15 March 2021 | New Delhi, India
The WAF CFO Roundtable was held virtually on Saturday, 13 th March in which Chief Financial
Officers of the auto & mobility industry across discussed a very relevant and pertinent topic- Best
Practices of Financial Management in the Covid Era
The panel comprised Maheen Lampwala Country CFO for the Faurecia Group of Entities in India;
Puneet Sabharwal, who is CFO with Citroën India; Anders Olof Häger, the CFO Volvo Eicher
Commercial Vehicles; Surendra Agarwal, CFO Group Landmark; Chandan Goyal, a Chartered
Accountant by profession and the co-founder of Blue Consulting; and Anuj Guglani, the founder and
CEO at World Auto Forum which connects the Auto & Mobility Industry in 125 Countries.
Anuj Guglani, CEO, World Auto Forum called upon the panel to share their key learning in the year
Mr. Puneet Sabharwal spoke of how they had to reshape their new-launch strategy and media
publicity during the pandemic. Earlier women would request for a day of ‘work-from-home’ to take
care of domestic responsibilities but after the lockdown, it was the other way- requesting to allow
them to attend office at least for a day.
He realized that change is the only constant in life, as he saw flexibility in work hours, a paperless
work environment, including the financial transactions, and a infused a new motivation which created a new opportunity in adversity had set in.
Mr Anuj Guglani, CEO World Auto Forum, told how physical distancing ushered in the entry of trucks
carrying materials inside the premises of Automobiles Industry, through RPA and associated
technologies for material entry thereby reducing the earlier time of 45 minutes to less than 5
Maheen Lampwala spoke of how major challenges at manufacturing end as the plant had to be shut
down, but on the technology and design side, work boomed, as work poured in from Europe and US
where the pandemic had struck multi-fold. But at the same time, due to lockdown, priority shifted to
focussing on not just the financial but also the mental and physical health of the employees to pump
in motivation and all that could be done, virtually and digitally that included automation and
After the factories were allowed to re-open, more new challenges were faced concerning
labour force and upkeep of a virus-free work environment and more facilities had to be introduced.
Anders Olof Häger spoke of defining values and the professional relationships one wishes to
maintain when one comes into a pandemic situation like this and leadership plays a big role. He was
clear about never letting the suppliers and the dealers down.
He first got down to fixing the basics and the cash flow and online meetings were help everyday with the camera on, because he wanted
to see the people and gauge their mood and motivation level, which was so important with him
sitting in Europe and his team sitting in India. They even held Yoga classes!
This way they were connected as a family. He noted that while Corona badly hit the automobile
business, some businesses boomed and made big money only on account of the pandemic and the
Surendra Aggarwal spoke of the primary challenge during the pandemic, which was maintaining the
cash flow and balance due to zero sales in March and April 2020. They then focussed only on
cleaning the balance sheet to make cash flow strong by clearing debts and making recoveries of old
funds stuck which Ideally should not be the case in retail business.
The objective was to sustain themselves for the next few months of the lockdown and uncertainties
and then the realization came that this should have been done long back. They made good progress
with this and now it has become a routine practice with them and working well.
Negotiations with OEM became more flexible, helping dealers with better liquidity position and
better support to liquidate the stock. Digitization happens the last in the Finance department but the
pandemic made that happen fast and on the virtual platform budget meetings with focus on every
detail, proved to be highly successful too leading to nearly 15-20% cost optimization. Retail is all
about detail for effective cost management.
Chandan Goyal spoke of their plan to open 3 more offices in India when the pandemic struck and
this fortunately got stalled and now, they realize these local offices are not really required. The
entire CFO community was concerned about how to reduce costs. This led him to create on-line
master classes to share his financial expertise and wisdom which he thought was basic common
sense but to his surprise these were attended by 1000+ CFOs and CEOs across India. The key take-
away in this – The real deal is in the basics!
Each cost has to be looked at from 5 angles- Can you eliminate it? Can you automate it? Can you
reduce it? Can you outsource it? Can you simplify it?
This is the EAROS test through which each ledger must pass and the cost comes down drastically.
This needs to be sustained and be a part and parcel of our organization culture rather than wait for a
pandemic to strike.
Anuj Guglani commented that this had been his experience too in Honda Cars in 2001 and
concluded that the biggest evolution of the finance department, according to him, has been going
beyond figures, P&L and audits and talking about empowering people.
WAF lauds the role of the automobile industry for not just showing their acumen in financial
management, but also setting an example in personnel management in times of the pandemic. The
compassion and consideration meted out to their employees was certainly the high point of their
Compiled by Kiran Misra
For further information, please reach:
Gerald Louis “Jerry” | +91 8368746841 | email@example.com
Anuj Guglani | +91 9810552425 | firstname.lastname@example.org