BY D.C.PATHAKThe Covid pandemic has no doubt hit the world of business and commerce hard by drastically reducing ‘demand’, curtailing ‘jobs’ and slowing down all ‘transportation’.The intermittent talks of lockdown in different parts of the country have kept up the atmosphere of serious restraint but the people’s will to set off the process of economic recovery has not been thwarted.
With human ingenuity coming into play in re-establishing the supply chains indigenously and innovating business practices that suited the new environ, there is a certain optimism in India about a steady return to normal life — during the wait for a vaccine.Perhaps the most important transformation is in the understanding of the term ‘work place’ — as a concept this was pivotal to all business — which has been sublimated into a virtual point from where operations could be run on line without the clutter and din of physical interactions amongst people ensconced in some lavish premises called the ‘business headquarter’.
The new work place does not call for ‘preparations’ for going to office that was now located at an earmarked table at home, does not cause anxiety about long unbroken ‘working hours’ and does not require coping up with the pressure of ‘time’.In fact, the new ‘work place’ is a productivity enhancer.
Some of this transformative change in the way business was conducted earlier is going to stay for good which is a progressive development and a dividend from the Corona crisis.
Thanks to the pandemic, there is return to the classic position of the individual being the kingpin in all business, inclusive of production and trade, and some happy consequences of that are in the process of unfolding themselves.
One is the decisive emphasis on ‘flat’ organisations that were not weighed down by vertical hierarchy.The other is an enhancement of efficiency because there is greater attention to the job at hand in the absence of distractions from within the organisation — this brings in a sense of relative peace at work.
Further, it is seen that cost-effectiveness is materialising in varying degrees as business gains from the newfound importance of ‘re-skilling’ for multi tasking.
It is interesting to note that all these positive features of work ethos have existed in an Intelligence organisation from times immemorial — certainly from much before ‘Business Management’ appeared on the scene as a guarantor of success.
In the days of economic recovery, being ‘well informed’ is, in particular, a prime conditionality for an entrepreneur — knowledge of demand, supply and sourcing is basic to starting a new venture or reviving an existing one.Options of ‘partnership’ that combined respective ‘strengths’, outright ‘merger’ or ‘diversification’, can be exercised provided there is good business ‘Intelligence’.Being well informed is not a one-time event, since one has to remain updated in an ongoing manner — also ‘knowledge’ comes in integral packages and must be complete as far as possible.For instance, an employer today has to be abreast with laws regarding safety of women at the work place and a teacher of children aware of child psychology to an extent — for being successful in their avocation.
It is the human resource development that has zoomed up as the testing ground for all businesses today.Retaining people at moderately reduced perks rather than ‘firing’ them, mopping up the information asset of the organisation by regaining all ‘tacit’ knowledge available with the members — remember ‘nobody knows everything but everybody knows something’ — and reviewing the scope of upskilling and re-skilling of the available human resource for reallocation and enlargement of responsibilities, are all very crucial.
Make the enterprise cost-effective without laying off people.
What Covid has taught the corporates is that delegation of decision-making and an upward revision of accountability can be put together in a challenging time when all ‘big brains’ of the enterprise were not able to assemble at one place and webinar kind of consultation was not feasible as an ongoing exercise.
Human resource development should aim at putting the ‘bosses’ and the executives on the same grid of understanding on how the organisation runs.It is the success of this endeavour that would make it possible for the leadership of the enterprise to own up a decision taken by someone below in a contingency.
In an Intelligence organisation, things happen exactly this way.If in the sphere of national security this level of human resource enrichment can make the operations failsafe, why should a business set-up, which had only some risk of profit fluctuation, not work for it through its HRD leadership? The pandemic is testing the efficacy of business entities and other professional organisations on this point.
An important aspect of national life seriously hit by the pandemic is the prospect of one entire year of schooling being lost by boys and girls in the formative spell of education that could have a compounding impact on their career.Resourceful schools have tried to keep the learning process on through online instructions and ‘homework’ but the bulk of teenagers stood deprived of the same — the children of poor families were, in any case, never sure of being admitted to a school since Government school infrastructure was weak at the grass root level.
Massive investment is needed to establish junior school facility in each panchayat and municipality to provide free and compulsory education at least till class VIII — CSR funds of business houses and companies should be used for this and a minimum number of teachers for each school should be paid for by the state government concerned.The centre must ensure that the collector of the district monitored the arrangements — for each teacher a small class in keeping with Covid precautions could be arranged, if necessary in shifts.
The management capabilities of the district administration should for once be put on test — expenses on books, equipment and digital facility should be taken care of by it.It is time education and health are declared as strategic sectors to enable the Centre to have a greater say in these spheres.The challenge in India is of execution at the ground level and not merely of laying down policies.India must go back to the district for executing the plans of school education and primary health clinics.
Let there be a non-political approach to these vital sectors of the nation as far as delivery to the people is concerned.
Governance is now largely about ‘management’ ability of those in the government – mainly at the state level.
The unprecedented corona pandemic has shown that while leadership was judged for decision- making it was also being held accountable for any failures to see the plans through right up to their ground level implementation.The learning is that the text book divide between a ‘leader’ and a ‘manager’ would disappear in an evolving crisis — like the Corona disaster has proved to be.
The pandemic restrictions have had the effect of sharpening the divide between the haves and the have-nots.This poses a host of problems for the state to handle.
Beyond this, however, the crisis has attuned everybody to a new way of life — being able to make constructive use of time at home, taking better care of one’s health through preventive measures and learning to take to self help.What is heartening to note is that people are generally becoming helpful to others and also more ‘giving’ — whether it is because people are being ‘friends in distress’ or because the Indian cultural legacy was helping the people to view things in the ‘larger dimension of life’, is difficult to say.
This is the time for the Indians to be generous to the needy — remember charity begins at home — and help the neighbourhood.As mentioned earlier, apart from providing free school education to everybody, the state has to discharge its responsibility of creating health infrastructure and underwriting the medical expenditure of those who just cannot afford it.Both the Centre and the states are presently preoccupied with framing sound policies for economic recovery — they should remember that health and education must still receive priority if long-term interests of India were to be preserved.
The Covid crisis has created an environment of uncertainty, globally, because of the ‘fear of the unknown’ and an upshot of this is that our domestic polity could have become vulnerable to ideological narratives that were designed to undermine the faith of the people in the existing order.The deeper point here is that politically motivated responses and ideas could gain a constituency — it is instructive to recall what the Buddha said: “If you do not control your mind someone else will.” The regime would be right in adding to its vigilance on any such trends.
The great Indian philosophy of management — ‘a paternal nurtural approach’ of the bosses towards their subordinates was never more relevant than it is today.Know your people more closely, find out what is bothering them at home — a word of understanding might do wonders — and be accommodative about their short leave of absence.
Business organisations that settle for a little less profit today but hold on to their employees would have secured their loyalty for the good.All business is human activity and those who are successful there know how to handle human relations within and outside of the organisation — beyond the basics of ‘return on investment’ that was, of course, the substratum for any business to move on.The Corona crisis has added to this larger awareness and this is good news.