WAF Gurus Live 21  Managing Teams & Businesses amidst the Second Wave 

Points of Discussion 

 1. Our teams, Businesses have evolved all through 2020 , well so has the virus!

 2.  100 years back , Spanish Flu had 3 waves, with the second one deadlier than the first one.

 3.  We have already adjusted, tweaked our way of working. What more needs to be done?

 4. Digital Adoption has been at its peak. Would we need a Digital 2.0 for the second wave ?

 5. What are the new challenges the second wave throws at us ?

 6. How should we equip, prepare and empower our teams for the second wave ?

 7. How would the markets change ? What more consumer behaviour shifts can we expect ?

 8. What are the changes in Business we need to do now to protect our cash flows ?

 Speakers : 

1. Vinkesh Gulati President, FADA

2. Sandeep Gambhir, MD & CEO Orix India

3. Gaurav Gupta, Chief Commercial Officer, MG Motor India 

4. Banwari Lal Sharma, CEO CarWale 

5. M Dhananjayan, MD Focus Group

6. M Raj Kalyanarajan, Sr Director- Manufacturing, Stellantis Group 

7. Anuj Guglani, CEO World Auto Forum


Key Takeaways 

The WAF Gurus Live! Episode 21 was held on Saturday, 17th April in which Gurus of the auto & mobility industry across discussed a very pertinent and topical issue – “Managing Teams and Businesses amidst the Second Wave”

The panel comprised

Mr. Vinkesh Gulati – President, FADA and Partner – United Automobiles; Mr. Banwari Lal Sharma, the CEO at CarWale and BikeWale, Mr. M. Dhananjayan, the Managing Director of Focus Group; Mr. M. Raj Kalyanarajan the Senior Director of Manufacturing at Stellantis group; Mr. Gaurav Gupta the Chief Commercial Officer at MG Motor India; Mr. Sandeep Gambhir, the Managing Director and CEO, ORIX India and Mr. Anuj Guglani, the founder and CEO at World Auto Forum which connects the Auto & Mobility Industry in 125 Countries.

Mr. Anuj Guglani, CEO, World Auto Forum called upon the panel to share their views on the current situation where the teams and businesses have evolved through 2020 and adjusted to the new way of working but then so has the virus. The challenge facing the industry at present is – how to come out triumphant with our teams amidst the second wave.

Mr. Anuj asked Mr. Gulati, who represents the biggest body of auto dealers in the country, about the prevailing sentiment at the ground level. Mr. Gulati felt that in the dealership business, the teams form the most important component of the business and they know best how to expand and take it forward. The all pervading, second wave of the pandemic has hit the people harder, and has affected 15-20 percent of the dealership manpower, and worse still- an exodus of 15% of the workforce back to their hometowns. So, with 35% manpower less, and the service volume proportionately down, the dealership is still open, maintaining all the Covid protocol and their morale low.

What is needed most is not any award but a good communication and anything that will work as a pep pill for them, including a sound medical insurance specifically for Covid. As industry leaders, we should take it upon ourselves to break this chain in whatever way we can rather than wait for the government to impose a lockdown, we should look after their physical and mental health and treat them as our equals.

Mr. Sandeep Gambhir wittily remarked – ‘Manage teams; businesses will get managed on their own’. Everything lost in business can be regained save for the manpower, so that is where the focus should be…lending them support in every possible way. He felt the level of caution and preparedness amidst people was not adequate keeping in mind the graveness of the second wave, which was taking its toll on the mental state of his teams.

He too felt that the business will bounce back soon, it’s the teams we have to look after as our immediate and prime concern and they remain gripped in fear constantly of getting hit by the virus. He felt that people should not lower their guard and brace themselves well for this second wave that has hit us. It had led ORIX to close down many of its offices in major cities and work from home, they indulge in organised leisure activities and also a mentorship programme to boost the morale of teams that is imperative in these times.

Mr. Gaurav Gupta in consonance with the earlier speakers, implored team leaders not to take things for granted just because they had handled things well in the first wave.  He advocated a hybrid approach- in some places ‘work from home’ and at other times be out on the field- maintain core key verticals. The paramount concern is- take care of your people, they will take care of your business.

