As companies prepare to get back to business at the conclusion of lockdowns, there is a multitude of questions that leaderships across organisations need to consider. These revolve around how they review their competencies in the light of new business realities, the kind of changes they need to bring into their business processes, and evaluating the elements that will guide the preparations for a turnaround. These and other questions seem to be engaging the attention of some of the important leaders of India Inc.
This came across in the 'Chairmen's Roundtable' organised by the Centre for Corporate Governance and Citizenship (CCGC) at Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB) on Thursday evening. It was on the topic of 'How Boards will balance shareholders and stakeholders interests in the post COVID era'. Professor S Raghunath, Chairperson of CCGC, moderated the round table discussion with Suresh Narayanan, CMD, Nestle India Ltd; Sunil Kant Munjal, Chairman, Hero Enterprise; and R Seshasayee, former Chairman of Infosys Ltd and IndusInd Bank, and Corporate Director and Advisor at Hinduja Group.
Narayanan felt the boards need to consider 3 Cs - Culture, Competence and Competitiveness. His point was that the company culture and ways of working will need a close examination in the COVID-19 era because there were aspects of culture which worked and did not work during this crisis, and what made a company stand on its feet and what made it fall flat on its face. On competence, it is really about both leadership competence and organisational competence, and whether the company is set up to take on future challenges, he said.
Sunil Kant Munjal said the role of boards is going to be of a higher order of responsibility in the future that encompasses environmental concerns and the principle of doing good while doing well. He stated that even the most conservative businesses need to understand that they will have to use technology, otherwise they would be left behind and the market will get brutal in terms of competitiveness. He emphasised that Indian businesses have to be competitive as anywhere else in the world, so much more global outlook is necessary. In this context, boards of organisation of every size will need to play an active role in aligning themselves to the national goals and also the global goals while continuing the laser sharp focus on efficiency and productivity, he said.
Seshasayee drove home an important point on the need for businesses to go beyond the normal metrics of profitability and return on equity and instead focus on business sustainability and strengthening all the elements that support it. His also pointed that every challenge brings with it an opportunity and it is up to the organisations to identify this new ray of opportunity.
All of these are being seen as crucial elements that need to be examined closely while ensuring that the wheels of commerce begin to move. These will have to be addressed even as focus remains on addressing the new concerns around people's safety, cementing the elements of trust, investing in partnerships, innovating the business models to the new realities and looking for ways that improve the business prospects and pick on new opportunities that emerge.