Gupta has led Fino Payments Bank through its transition from a business correspondent to a full-fledged payments bank
The 21-day lockdown triggered by the spread of the coronavirus has entered into the last 10 days and entrepreneurs, the original hustlers, have had to make a plenty of changes to their daily routine to adapt to working from home (WFH). Their daily schedules have been disrupted and their long drawn out usual meetings have been replaced by video calls. Not to mention the stress of a looming economic slowdown and pressure from investors.
Moneycontrol looks at how a scrum of business leaders is dealing with these fast changing times. In the third edition of the series, which we have named Virtual Leaders, Pratik Bhakta interviews Rishi Gupta, Chief Executive Officer - Fino Payments Bank. Gupta has led the bank through its transition from a business correspondent to a full-fledged payments bank. He steered the company through a massive fundraising exercise to reduce its foreign shareholding from 75 percent to less than 50 percent as prescribed by the Reserve Bank of India. Today the bank is on the brink of profitability and has spread out across the country with its branches, micro ATMs and its own BC network.
You can read other editions of Virtual Leaders here.
Edited excerpts from an interview:
Q: What does your average day look like now given your normal routine must have been disrupted by the 21-day lockdown?
A: Much before the lockdown started on March 24, as a measure of precaution my family and I went into self-quarantine as our son had just returned from the US. Over the next few weeks, life would throw new challenges because what was to end in two weeks, extended with the announcement of the lockdown.
In my career spanning couple of decades, I have had no concept of working from home (WFH) and honestly, I will admit that I was pretty sceptical of it too. But I had to make the transition, now I start my day early after a session of Yoga and instead of going to office, I position myself in one corner of my room which is my new workstation.
Q: What is your strategy to steer the business and keep the staff motivated in these tough times? Are you having problems dealing with it remotely?
A: We are focusing our attention on 3Rs – Rethink strategy, Reinvent processes and Remodel business.
Thanks to technology, WFH is very close to being physically present in office. Tasks are turned around faster without over indulging in meetings. I am now convinced that WFH can be super effective if followed religiously. In the limited time we had to make arrangements for laptops, data cards, and provided access to systems that are business critical to concerned teams. We put in place a business continuity plan (BCP) with department heads responsible for its execution. Review meetings over video conferencing with our field teams have proved effective and productive.
A big take away for me was the amazing coordination between different corporate and field teams to ensure smooth delivery of banking services. Along with business updates, pictures/ videos of field staff following social distancing, sanitizing, wearing masks and going out of their way to ensure customers are not inconvenienced are in itself a huge motivation for all of us.
Q: Have you found some means to e-socialise with your teams outside work, given all of your colleagues might be remote?
A: Our homes are our fortresses. While we couldn’t go out, the situation allowed us to keep in touch with our colleagues, friends and relatives over video calls.
Q: Now that you are working from home, how much time are you spending with family/kids? Any specific activity that you undertake regularly with your family members, which you thoroughly enjoy?
A: A key learning here is no matter how busy one is, 3Hs are important for all of us – Home, Health and Humour! Focus on each will help us tide over difficult times.
Spending time with family is definitely the biggest positive of this lockdown. We are back to the old times of playing board games and carom. It is blissful to get this time with my children and I truly value it. Nevertheless, I also manage to squeeze in one self-indulgent hour of Netflix which is super important too. We don’t know if we will get to spend such quality time with family ever again.
Q: Since you were never a supporter of WFH, how did you set up a work station now?
A: As I was saying before, I have always been sceptical of WFH, but given the situation, I started by converting a small corner of my room into the new designated office. Luckily for me, I had the space to do so even in a city like Mumbai.
Q: Was there a hobby that you had given up because of work pressure but you have been able to resume now over the last two weeks?
I have always done Yoga to start my day, but now I am spending some extra time on it as walking has taken a back seat. Secondly, I make excellent tomato cheese toast, but I didn’t venture into the kitchen for a long time. Now, I have been making that as breakfast for my family, especially kids regularly. Given I can only make one dish, I won’t be surprised if they request for a change in menu!
Q: Did you manage to catch up with any old friend or a relative in this time period, someone who has not been in touch with you for a long time?
A: Yes. In fact this has been quite a bonding period with friends and family. We have at least one or two video calls with old school and college friends, ex-colleagues, close family and with cousins. I have spoken to so many old friends and relatives in the past 3 weeks. It has been real re-bonding with all of them and huge positive of staying at home.
Q: What is that one major piece of management learning that you have gained during this forced lockdown and you would want to carry it even after things become normal?
A: From purely a business perspective, in my opinion ‘OCI’ is critical and that is something this incident will make us stick to in the future as well:
- Oiled machinery: A well-oiled and functional machinery to keep us going and once things return to normalcy it will help business bounce back faster
- Communicate: Keep communicating to staff, associates, vendors, investors and customers- Innovate: Keep innovating on products, processes, distribution and every possible aspect of business.