Its been a year when almost every business has re-invented business models. And the change is continuing. In the same spirit, Business Today's annual business conclave - the eighth edition of BT MindRush - was also re-imagined. The theme of the first ever virtual edition of BT Mindrush, India's premier business conclave, was The Post-Pandemic Paradigm. In keeping with the changed times, it was spread over two days - January 22 & 23 - with some of the biggest names in business talking on a wide range of topics.
Inaugurating the virtual edition of BT MindRush, Aroon Purie, Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, India Today Group, said, "Many technologies that were supposed to change our lives by 2030, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, internet of things, are accelerating faster into our lives than we can imagine. That will mean CEOs will have to re-invent and re-strategise. CEOs have a lot to munch over in the next few years."
The first day started off with a series of keynote addresses that talked about issues that are centre stage today. That includes economy, disruption, business and healthcare. Arvind Panagariya, the Jagdish N. Bhagwati Professor of Indian Political Economy, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, while speaking on "Kick starting the Indian Economy", said, "I would say that in the post-Covid decade, India would certainly grow at 8 per cent plus. I say that with conviction, because post-Covid decade will be different for the number of reforms that the government has already put in place such as low corporate tax, IBC, GST, labour reforms, farm law reforms, digitisation, which were not in place two or three years ago."
Rajeev Misra, CEO, SoftBank Vision Fund, while speaking on "Disruption-The New Norm," said, "As India moves ahead on the recovery path after the pandemic, it needs to make more of the opportunities presented by AI and machine learning. In India, small businesses and agriculture are behind in adopting technologies, and the gap may grow in the post-Covid period. "
Sanjiv Mehta, CMD, Hindustan Unilever, listed the seven characteristics which every leader must have to navigate businesses through chaos and confusion (compassionate, sense-making, brutal optimist, adaptive, resilient, ability to spot the crisis, and living purpose in value).
Speaking on New Healthcare Dynamics, Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist, WHO, said, "Lets not kid ourselves, I think this is going to happen increasingly in the future. This is certainly not the last pandemic or the last health shock we are going to see."
Discussing the Future of Healthcare Post-Covid, a panel of distinguished experts comprising Dr. Krishna Ella, CMD, Bharat Biotech, Dr. K Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India, and Dr A Velumani, Founder and MD, Thyrocare, shared their views on how the present crisis will shape the basics of healthcare in times to come. They said pandemics are likely to be recurring threats, indeed we have had zoonotic infections springing up over the last 60 years with great frequency, accounting for more than 2/3rds of all new infections and outbreak.
In the session on "New-age CEOs and Pandemic Challenges," Nikhil Kamath, Founder & CIO, Zerodha, Sagar Daryani, Co-Founder, Wow! Momo Foods and Vikram Chopra, Co-Founder & CEO, Cars 24 spoke in detail on the challenges and opportunities for start-ups during the pandemic. The crisis prompted young entrepreneurs to adapt drastic changes, including work from home and increased focus on tech channels for business expansion. Zerodha's Kamath said, "We are at a point where we dont think we will ever have them come back to office. We will have an office which will allow 25 per cent of the workforce to come in when they like."
In a panel on "5G Use Cases: Demystifying Reality And Hype," P.D. Vaghela, Chairman, TRAI said, "The beauty of 5G lies in the fact that the same network will be able to deliver the three distinct categories for used cases simultaneously - enhanced broadband proving very high speed, massive machine pipe communication and ultra-reliance low latency." The other panelists included Akhil Gupta, Vice- Chairman, Bharti Enterprises; Shyam Mardikar, President, Reliance Jio and Prashant Singhal, Emerging Markets TMT Sector Leader, EY.
The first day ended with a keynote address by Prof Vikram Patel, the Pershing Square Professor of Global Health in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School on "Managing Mental Stress and Anxiety at the Workplace." He said, "It is a state of well-being in which the individual realises that his or her own abilities can cope with the normal stresses of everyday life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make meaningful and purposeful contributions to his or her own community."
