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What industry leaders learnt from the pandemic

We asked heads of some of India's biggest companies what lessons they have learnt in the past 15 months. Most underscored the importance of collective effort

One of the biggest learnings during the pandemic for leaders has been the importance of team work.
One of the biggest learnings during the pandemic for leaders has been the importance of team work. (Unsplash)

It’s been 15 months since India went into the first nationwide lockdown to limit the spread of covid-19. The virus has altered the way we communicate, dress, work, and live. A “new normal” has become a symbol of the present, with virtual socialising and working from home becoming a way of life. The grief, pain and loss we have all experienced individually and collectively has made us realise the importance of resilience and the need to move ahead with courage and hope.

It’s also been a time when a number of businesses suffered losses. There were also some who made profits and many who decided to pivot to stay relevant. We asked some business leaders across sectors what work lesson they learnt from the pandemic and what kept them on their toes. Here’s what they had to say.

Also read: The first thing I will do after lockdown

Ameera Shah, promoter and managing director, Metropolis Healthcare

In any crisis where the world at large feels anxious and uncertain about the future, the most important thing to do is to focus on keeping the team motivated.

If there is one learning I will be walking away with from this moment in history, it will be that for industry captains in the healthcare space, motivating teams is the endgame. During the covid-19 fight, frontline healthcare workers have been the most important soldiers. There have been unknown enemies and fewer and fewer arms to fight with. The soldiers are fighting the war voluntarily; they are choosing to show up for work every single day. It shows their absolute gumption. At every moment and step, we need to ensure that we take good care of these soldiers and their families, both physically and emotionally. This is something that has been an overriding moment of truth for us.

Amarjit Singh Batra, managing director (India), Spotify

The pandemic has made us go through a learning curve that tested our fundamentals. I have three key learnings from the past year. First, there is nothing above good mental and physical health, so it’s important to switch off and spend time with your loved ones and yourself too. Second, because of WFH our consumption patterns changed. New routines drastically increased our digital dependence. Screen fatigue led to increased audio consumption while working, working out, doing chores and even when relaxing. Finally, there was a desire among many to learn something new, find newer avenues of entertainment, share their knowledge with like-minded people, or just stay afloat.

Byju Raveendran, founder and CEO, BYJU'S

We humans can adapt and thrive amid uncertainty. We are all up against a crisis, but if you look at history, human willpower has always triumphed because we have this unique gift of adapting, and, more importantly, learning from uncertainties. The pandemic has been a teacher for all of us in the truest sense. The capability to cope and transform with situations and the importance of being agile is something I have learned in the last year.

Ashu Suyash, managing director and CEO, CRISIL

My long-standing belief that organizations must be driven by the three Ps, purpose, people and performance, stood vindicated as the pandemic unfolded. We became early adopters of 100% WFH, dialled up our employee healthcare and chose not to let go of people, despite the tough times. Our purpose of ‘making markets function better’ motivated our teams to step up client engagement and provide frequent and relevant analytics in a volatile environment. As leadership, we left no stone unturned to prioritise people and community initiatives, and our people went the extra mile on performance. This helped us deliver growth in difficult times.

Abhay Soi, chair and managing director, Max Healthcare Institute

Early on, while we were expecting the pandemic but uncertain of its extent, we realised that each of us would have to play a role none of us was trained for. Since then, it has been a never-ending crash course in crisis management. I learnt how a collective conscience towards working for a larger good could bring out the best in people.

Kulmeet Bawa, president and managing director, SAP India

To take over the reins of a company is enthusing, but doing so during the midst of a pandemic is a different experience. I joined SAP last year when it was the beginning of a workplace evolution, with the world going digital almost overnight. While the rapid shift to remote work was challenging, there is one thing that remained a constant for me: the way we lead and motivate our people. I have spent the last 10 months communicating with colleagues and interacting with customers in the virtual environment with a single focus on building the right culture. Needless to say, the biggest learning through the pandemic has been the heightened importance of empathy and compassion towards the world around us. And as we move towards this amended world order, it is important to develop a culture of building high mental resilience and being more accepting of one another.

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