Gopalkrishnan, who is the chairman of Axilor Ventures, says in the post-COVID world, more and more business executives would partly work from home, meetings would be video enabled and travel will come down significantly.
The nationwide lockdown triggered by the spread of the novel coronavirus has been extended until May 3 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 Their daily schedules have been disrupted and their long drawn out usual meetings have been replaced by video calls.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 Rakesh Khar spoke to Kris Gopalakrishnan, the co-founder of Infosys and chairman of Axilor Ventures.
You can read other editions of Virtual Leaders here.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
Q: How does your average day look like pre-COVID and post-COVID?
A: All meetings are either Tele-conferencing or Video-conferencing. Travel time is available. You have more time at hand. You are more productive. To my mind, there is no difference. Yes, the normal chit -chat that one did pre- and post-physical business meetings doesn’t exist today. I have, therefore, found a way to speak to a few people on a daily basis to keep the personal quotient alive. Rest, since you are at home you tend to sit a lot. Every one hour, I do a little walk. Post-COVID, more and more business executives would partly work from home as per the industry. More and more meetings would be video enabled to avoid travel. Travel will, accordingly, come down significantly.
Q: You are an established start-up investor and mentor. How has the work-from-home syndrome impacted the start-up universe?
My business interest is in the start-up ecosystem. I am happy that the start-up community has come together and is doing whatever it can to help in this situation. Start-ups, at least some of them, are out there repurposing their solution. Some of them are geared for the opportunity. Definitely, some of them are repurposing fast.
For example, companies in content and video output (I have invested in some of them) are seeing growth. Companies in hospitality, though, definitely are not doing well. Cloud kitchens are offering solutions (serve meals) and corporates are supporting such initiatives either through philanthropy or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). They have found a purpose. I am happy that the startup ecosystem is getting together to contribute in this crisis.
Q: How do you see the work-from-home syndrome pan out post-COVID?
A: For example, in the IT services space, 20 percent of staff working from home will become the norm. It will give them a disaster recovery capability which was a requirement in this downturn. Nobody had planned disaster recovery capability from home. Now they will include this as part of the drill. They will train employees to be productive working from home and create the requisite infrastructure.
At the macro level, start-ups are asking why we need an office. We can either meet in a restaurant or maybe in a shared conference room. All such models will come, and for sure utilisation of office space will come down.
Q: Post-COVID, will HR perspective on work from home change dramatically?
A: If you introduce work from home as part of your normal business model, I would see that happen. But fundamental practices would stay in the physical office. The punch card thing is a way for capturing attendance. It is required legally. Tomorrow if there is a dispute on billing one of the evidence could be attendance log and secondly it is also a security issue. But for sure there will be adaptation and new models will emerge.
Q: What are the lessons in leadership from the COVID-19 crisis?
A: I talk to my colleagues in the industry across business verticals. Many are feeling the pain and are hurt at this point. The key message is to save costs and be cost efficient. A manufacturing vertical doesn’t have much scope in work from home syndrome but a section of the services sector can obviously shift some staff to work from home.
Q: Have you been in touch with co-founders of Infosys during the lockdown period?
A: We have constantly been in touch. I am in touch with all my friends. I make a list daily of people I want to call and call them. Yes, we don’t get together that often. We do one-on-one calls. Physical meetings are not done. We are all above 60 and we are categorised as high risk, hence telephone and video calls are the order of the day.
Q: Has work from home given you an opportunity to spend more time with the family? Or, actually catch up with either a passion or hobby?A: Reading – I am taking more and more time to read up more things. I am now not doing the long-form read. The reading has essentially been COVID-related stuff so that I can understand better what the virus is doing to the world at large. I am trying to read up on how others are managing during this crisis. Research, another interest area, is also taking up my time. I am trying to read on research to possibly arrive at some solutions and possibly contribute personally.