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Lockdown Lessons: “COVID-19 is an opportunity for SMEs to play the catch-up game”

Mohanraj J, President and Business Unit Head, Duroflex,
Mohanraj J, President and Business Unit Head, Duroflex,

India is just emerging out of an over two-month long lockdown – a period that has changed our lives, behaviours and the way we conduct business forever. The lessons that we have learnt during the lockdown period and our experiences during the year so far, will help us navigate a world that we had never imagined. It has been a trying time for many of us, with everyone working from home and having to adapt to a new way of working and living. Adgully’s latest endeavour – Lockdown Lessons – is an attempt to present the key learnings that India’s business honchos have learnt and imbibed, and which can help the industry navigate the new normal better.

Also read: COVID-19: Liberty Shoes expects 35%-45% fall in revenues this fiscal

Mohanraj J, President and Business Unit Head, Duroflex, shares with Adgully how he has been facing the pressure test of the lockdown, the opportunities opening up for the SMEs, the new financial management mantra for the COVID-19 time and much more.

What are the key lockdown lessons as a professional during the lockdown period?

The lockdown has been a pressure test, no doubt, for most of us professionals. With no rulebook to follow, it has tested my agility, resilience, resourcefulness, and leadership skills. Personally, it has helped shape me into an even more seasoned and mature professional. 

I see COVID-19 as an opportunity, it is a leveller between the Large, Medium, and Small Enterprises. An opportunity for Small and Medium Enterprises to play the catchup game. Organisations that will invest in people's culture, quick decision making, and are adaptive will emerge as winners. This is exactly what Duroflex is focusing on.

Few key learnings:

Communicate: Silence leads to panic, anxiety, and unwarranted gossip. Engage and have open conversations with your team and bring them together. Call for virtual huddle sessions to clarify doubts and motivate them.

Set Realistic Expectations: Be realistic, relook, and reset your objectives and your budget for the year. In uncertain times like this, it is important to think through multiple scenarios and build contingency plans. Relook at long term Capex, fixed expenses, and other large costs to the company. Good to have realistic optimism to avoid burnout and disappointment later.

Training and Engagement: This period can be best utilised to upgrade your skillset and that of your key employees and build them for the future. Build online cross-functional training programs to inculcate collaborative working and multi-tasking mindset.

Cost Reduction: Identify key cost drivers and engage groups to work in bringing cost reduction and optimisation. The work done now will create a long term positive, sustainable impact and it is important to prioritise investments keeping this larger picture in mind. 

Innovate and Create Disruptive Business Models: There is a need to relook at existing business models and build capability within the system to adapt to changes and have the foresight to create disruptive models. Find new ways to reach your consumers and solve their current problems. There is always an opportunity in crisis and some of the best work is always done in a crisis scenario. Now more than ever, we have a chance to make a difference.

How did you manage and achieve work-life balance while working from home?

Work from home in a normal scenario is a great flexible way of working. The lockdown version of work from home came with some perils. The blurring boundaries between personal and professional life being one of them. Discipline is key to managing work-life balance while working from home. For me, planning the day and organising my energy and thoughts helped in maximising the day. I ensured that I took enough breaks and spent time with family to recharge my mind and mood.

It has been more than two months since the lockdown was enforced. How are you gearing up for back to office mode?

While the option of working from home in a normal scenario has its advantages, this extended period of lockdown has helped us understand the importance of an office, being together, and having a great work environment. We are all happy to get back to work from our office. At Duroflex, we have done extensive training for all employees on the new norms and rules of the workplace and undertaken all safety and precautionary measures to provide a safe and secure workplace.

Any lessons that you picked up in financial management from the lockdown period?

As living with COVID-19 becomes the new normal, it is time to move from Survival to Revival mode for all businesses. The plans, budgets, and strategy worked during the pre-COVID-19 period become less relevant and there is a need to relook at the current business model. In the short run, all organisations will have to move away from the traditional long-term plan. Short term focus should be conserving cash, optimising budget, and expense control. Doing more with less is the new financial management mantra. 

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