'Times They're a Changin'

'Times They're a Changin'

With serendipity of discoveries, its a bigger challenge for organisations to prevent falling back into old ways

Illustration by Raj Verma Illustration by Raj Verma

Say it the musical Bob Dylan way, 'The times they're a changin' or the poetic Alfred Tennyson way, 'The old order changeth yielding place to new?', India Inc's trial by fire in the pandemic restrictions has delivered some startling revelations and pleasant surprises. Of running businesses remotely, in new, unbelievably simple and cost-effective ways; of engaging with clients, customers and employees online; of new logistics and supply chain and new ways of co-opetition.

When Covid-19 hit India, first there was shock and disbelief at businesses grinding to a halt, sales falling to zero and mounting losses. Then there was panic about the future and survival of businesses. As CEOs and organisations gathered their wits and put new strategies in place to restart or continue operations, the screen of ambiguity began to clear. And then -magically - things started falling in place.

With the serendipity of discoveries, it's a bigger challenge for most organisations now to prevent falling back into old ways of doing things. Rather, the question is: how to work differently to build on the gains.

One of India's biggest infrastructure builders found that during Covid restrictions, focused, nimble teams took vital decisions not just faster, but better. Empowerment had seeped down the bureaucratic organisation unintentionally. Retaining this quality is now vital to avoid departmental tug-of-wars when the company gets back into the full-blown mode.

One of India's biggest lenders wows never to ignore the perils of over-leveraging - to manage and keep costs in check, irrespective of business cycles, and more importantly, to avoid asset-liability mismatch under any circumstances.

One of India's largest beverage firms will balance its over-reliance on urban and semi-urban business by penetrating deeper into rural heartland by listing products on Grameen e-platforms for last-mile reach. New operating units are being created focusing entirely on regional and local execution.

Scratch the surface and corporate India is full of lessons from the pandemic that are shaping future strategies, often vastly different from the past.

It is these learnings - and so many more - that form the basis of how CEOs believe they will do things differently. In the following pages, some of India's most successful CEOs outline their new outlook towards management, strategy, marketing, customer engagement, business continuity and investments.