you hard!! 


How are you responding to COVID-19? Please share so that Others can learn from you! 


Act fast and Prevent the spreading of COVID-19!



Sunday, 01 March 2020 00:00

Customer Service ?? !!

In the past few years, I have been witnessing an aggressive approach to Customers from Companies who pride themselves as Customer focused Companies! I will be talking about few Companies specifically. But I am not saying that only these companies are adapting these aggressive approaches to customers. There may be many more. I am talking about these companies on the basis of my personal experience.  Experience of others may be different.




I have been Banking with ICICI for about 25 Years. I have good amount of Deposits with them. I am a decent size Customer for them. I have Savings Accounts with them as well as Current accounts too. As I know the Bank for 25 years, I have a right to talk about them. Currently I am actively looking at shifting away from this Bank due to two reasons. 


The Bank’s service is deteriorating fast. They were not helpful to me in some specific cases. They will quote their Process when I ask for help. The Staff of this Bank are remarkably unfocused on Customers’ Point of view. Most of the Staff are young and totally untrained on Customer Service. 

a)     In addition, they adapt a very aggressive approach towards Customers to get more business from them:

a.     A picture containing clipart

Description automatically generatedIf I or my wife go to the Bank, the Staff will be all over us. Not to help us. But, to ask for Deposits, ask us to invest in Insurance and so on. 90% of the Visits are marked by Staff asking us to invest in some schemes. 

b.     If someone smiles at me, these days I am turning my face away as the second sentence would be about investing. 

c.     Whatever may be the agenda with which we go to Bank, they will harass us about investing. They will ask for Account numbers, look at our Deposits and then will go after us. Right now, a visit to ICICI Bank has become very unpleasant. 

d.     They also approach us on Phone. There are calls from their Call centers about various schemes. They also call from the Branch where we have accounts. They keep offering the same thing even though we said NO to it. They offer me Overdraft on the basis of my transactions. I said no to it. But they don’t care!  They keep calling every week and offering the same! I am amazed by their insensitivity. I keep picking up the call as the number is a usual land line or Cell number. If it comes from the usual 14*** then I do not even pick up the call.


ICICI Bank may be giving their Employees a wonderful incentive to get the Business! Otherwise I can’t imagine the employees to be so proactive. Earlier it used to be the Marketing guys who have these targets. It looks like every Customer facing Executive is given Targets now! With this, they have turned every employee in to a Marketing executive. Is it good for ICICI? Whoever has taken this decision, has committed a big mistake. Now there is no Customer Service at the Bank. It is only Customer harassment! I am talking from personal experience!





A close up of a device

Description automatically generatedI own a Volkswagen Vento. I bought this car in 2012. Since then I spent a good amount of money on this Car. Somehow my experience with Volkswagen had been very bad. But I can say I am suffering the wrong choices that I made with reference to choosing Diesel Car as well as the Brand. 


But my experience with the Dealer of this Car in Coimbatore is very bad! 


-       The Bill for the Servicing is never small. I am suspicious of this Dealer as once they suggested changing Brake Pads when they have just changed it in the previous Service. Since then I am suspicious of their intentions! When I countered the Service Executive that the Brake Pads were just changed in the previous Service, he changed his tack. I never trust this Dealer after that. 

-       After Service, the Volkswagen (Being Customer Centric!!) asks for feedback. First the local Dealer will call. After that Volkswagen themselves call from Mumbai. Initially I took this seriously and gave genuine feedback. If you say you are happy, you are let go there. But if you say you had a problem, then the harassment is more. They will arbitrarily call you whenever they want and ask for more information. In the initial days, I took it seriously and gave them further feedback. For one Servicing, you have to answer 3 Calls if you told them that you were not happy with something. If you don’t pick up the call, they will go after you. I think the calls are made by a Software program. The program does not get tired of calling you till you pick up. 

-       Now in the initial days in all my innocence I looked for feedback or addressing my issue that is given in the feedback. There is never any action taken and there is never any feedback on my feedback.

-       Since then I just stopped answering the calls. If they fool me by calling from different numbers, I just disconnect if they say ‘Volkswagen..’. 

-       Is this what Volkswagen wants? To harass their Customers? 

With my experience of local Dealer and the Company I have decided that I will never ever buy a Volkswagen product and avoid all Companies that this Dealer represents! 


I am not talking about the Dealer as he may be a Small company. I am hoping Volkswagen will learn from this case study. 




I am trying to sell a Flat that I own in Coimbatore. I decided to put an advertisement in Quikr. 

