Digital is the way forward in a post-Covid world5 min read . Updated: 28 Dec 2020, 11:52 AM IST
The latest episode of ‘Hit Refresh: Business Resilience in a post-Covid World’, a virtual panel discussion powered by SAP and Livemint, looks at the increased focus on digitization post the pandemic and how this change is here to stay.
As we all grapple with the aftermath of the pandemic where social dynamics and consumer behavior have been altered forever. Businesses across the country are faced with challenges, both short term that need to be looked into on a daily basis and long term which affect business continuity and growth.
In this journey of transformation and adapting to the new normal, digital has been a major driver serving as a backbone on which processes of the future run. With the scenario expected to stay uncertain for a while, key stakeholders across industries are looking at innovative strategies to maintain business continuity.
The latest episode of SAP and Livemint powered virtual panel discussion, ‘Hit Refresh: Business Resilience in a post-Covid World’, looks at the challenges being faced today and how organisations are accelerating their digital journeys to contend with issues of supply chain, cash flows and employee wellbeing to chart our their future.
“There are cash flow issues with SME companies which form our vendor base. These challenges still remain to be concerns for us – a lot of global supply chains are affected due to an imbalance in global trade. While we were working full force and managed to keep the premises safe, our suppliers were not as lucky and some had to shut down due to Covid outbreaks and regional lockdowns," said Jaideep Shekhar, Asia and EMEAR, Terex India Private Limited.
The infra sector is one of the largest employers of non-skilled labour, making it a focus area for the government as it somewhere helps tackle the issues of migrant labour.
The big change that Covid-19 has brought about is placing employee health and wellbeing as a top priority for organisations.
“We operated throughout the lockdown so the bigger challenge was to keep our workforce healthy. We have our own Covid-19 Test lab within our campus with RT PCR testing and started checking our own people right in March. About 2000 employees are tested every fortnight. It’s also been a good opportunity because when competitors had to shut down due to lots of cases, we were running full steam. We developed a whole new set of products digitally and increase our market share. So, opportunities are the flip side of challenges," said Dr Udayant Malhoutra, Managing Director, Dynamics Technologies Limited.
Even as businesses dealt with challenges – social, financial and of health and hygiene, the pandemic highlighted the complete lack of preparedness to deal with an eventuality like this. With supplies from China badly hit, many companies are looking at building local supply chains.
“Post-Covid, we did two things. Firstly, we have developed a lot of small and medium scale manufacturers which we wouldn’t have looked at had we not gone through this crisis. One of the learnings is that we have made ourselves more self-reliant. We also found mechanisms of doing things differently with alternate materials, and finding indigenized formulations which were value engineered to suit this environment," said B Ramakrishnan, CEO, Sheenlac Paints Limited.
The past few years have seen a shift to digital for all kinds of businesses but the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated that journey for many.
“Being part of a large global group, we were always digital. But certain aspects of the business which were not priority areas have now come into focus and are investing into telematics. We are also piloting remote maintenance of our plants using AI. The progress that was supposed to happen in digitization in the next 4-5 years has happened in 6 months," Shekhar said.
The food and confectionary industry is faced with a unique challenge – of competition from smaller companies that are trying to get their share of the pie and are going digital to stay ahead of the innovation curve with fresh R&D and research to appeal to changing consumer habits and create quick product cycles.
“Because of competition, we always need to go for something new products and varieties to sustain your business with R&D. Every month we bring 1-2 new products whether in wafers, or sugar boiled confectionary. We try to keep up with changing trends," said Preetam Lalwani, Managing Director, Prayagh Nutri Products Private Limited, which supplies confectionary items to ITC group under the brand Candyman.
But while embarking on their digital journeys, organisations must choose the right processes to digitize and select the technologies that will have the maximum impact on the business and in the quickest timelines.
“Prior to the pandemic, there was a paradigm shift towards techno-digitisation and the current events have accelerated this paradigm. The prime focus of every organization should be to have a single integrated digital core that can be form the foundation for many things that the organization can do," said Vinod Palakkil, South Regional Director – Sales, SAP India.
There are several misconceptions about going digital. In the present scenario where organisations are cash strapped, making a choice between cost and innovation when a digital process needs to be implemented can also pose to be a challenge.
“The first misconception is that digital transformation is just about updating or changing systems. But it is a journey, which is just as important as the destination. We work with customers to create a roadmap for their digital journey, taking into account what is important for the organization looking at its overall goals, both short term and long term," Palakkil further said.
For the future, organisations want to keep up with the pace and stay resilient to ensure that they are able to face such challenges in the future. “In the short term, we want to continue the momentum. We are going very fast and a pandemic like this can apply sudden brakes. I feel these kinds of pandemics can keep occurring in different forms as we are all mobile so we should have a long-term view of risk assessment to establish continuity and build a culture of resilience," said Ravi Murthy, Plant Head and Senior Vice President, SGD Pharma India.
And while supply chain, cash flow and cross border movement of people continue to be challenges to manage on a day to day basis, the pandemic has shifted the focus to health and safety of manpower and a continued focus on digitization and using processes to do things better.