Last Updated : Jun 19, 2020 11:19 AM IST

Leadership in the new normal—CEO’s perspective

The following article is an initiative of Cisco India and is intended to create awareness among readers.


The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown have shaken up the business landscape and changed the very fabric of the workplace. But with every crisis comes opportunity. Opportunity to adapt with the changes and find new ways to fuel your growth story. World over, organisations have had to deploy new strategies and transition to the new way of working by managing a now remote workforce, and changing their business models to ensure business continuity.

Today, leadership is more important than ever to enable a seamless transition to and adoption of the evolved workplace and help rebuild a fragile economy. Business leaders will need to help their employees navigate this change, while working towards reviving flailing supply chains, product lines, and other business processes affected by this unfolding reality.

To understand how leaders in India are building business resilience, the ‘Cisco Idea Lab’ series by Cisco in association with CNBC-TV18, brought together industry leaders to gather their insights on how their companies are gearing up for the new normal and battling the impact of the COVID-19 crisis; what opportunities are driving their strategies; and what leadership will look like post the pandemic. This virtual episode features an esteemed panel of guests that include Sameer Garde - President, CISCO India & SAARC, Tarun Katial – CEO, ZEE5, Kewal Handa - Chairman, Union Bank of India, B Ashok – CEO, RRPCL, and K Ganesh - Serial Entrepreneur and Promoter, Portea Medical.

Over the last few months, digital workplaces have become commonplace. Sameer Garde - President, Cisco India & SAARC spoke about Cisco’s on which areas of work were impacted and what key elements comprised his list of priorities, “The most important priority was definitely our employees. With the help of technology, we were able to help them work securely from home using SAAS offerings. Overall, in India, we were able to enable 50,000 employees—between us and our partners—to work from home almost overnight. The other crucial priority for us was our customers. We’ve been working very closely through CSR and other technology initiatives to help the government in managing the pandemic.”

Due to this pandemic, the supply chain and distribution of goods has severely impacted businesses. But while there have been announcements of measures for the MSME and agricultural sector, they are yet to adapt to digital transformation. Kewal Handa, Chairman, Union Bank of India, sheds a light on how the banking sector can mitigate these challenges, “Since physical movement is not possible, we enabled businesses to share all their documents online and even get digital signatures so that they can get their required funds immediately.”

The lockdown has also led to crude oil prices crashing and a lack of fuel demand across the world disrupting the energy sector altogether. RRPCL’s CEO, B Ashok helps us comprehend these changes, “Usually whenever there are natural disasters, petroleum providers have had to meet high consumer demand as it’s an essential service. However, this pandemic has been very different as a demand disruption has taken place. While the demand for gasoline, diesel, and aviation fuel has reduced, LPG demand has gone up by 25 percent in the domestic segment. When one product is growing and others are not, it poses a typical challenge for the oil and gas industry to figure out how to meet the essential requirements. We have to re-organise the entire supply chain, and mitigating any issues faced by employees and channel partners. And so far, we have managed well.”

In the midst of this outbreak, it is interesting to see how consumer behaviour has been transformed. We asked K Ganesh, serial entrepreneur and promoter of Portea Medical, if these behavioural changes will continue in the post COVID-19 era, or new will trends be observed. “Consumer behaviour has certainly changed. Take Big Basket for example. Earlier, people wanted grocery delivery for convenience. But now, safety and hygiene are their primary concerns. Even Portea Medical is now providing healthcare outside the hospital by offering chemotherapy and dialysis at home. These changes are clearly a result of this pandemic. While some things may change, we anticipate some permanent consumer shifts too in the future.”

Since the lockdown was imposed, there has been a surge in digital content consumption; especially on OTT platforms. To explain how this pandemic changed the course of the entertainment business, Tarun Katial – CEO, ZEE5, shared his experience, “As a tech company, we have always been digital first having facilitated remote working for years. But on the user side, to cater to the surge in demand, we had to find a way to resolve the surge in bandwidth usage. We had to reshape our backend to support the bandwidth requirements overnight. And we had to continue producing new content. So we’ve tried to do shows virtually with virtual crews, as well as set up production in green zones to make sure content production continues.”

If there’s one lesson this pandemic has taught us, it’s to seize the opportunities presented to us and use the new learnings to adjust to adapt to the new normal,

Business leaders need to help their organisations to prioritise employee safety, optimise company culture, and restart their businesses effectively to help revive the economy.

Watch the full video of the episode here to know more about how these CEOs they have reshaped their respective organisations and what lessons can be learned from their experiences.
First Published on Jun 18, 2020 09:44 pm
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