The young entrepreneur says focusing on business fundamentals and building a strong foundation matter and companies that have these elements in place will come out stronger at the end of lockdown.
The nationwide lockdown triggered by the spread of the novel coronavirus has been extended until May 18 and entrepreneurs, the original hustlers, have had to make 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 Their daily schedules have been disrupted and their long drawn out usual meetings have been replaced by video calls.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 today’s edition of Virtual Leaders, M. Sriram spoke to Ravi Ramachandran, co-founder and CEO of Nua Woman, a women’s wellness brand.
You can read other editions of Virtual Leaders here.
Q. What does your average day look like now given your normal routine must have been disrupted by the lockdown?
A. Every morning I spend a little time catching up on the news followed by some yoga, and after a quick healthy breakfast, I get ready to be at my desk by 8.30 am. For the next 12-14 hours, with a short break for lunch and dinner, I spend time with my teams. In between, I manage to find time for my work out, some quality time with my family and pursuing my long-lost hobbies.
That’s exactly how I want all my days to be! Unfortunately, just as it is for most folks these days, it has not been that straightforward with so many moving parts. There is no real set routine yet for me, but yes, I spend most of my day syncing up with different teams on progress, key challenges, and brainstorming solutions and some quality time with family and everything else squeezed in.
Q. How do you manage your office teams now? How are you keeping your staff motivated? Could you share some unique experiences that you have had during this period of the lockdown while dealing with your teams/colleagues or investors?
A. We started working from home ten days before the formal lockdown began. We have been managing our teams remotely via calls. Of all the various things we have tried, the one thing that has helped us motivate our team was to set a common aspirational goal that drives everyone.
Nua sanitary pads are essentials and sold online. So, we set ourselves a strict target to get the business back online in 15 days to ensure our customers did not suffer. At the outset, this seemed impossible for our small team. It required close cross-functional coordination and, more importantly, several approvals from local authorities. However, the fact that we had the opportunity to make a difference motivated the team. Eventually, we managed to start our operations within ten days of lockdown on a small scale. We began to scale up to pre-COVID levels by May first week.
Q. Have you found some means to e-socialise with your teams outside work, given all of your colleagues might be remote?
A. Within the first week of lockdown, with so much going on out there, we knew we needed to do something innovative to make the team feel connected beyond work. A couple of our team members suggested an initiative we now call Nua FFH (Fun From Home) Challenge. Someone from the team creates a challenge and nominates three others to perform that challenge. The performances are posted on our internal team website, where the rest of the team votes for the best performer anonymously. Challengers are free to be creative and campaign for votes as well. The winner of the challenge nominates three others for a new challenge.
FFH has been a tremendously successful internal initiative for us. It has helped us create some excitement each day and break the monotony of the work from home routine. This initiative has also helped us understand each other better. Challenges have ranged from dishwashing tutorials to enacting famous movie dialogues to even fitness and cooking tests. Doing these challenges has become so popular over the last two months that we now had to start a Season 2.
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. I honestly don’t feel I am getting a lot of extra time with family given actual work hours tend to get stretched in a work-from-home situation. I do make it a point to eat my meals with my family and spend an hour every day for playtime with my seven-year-old daughter. We alternate between scrabble (when we want to think), Uno (when we want don’t want to think), and Ludo (when we want to chill). My daughter takes these games super seriously – with score sheets et al. So, I have to be at my best to match up to her.
Q. Have you always had a separate work station at home or did you set that up because of the lockdown? Can you share with us how have you set it up?
A. My family and I have been in Kochi at my parents’ house before lockdown because of a personal emergency. Since I did not have a formal workstation here, I struggled for the first few days– working mostly out of a couch – till I got my bearings right. I managed to repurpose an old dressing table into a fully functional workstation with space for my laptop, notebooks, folders, printer, and scanner.
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?
A. I haven’t had time to pursue any hobby as such. But I do want to add that the lockdown has allowed me to spend more time with my parents and grandparents. For the last ten years, I haven’t spent more than 5-6 days a year with them because we live in different cities. So, I am happy that I am getting to bond more with them.
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. Several catch-ups actually, but the one that comes to my mind is with one of my closest friends from undergrad days, 17 years ago. Somehow we had not been in touch for several years. He lives in NYC, and when I recently saw a Facebook post by him on the COVID situation in New York, I pinged him to see if he was safe. It eventually led to a video call where we talked about everything other than COVID, given there were so many things to catch up on. It was such a refreshing conversation amidst all the chaos.
Q. What is that one major piece of management learning that you have gained during this forced lockdown?A. Oh, it’s nothing new, really, but more like something important has been reinforced. Focusing on business fundamentals and building a strong foundation matter so much to any business at any stage. We have seen clear benefits by focusing on the basics such as a good business model, getting the unit economics right, showing prudence, having a clear business plan with identified risks, and mitigation plans. I firmly believe that companies that have these elements in place will come out stronger at the end of this forced lockdown.