Using technology to tide over the Covid-19 wave4 min read . Updated: 25 Nov 2020, 06:33 PM IST
- A virtual panel discussion titled ‘Hit Refresh: Business Resilience in a post-Covid World’, discusses strategies that companies should adopt by using technology to tide over the new normal
From rapidly changing consumer behaviours to issues surrounding irregular demand and supply in the new normal, the Covid-19 pandemic has created a plethora of challenges and business leaders across industries have struggled to come to terms with this new upheaval that we are faced with.
Episode 3 of titled ‘Hit Refresh: Business Resilience in a post-Covid World’, a virtual panel discussion powered by SAP and Livemint, discusses at length the exit strategies companies can adopt and the role technology can play to power the change.
The lockdown affected businesses, both big and small, and leaders had to come up with innovative solutions to keep running and minimize the impact to profitability.
But even as each industry has its own unique challenges to contend with, one trend has remained constant. Businesses with a strong technology backbone were able to come out of the crisis faster and stronger as they adapted to the changed demands in the market. So, whether it was industrial machinery firms that changed their business models to make sanitizers or hands free sanitizer dispensers, or leading auto companies making a fast switch to manufacture ventilators, having a strong tech was key.
“We have been catering to 25 different industries for the last 40 years. The biggest learning from the Covid-19 pandemic has been to be prepared well in advance for any eventuality and have a strong technological backbone. This pandemic has created disruptive business models which have provided customers with an enhanced experience," said Vinod Palakkil, South Regional Director, Sales, SAP India.
The pandemic has affected different industries in different ways and leaders have had to innovate and come up with unique strategies to stay afloat. This, for many, has resulted in greater operational efficiencies.
“We have 1,200 labourers and staff and are paying a huge amount of electricity bills and interest. Our plant was closed for 45 days in the lockdown and 30 percent of our staff went away. But when work restarted, we managed the same levels of output with the reduced staff and realised we could be more efficient. So, it was a blessing In disguise," said Prakash Goenka, Managing Director, Devashree Ispat Private Limited.
The company paid all the employees full salary for the 45 days that the plant was shut for and the workforce supported them in keeping up production levels when work restarted.
A switch to business from China to India has come as a new opportunity and placed companies on a fast path to recovery.
“The pandemic has impacted all industries and individuals. The textile industry is labour intensive with high fixed costs like salaries and interest. In March, April, all the labour ran away from the industries and we have still not been able to get 100 per cent staff back. But, over the last 2-3 months we have seen a surge in exports. People who used to order from China are now diverted to India and this is helping us to recover," said Dheeraj Kumar Khetan, Director, Shri Salasar Balaji Agro Tech Pvt Ltd.
With a steep slump in demand and changing government regulations, the lockdown was a challenge for the business. But companies took the time to reskill their people and put in hours and hours of workshops upskilling their workforce
“We at Legrand have been on our digital transformation journey since the last 3 years, What has happened is that this has accelerated from the third gear to the sixth gear thanks to Covid. We realised that this lockdown is also an opportunity for us to upskill and reskill our people and a lot of time has been utilised for this. We learnt that this can be done digitally and not just face to face as we earlier thought," said Palash Nandi, Chief Executive Officer, Numeric.
The pandemic has emerged as a human challenge and one of the ways most companies have dealt with this situation is by looking at how technology can support them across functions, especially at a time when you need to ensure reduced density across the shop floor.
“Technological upgradation has helped all kinds of organisations which have initiated them, including ours. It can help in varied fields, including customer service and marketing, and can also help on the production side," said Ashok Somani, Managing Director, Somani Ispat Private Limited, which is a major supplier to pharma and medical companies.
Companies that have embarked on their digital transformation journeys have accelerated the pace of the digitization process and made it a part of both short term and long term goals.
“Digital transformation is both short term and long term and we will continue to invest into these. Having a holistic view on the benefits of technology vs the cost always helps as the costs will seem very high in the short term and won’t help in decision making. Finally, the difference is made by the human capital and we will continue to invest into those," said Nandi.
But there are several challenges that businesses need to overcome. Not only is there a lack of awareness around the benefits that technology can bring, there’s also a lack of skilled labour or resources who can handle the technology.
From increasing quality levels to optimising operational efficiencies and taking advantage of the present increased demand, businesses are drawing up long term and short term plans to recover. Even technology solutions providers are customising their solutions to suit the new normal. How will businesses utilise these learnings to tide over the storm? Only time will tell.