#FightBackCorona: View every action from the lens of public interest: Madan Bahal

These are extraordinary times and we all are in uncharted territory. There is a lot of fear and negativity in all spheres due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. While the Corona Warriors are doing a tremendous job fighting from the frontlines, we at Adgully are embarking on an endeavour to highlight the positive developments during these challenging times. 

Over the next few weeks, Adgully will be featuring a series of brief interactions with industry leaders in India and find out how they are keeping their spirits up as well as keeping their employees motivated, also how they are joining in the fight against the adverse impact of the global pandemic. 

Madan Bahal, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Adfactors PR, has an important message for the industry during these challenging times – assuring job security to employees and decisive leadership. While crises may come and go, being prepared for any eventuality can make all the difference. 

What steps are you and your organisation taking to help out the society at large or those engaged in the war against Covid-19?
To begin with, we made a humble contribution of Rs 50 lakh to the PM Care Fund. Secondly, we took another important decision, where our 8 verticals have been empowered to at least take up one organisation which is leading a war against Corona, which could be an NGO or any governmental body, to provide pro-bono communication support. After all, we are from the business of communication and we are experts in communication, so let that expertise be used to amplify the work they are doing by creating awareness for the same.

Public Relations, like media, is the most critical service. To set the context right, managing businesses and serving our clients is most important. Today at Adfactors, we have around 400 clients, whose market capitalisation is approximately 35-40 per cent of India’s market capitalisation or GDP, so for us to keep the service flowing 24x7 is very pivotal. Serving these clients 24x7 is itself a significant contribution to the society, because these large businesses have to communicate to their stakeholders day and night. And we have done everything possible to see that there is not even a single minute of service interruption. I can proudly say that we are not in a business mode as usual, but we are in business as usual with a plus mode. 

How are you keeping your employees motivated and are encouraging them to give their best, even as they are working from home?
First and foremost is assuring job security. Adfactors is the only company that has announced that there will zero job cuts and the same has been communicated to the employees. This will be for the financial year 2020-21 due to Coronavirus. This is a bold step from our side to reassure the employees. So, instead of pampering with talks, we wanted to make it more tangible. The reassurance of job security will also boost the morale and increase productivity.

We have empowered everyone to work from home. The empowerment came in the form of a laptop for every individual in Adfactors with connectivity tools and setting up special protocols even before one started working from home. Right in the first week we set up all processes, protocols, guidelines and communication with the clients happened regularly with all delivery process.

There is a lot of negativity floating around like job losses, bankruptcy and companies shutting down, which we have tackled by announcing that none of the 816 employees of Adfactors will lose their jobs. We had taken a similar step in 2008-09 during the time of the economic slowdown.

We have also emotionally trained our people to work from home with complete 24x7 technology support, HR support. While 24x7 seems like an exaggeration, but between 8 am and 10 pm you can escalate any grievance and it will be answered in real time.

Staying connected with the employees is what we are ensuring. An Account Director talks to his people three times a day, the Vice-President talks to everybody once a day. And I myself have spoken to all our 816 employees once in the last two weeks. The HR has also been given a mandate to connect with all the employees once a week, addressing all their concerns and boosting their morale and reassuring about their job safety.

To keep our clients happy, we are working overtime and doing more in terms of what normal service delivery would happen. Earlier, work would commence at 9 am and end at 6.30-7.00 pm, but now work starts as early as 8.30 am and goes on till 10.00 pm. Clients have several issues on various matters and we are making all efforts to seriously over-service them. The problems of our clients are bigger than our problems and while they are busy tackling their problems and serving the rest of the world, we should be busy helping them at peak capacity. And that is why we have taken the call that there will be zero job losses. I don’t want anybody to look out for jobs. 

What is most needed in challenging times such as these:
(a) From the general public: The public has to serve well by simply setting a good example of citizenry. Be more disciplined and exercise restraint and don’t throw any tantrums. There is a problem and everybody is tackling it and, therefore, show more understanding in discipline and behaviour. Please stay at home and don’t create any ruckus. 

(b) From the authorities: The government is doing a reasonably good job. My expectation is that the government should be more decisive, because world over there is indecisiveness prevailing. We have seen this in the case of President Trump and heads of other countries like Spain, Italy, etc. In contrast, our government – both at the center and the states – has been far more decisive. I want our government to continue maintaining this decisiveness. 

There is need to be more proactive by anticipating the future scenario and being prepared for it and also preparing the country for it. We should not be caught on the backfoot like other countries. We have the learning curve of where other countries failed or succeeded, which our policy makers can factor in while planning the strategy for the country. 

(c) From business leaders: There is a crisis of leadership at three levels in the society today – there is healthcare crisis, economic crisis that is looming large, and there is the leadership crisis. At this point of time, business is an important constituent of the society, as the entire wealth of the society is vested in the hands of business. The society should demonstrate a fine example of responsible leadership. And the leadership should come in the form of prudent decision making by demonstrating compassion and empathy. Any corporate action that they take should be viewed from the lens of public interest, even if it is a bit inconvenient for businesses at this point of time.


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