Bhanu Arora, Vice President, Corporate Affairs & Communications, Metro Cash & Carry

Bhanu Arora is Sr. VP Corporate Affairs & Communication at METRO Cash & Carry India since 2018. Mr. Arora is a seasoned Public Affairs professional with around two decades of experience working closely with Government (State & Central) strengthening advocacy to mitigate direct and indirect challenges of largest corporate brands of the country for both Indian as well as Multinational companies. Prior to METRO, he handled Public policy, Communication & CSR at Pernod Ricard India. Before that he was the Chief Manager of External Affairs at Cairn India and Reliance.

 

The last two years have been particularly challenging. With COVID-19 disrupting regular life, people across the globe have had to adjust to a “New Normal” to survive against the lashes of the pandemic.

Business has been no exception. Thanks to COVID-19, businesses across the world have faced an unprecedented disruption. Several businesses have been forced to shut down or halt operations. Others have slowed down or descaled. Many have shed layers and manpower, others, scaled down operations to much lower levels. In a number of places, shutting down of factories has damaged the supply chain resulting in a drastic surge in the prices of raw materials.

Almost every industry sector in India saw a fall in their sales and revenue. India’s GDP growth fell to 4.7 per cent in the third quarter of 2020.

Due to this outbreak, almost 80 per cent of Indian companies have witnessed cash flow difficulty and over 50 per cent of companies are facing operations issues. According to FICCI, 53 per cent of companies have been impacted by COVID-19. Slow economic activity is resulting in cash flow problems eventually impacting repayments, interest and taxes.

The impact of pandemic on small businesses has been the worst. According to some surveys, 82 per cent of small businesses experienced a negative impact in 2020. Manufacturing businesses faced a severe cash crunch as the manufacturing of non-essential items was restricted in 2020. Moreover, businesses that could not leverage the e-commerce medium had to shut down operations for a long time.

The post pandemic era has also brought in many new challenges for today’s leaders. Business leaders will have to reorient themselves to survive in the New Normal. They will have to demonstrate flexibility and willingness to unlearn their old ways and swiftly adapt to new ones in this changed scenario. In today’s world, there is a total transformation –in the way organisations work and in the needs of the consumers. In this scenario, leaders have to be open to change, both external and internal and to continuously improve themselves and their organisations.

The leaders also have to be experts at strategy and have clarity on the realities of today. They also need to be equally skilled at execution. They need to own the transformation of the company needed to reach the future. They need to be able to translate strategy into specific executional steps and see that execution through to the end.

This is because, the post pandemic era will bring in new ways of work and ways in which companies will have to be run. Accordingly, leadership strategies will also have to change to suit the new times. For example, leaders will have to accept the hybrid model of work as well as adopt a consumer centric approach in their working. Going forward, the news may not be that good because, as per the Economic Survey 2022, the spread of the Omicron variant brings in a degree of uncertainty for the near term, especially in segments that require human contact.

Most people, including companies in the IT and other sectors, have shifted to a remote working system where people work remotely from home as offices remained shut. Many companies have declared a permanent work from home system for their workers. In the future, it is possible that the world will shift to a hybrid model of work where companies would introduce a mixed work from home and work from office culture. A recent poll from Gartner showed that 48 per cent of employees will work remotely after COVID-19 as against 30 per cent before the pandemic.

One of the sectors that has reaped benefits even during the pandemic and has seen handsome growth is the online and e-commerce sector as large number of people stayed home and resorted to online shopping. The 2021 Global Payments Report by Worldpay FIS, a financial technology product and services provider, said that India’s e-commerce industry will grow 84 per cent to $111 billion by 2024 as it gains from demand created by the coronavirus pandemic’s impact. The report said India’s e-commerce market will be driven by mobile shopping, projected to grow at 21 per cent annually over the next four years.

Accordingly, companies are adjusting to changing customer needs and reorienting businesses to suit the new demand. Many companies are now relooking at their efficiencies to suit the new normal and focussing on customer needs in current times.

One of the most dominant trends that has emerged in the post pandemic era is digitisation supported by increasing consumer acceptance and adoption of digital services and products. Digitisation enables remote working, rebalancing the workforce away from metropolitan cities towards new job opportunities in non-urban centres. This digital reset has propelled the use of contactless digital technology for financial transactions, opened up new markets and spurred a hiring spree among digitally-enabled start-ups. It is supporting the growth of digitally-enabled hyper-local business models, as well as the rise of vernacular language voice technology start-ups. Localisation has also helped in creating more reliable supply chains and boost local employment.

Accordingly, the technology change has to reach the leadership of companies and leaders have to be tech savvy and accept the new challenges that new technology brings in. Digitisation will bring in a new system and approach to work in the post pandemic era where customer centricity will be one of the important tenets.

It is obvious that the pandemic has brought up a new business dynamic across the world. In India too, business will see a new paradigm as a new work culture, digitization and online activity will rule the roost.

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