Day Two of BT MindRush started off with a Fireside Chat between Dr Sangita Reddy, Joint Managing Director, Apollo Hospitals, and Ashish Shah, Co-Founder and COO, Pepperfry. It was a look at how old economy companies and new economy companies think differently. Dr Reddy said, "We have been working in telemedicine for 20 years. But during this period, online consultations became a new norm. Earlier, we used to do 1,000-2,000 teleconsultation even from far-flung areas in a day. But during Covid-19, we crossed 10,000-15,000 teleconsultations. I think this behaviour is something which will stay," Dr Reddy added. Shah also saw a surge in demand for furniture during the outbreak. Shah said that when people spend more time in their homes, they need more furniture. "From a business point, our comeback was really great. We are doing much more than the pre-Covid levels," he added.
The Fireside Chat was followed by a human resources panel discussion on "Managing WFH Workforce." The panelists included Anuradha Razdan, ED, HR, Hindustan Unilever; Rajesh Uppal, Sr Executive Director, (HR &IT) Maruti Suzuki India; Rajnarayan, CHRO, The Titan Company; Rajkamal Vempati, CHRO, Axis Bank, and Mahalakshmi R., HR Head India, Mondelez International.
Rajesh Uppal said there's been a culture where manufacturing has been traditionally thought to be like work from office and IT companies as they can from anywhere."Amid the pandemic, the hybrid mode of working has been accepted for industry. Though for manufacturing, you have to be on the shop floor, we were able to implement a hybrid culture in all other areas." Anuradha Razdan said across all factory sites, leadership teams took ownership of over 12,000 blue-collar employees. "We ensured they and their families were safe and they were contacted at least once a week. The purpose of the call was to check their physical and mental wellbeing."
At the session on "AI Re-Invented at the Workplace," industry leaders - Daisy Chittilapilly, MD, Digital Transformation Office, Cisco; Subram Natarajan, Chief Technology Officer at IBM India and South Asia; and Dr Rohini Srivathsa, National Technology Officer, Microsoft India, discussed how in terms of an increase in the use of AI, India is among the biggest economy compared to other countries including the US, the UK and Japan.
In a keynote address on "Stock Markets: The Dichotomy," Nirmal Jain, Founder and Chairman, IIFL Group, said the rebound being witnessed in the Indian economy and corporate earnings, along with fund inflows from foreign portfolio investors, are driving stock markets higher even as the economy is disrupted by the pandemic. He added that the stock market behaves independently in the short-term, but follows economic growth and corporate earnings in the long-term.
The final session of Day Two focused on Rebuilding Businesses. The panel comprised Suresh Narayanan, CMD, Nestle; Ravinder Takkar, MD & CEO, Vodafone Idea, and Patu Keswani, CMD, Lemon Tree Hotels. While Nestle and Vodafone Idea saw increased business, for Lemon Tree, it was the opposite. Keswani said unlike most hotel companies, Lemon Tree didn't shut most hotels. "So, in Q1, 80-90 per cent of our rooms were operational. And we had about 2,500 employees staying in the hotels."
For Takkar, there were two-three things that were critical in rebuilding after the lockdown. "One was to make sure services remain up and running. The second was to digitise all partners while the third as to ensure that all employees were enabled. "
The day ended with acceptance speeches from India's Best CEOs. There were in all 18 awards. Of that 12 went to sectoral leaders; four awards to winners based on size. Then there are the awards for the Champion of Champions and Lifetime Achievement. While K.V. Kamath was awarded for Lifetime Achievement, Mukesh Ambani, CMD, Reliance Industries, was awarded Champion of Champions. The year saw many new winners. This included Rajesh Gopinathan, MD & CEO, TCS; Sanjiv Mehta, CMD, HUL; Gurdeep Singh, CMD, NTPC; C. Vijayakumar, CEO, HCL Tech; Sanjeev Kumar, MD, Gujarat Gas; Nikhil Nanda, CMD, Escorts; D.C. Mehta, CMD, Deepak Nitrite; Premchand Godha, CMD, IPCA Laboratories; and Ashish Bharat Ram, MD, SRF. The sponsors were SRM Institute of Science and Technology (Deemed to be University), Thyrocare, Darwin Group of Platforms and Oriflame.
The sponsors were SRM Institute of Science and Technology (Deemed to be University), Thyrocare, Darwin Group of Platforms and Oriflame.