In the field of customer care, they have designed a Shield Plus programme in which they work out contactless ways to reach out to customers, including a V-Fi system that has QR codes on cars that open up videos that educate the buyer on the car features. They are going strong on the use of Web XR, a technology offered by Facebook, that helps the consumer have an entire interaction with the car in the comfort of their living room. They have even taken care of ‘car servicing at home’ with their vertical- MG Care that has become extremely popular with the customers. The use of cerafusion technology for mass disinfectant for cars has also been deployed.

For the care of employees including dealers, plant workers and suppliers, it is work-from-home, social distancing, following Covid protocol, buffed up medical insurance, being done in an organized way.

Not to forget their MG Sewa, where they collaborated with MAX- a company manufacturing ventilators, providing ambulances, giving vehicles to traffic police, putting their women employees in a bio-bubble to protect them and providing free shuttles services. All this is a combo of some strategies of last year and some fresh initiatives of this year- a balanced approach making sure they don’t go overboard with virtual meetings.

Mr. Banwari Lal Sharma at Carwale revealed that they are a complete online business with 100% of their taskforce working from home since last March. What has helped most is effective communication and ‘culture of rhythm’, where mega goals are set, broken down into smaller ones to meet smaller time frame, teams meet to discuss their hurdles, jobs done, and the day’s plan and then get back to work- but as a company they all stay connected, especially in times of Covid where silence can be deadly. They have built an egalitarian work culture where no one looks up to anyone, but rather see their bosses as one of their own.

But now with Covid on and no physical contact, there seems to be a cultural deficit at the workplace. The ice is yet to be broken with the new staff who joined last year. A phone call or video call is not as impactful as face-to-face communication. So that’s the real challenge- the personal connect, the one-on-one communication. He felt it best to accept Digital as a way of life, and continue with it rather than wait for a fresh wave of pandemic to hit us.

Work from Home has definitely led to tremendous boost in productivity but has played with the mental health of the employees at every level, and for this reason offices will have to open again.

Mr. M. Dhananjayan first spoke of the efficient crisis management plan that has been implemented in the Middle East and rules are adhered to strictly. The dealership was shut for just a month; the service business comes under essential services there. More importantly, 90% of the population in the Emirates has been vaccinated, which will take time to happen in India seeing the size of the population.

But from the business perspective, what needs to be looked at is employee mindset, employee engagement, and their overall wellness, and so they have gone for Mind- Body- Transformation because if the mind is strong, we can win over any situation.

The present work-from-home culture has led to over exposure to the digital devices and elongated work hours which needs to be disciplined.  In Europe they have actually set days when they go completely technology device free for the sake of their mental health.

The time has come for leadership dialogues on a regular basis to play a big role to overcome this challenge and take the businesses forward; personal communication is crucial to this industry and personalized video communication process with employees, customers and stake holders is going to be the new trend which will make a big difference.

And the next much needed thing is some kind of a humour programme from the leadership, as laughter is the best medicine. Office environment has been a stressbuster for some people and now everyone is stuck at home which could be stifling.

The employees need more breaks to recharge their mental energy and make them productive. We need to have well chalked out Contingency Operational Manual and a staggered work force on the job in such times, and last but not the least, constant temperature check, Covid test and other protocol. Most people worked due to the fear of losing their job, but now the fear of losing their life looms large. One needs to make an investment in terms of imbibing faith in them; the employees need motivation more than money; the need to assure them that their job is secure.

Mr. M. Raj Kalyanarajan on the other hand asserted that 100% of his team has to be at the factory, since he is facing unique challenges with his new start-up and his launch has been pushed back by a few months, so physical presence is a must, their supply chain is heavily strained. Their corporate health and safety team maintains a very strict protocol.

They follow a global template, daily briefings and a special task force for daily audit to minimize the spread of the virus, education and awareness at the factory, cite real-life examples and emotionally connect with the employees, third-party audits every two months that point out their gaps which need to be closed, each employee maintains a proximity matrix tracking all the people they have been in contact with, so that if anyone comes down with fever, others can be alerted right away.

Employees were told to take home all the awareness and education and spread it to family members. Suppliers are indispensable to the manufacture of cars. Agility is the need of the hour, and so is the need for all to get themselves vaccinated.

WAF lauds the role of the automobile & Mobility industry leaders for showing their utmost concern for the welfare, health and stability of their employees which was sure to lead to growth in business and increased output.

Compiled by Kiran Misra