A close up of a sign

Description automatically generated

You can put a free advertisement in Quikr. But once you put it, you are chased by their Executives asking you to get into paid section. That is not the end. 


Once you pay up, they keep bombarding you with calls to upgrade yourself! 


After we suffered at their hands with the first advertisement, my wife became smart by the second one. She did not pick up the barrage of calls that they were making after inserting the second Advertisement. 


Is this the way Quikr wants to treat its’ Customers? Is there no other way but to chase Customers and wear them out? 




We got used to using Swiggy as many people have. Of late, there are many bad deliveries from Swiggy. When you order for Dosa it arrives without any accompaniments. Swiggy App has provision for taking feedback from Customer. 

We keep giving feedback. Neither the Restaurant concerned nor Swiggy takes any action on the Feedback! Swiggy App though says ‘Aaargh !! Not acceptable !’ when you give feedback. You may fooled to think that they will really take some action!! Nothing will happen! 


Swiggy thinks that we will never go away from them! We as a family are planning to prove them wrong! 



There are several more examples. Ola Auto Drivers routinely ask for adding more money to what is shown by the Ola app. Otherwise they will refuse to come OR delay it so much that in a panic you accept their demand or you cancel the ride. If you cancel, sometimes you have to bear cancellation charges. We routinely rate these Drivers low. But no one acts on your feedback! More Drivers keep asking for extra money! 


Is this becoming a norm in India? You aggressively go after the Customers for Business using the Technology and connectivity that is available. But you don’t use the same technology for taking care of your Customers? 


You give your Executives such an aggressive target that they go after the Customer as if it is a bounty hunt! 


Whoever is designing the Customer service in these companies and many more are getting it totally wrong! Customers will respond and dump these companies! 


Among these bad examples, there are a few good examples too. 


Anandaas Restaurant, Coimbatore


A city street at night

Description automatically generatedThis restaurant genuinely cares about its’ customers. The whole Owner family including the 80 year old Patriarch are in their Restaurants. Talking to the Customers while they are in the restaurant. There are always enough Executives around to talk to the Customers and keep servicing them. The restaurant is always innovative with their menu. They keep bringing special items on the weekends. 


As the restaurant is a good one, the crowd is always heavy. But the restaurant’s service speed is very good. With this they try to minimize the waiting time of the Customer. 


They are truly focused on the Customers. They don’t harass us with the phone calls for feedback! They make sure they give good service by interacting with us while at the Restaurant.



Invest into the relationship with the Customer


Companies need to shift their focus on to medium / long term. They need to invest into their relationship with the Customers. They should not treat the Customers as Cows that should be milked continuously without taking care of them. 


The Targets to employees in the Companies have to be refocused. The focus should be more on the relationship and service to the Customers and less on the immediate results. They should believe that if they maintain good relationship with the customers, they customers will keep coming back to them for all their needs. 


Look at everything from Customer point of view: Companies need to learn to look at everything from Customer Point of view. Improve your service to Customers on every touch point. Eg. ICICI Bank gave us trouble on several specific services. When I wanted to pay my Brother’s travel in foreign exchange (as he had come to conduct a Training program for my company), they harassed me a lot. Finally, I had to fight with the Executive concerned to get it done. This is just one example. Companies have to understand the Customer point of view. They may respectfully disagree. But they have to understand first. 


Launch more services for the Customers: Measure yourself with the number of services that you launch for your Customers and how simple are the services that you already have for Customers. Eg. ICICI Bank shows a lot of aggression in terms of following up with the customers for more Business. I cannot see the same aggression in solving my problems. 


A close up of a persons face

Description automatically generatedHave personal touch: Amidst all the rules of your Company, still have personal touch with the Customers. Eg. I keep asking the Volkswagen Dealer that I am having bad experience with the Vento car. If he takes out the expense that I had with the Car and tries to explain to me as to why I have spent more money on my car, It will help me a lot. Right now he never listens to me on this. He is just worried about the current bill. 


In Banks, today there are Customer Relationship Managers. You would think they have your interests at their heart! This is another designation for asking for more Deposits! I was very disappointed to be fooled!! 


Companies should believe that their true service will bring them the Business. They need to believe in this fact. 


I have spoken about few specific companies in this article. If anyone from these companies are reading this article and stung by the criticism, they are more than welcome to engage with me. But not for more Business!! I am willing to speak to them if someone senior approaches me and proves to me that they are willing to learn! Otherwise, don’t bother to call me! 


I hope Companies would Learn the true definition of Customer Service!! Otherwise they will disappear from the Business map sooner than later! 

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