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“Human mind when pushed, will innovate, and find a way out,” Minari Shah

In this podcast with Mrigashira, Minari Shah talks about the challenges faced and lesson learnt during the pandemic. Here are the excerpts from the interview. For the full-length interview, please listen to the podcast.

This an edited version of the podcast. Listen to the podcast for the complete interview

In terms of what has changed for you and Amazon during COVID times.

I think one thing which may not be unique to PR or Amazon or the teams, is all of us are really missing the human interaction. In the past, I don't think we realized how much we cared about going into work and offices.  You know, those coffee breaks, how much it mattered to us in our productivity.

In Communications jobs, how we gather business inputs, as well as how we deliver them to our audiences, depends on different kinds of meetings, small and large, one-on-ones and so on. All of these have changed, right? How do we gather inputs? How do we communicate it? How do you meet your stakeholders, be it the media or employees when we cannot do on-ground events? In Amazon, we do outreaches of different kinds. I think these are some of the big changes.

The other piece, which is common to everyone is that we're all putting in longer hours at work. The boundary between work and personal life seems to have gone away. It needs a lot more conscious effort to find those right boundaries. I think everyone is drained being on calls all the time. One needs a lot more energy to do the same meetings on over video and audio calls.

What did you do to keep the team motivation high?

First business challenges. Our customers depended on Amazon a lot more because they felt that it would be safe for them to shop online. Our selling partners were depending on us more than ever because this was there one way to keep their business going. There were these different kinds of challenges that we had to solve, while all of us working remotely.

Initially, we had to get curfew passes for numerous people across the country. We had to work with hundreds of district administration. We had to learn about containment zones. One day you could deliver in an area and the next day you could not.  We were working with tech, legal, business and PR teams who are based in different parts of not just India but the US. We were working strange hours trying to solve all these different pieces. I think those were the kind of challenges and it took a couple of weeks.  It was also about how do you get the team to be driving through all this easily?

First couple of months, it was the sheer compulsion of the fact that you know, you can make a difference, that as a company, you're actually really responsible for so many lives and make such a difference is what really added a lot of purpose. I think teams were driven by that purpose. I think it's amazing.

When we realised it is going to be there for longer, it was about how do you really keep the team morale high? Initially, it was about getting the right infrastructure, the right chairs and desks and workstations and connectivity. Then it was about making sure that the hours became a lot more flexible. People are working longer hours, and we had to have a lot more flexibility. People needed time out to cook and clean houses and manage kids' online schooling. I know that there were times when I could lock my calendar to say I'm cooking. We made sure we were respectful of that and provided them with flexibility.

What is the kind of learning you have had in these months?

My recent experience of completing Amazon Prime Day showed me that the human mind when pushed, will innovate, and find a way out. My one big learning is that one can innovate and find the way. Prime Day was to start, it starts at midnight, and typically we are all in the office that night. There is intense excitement and adrenaline. But this time, all of us were like, “Oh my God, I cannot believe I am not in the office”. It was that human touch that human interaction of just being together, watching each other be tense and smile and relief that we missed. We are all waiting to go back to be able to spend time with each other.

(Mrigashira is a podcast for Indian PR and Communication professionals anchored by Radha Radhakrishnan. To listen to all episodes visit https://www.digitales.co.in/industry-insights/mrigashira-podcast/ )

 

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