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Beyond the Pandemic: The 'New Normal'

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'New normal' is the new trend. But what is it exactly? In our recent Group Corporate Office (GCO) virtual townhall, we asked senior leaders to share thoughts on the implications of the current scenario – how will the coronavirus pandemic shape our work life, its impact on social life, and most importantly, how do we embrace this change!

Here are some excerpts from the discussion.

Dr Anish Shah, Deputy MD and Group CFO
The new normal is going to be different from what we have been used to. The current situation is difficult and there are various theories about how quickly things will recover. The lockdown has taken a serious hit on various businesses, but Mahindra & Mahindra is strongly positioned and will be able to withstand the worst-case scenario. We will be in a position to support our subsidiaries, as well as our supplier and dealers.

RuzbehIrani, President- Group HR and Communications and Member of the Group Executive Board
The safety of our employees has been our top priority and will continue to be so, along with business continuity. We moved, quickly and effectively, to the new Work From Home protocol, setting up a Group-level Rapid Action Force (RAF) to manage the lockdown challenges. We are connected with all our employees through various technology-driven platforms. The process of returning to work is an extremely well-calibrated protocol that we have prepared and request you to adhere to. When we go back to work, we have made sure we will observe all the prescribed social distancing norms. Offices will have to be redesigned for this purpose and about half of our employees will have to continue working from home.

DhavalBuch, Interim President- Technology and CEO Bristlecone
We started WFH from March 18, and 20,000 employees are now working from home with 360,000 virtual meetings having already been conducted. As many as 80 live events have been organized which witnessed participation ranging between 200-500 people. Several board meetings have also happened virtually.

Vijay Kalra, Head - Mahindra Institute of Quality, Chairman -Central Safety Council
We are taking a lot of preventative maintenance and safety measures at our manufacturing plants, while gradually transiting to active mode. There are four initiatives I would like to share with you. Our kitchens have become more active with 17 of them working to provide food for migrant labourers since the lockdown began. For those with no place to cook, we are giving them cooked food while for others who can cook, we are providing dry rations. About 9,000+ people are being fed every day and 2.9 lakh food packets have been distributed to date.

From Ford, we learned to manufacture face shields, and after working non-stop for 4 days along with a supplier we were making them at our Kandivali plant. Today, 8 locations are making them and 11,000+ face shields are being manufactured daily. We have supplied them to several locations across the country from Jammu & Kashmir to Kerala. About 300,000 face shields have already been delivered.

A small start-up called Saral Designs approached us saying they have the capability to make face masks but they needed support to upgrade their machines. Within 4 hours we reached out to them and suggested we help with manufacturing the masks. In the middle of the night their machines were shifted to our units and on the 5th day of the lockdown we started making masks. And today we have made 30,000 hi-grade, 3-ply masks, which have already been distributed. About 600 Aerosol boxes have also been provided to 30 hospitals, through knowledge sharing with our US teams.

Manoj Chugh, President- Group Public Affairs
The Government of India has been providing greater thrust on the use of technology during the lockdown. Video conferencing has become the norm and so far, 50,000+ sessions have been held with the industry bodies, businesses, etc. The government has been using tools like Twitter extensively to reach out to citizens and has become more transparent. Newer applications such as ArogyaSetu have come to life. The government is putting together the second stimulus to get the economy back on track. The states have also become proactive and are doing a commendable job. We continue to actively engage with them whenever they need the support of the Mahindra Group and industry at large.

Naveen Raju, General Counsel and EVP – Group Legal
During this phase, the renegotiation of contracts will be a key concern area. Data security on the internet is another concern and efforts are underway to ascertain if proprietary data is being used by others. Efforts have intensified to secure the personal data of employees, customers, etc. Concerns regarding governance issues in the wake of Covid-19 have increased.

S. Durgashankar, Group Controller of Finance
In Finance and Accounting, physical verification and documentation is critical. It seemed impossible to manage it virtually. To add to the woes, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India has made the conditions more stringent. To meet the challenges posed by the lockdown, the institute called for more tests and verifications, and greater vigilance. Our teams are used to working long hours but this situation has put further stress on them. However, they rose to the occasion and came up with several innovative processes to resolve the challenges, true to the spirit of M&M.

ZhoobenBhiwandiwala, President, Mahindra Partners and Group Legal
The new normal is not going to be Netflix, Hotstar, and Amazon, instead we will be desperate for the new abnormal which will be, in many ways, a longing for the old normal - namely travel, holidays, movies, outings, etc. This year while filling the MCares survey, I am sure we are all going to be extremely thoughtful when we come to the question of work-life-balance.

We find ourselves in this surreal situation where there has been economic devastation and yet there is no destruction of infrastructure or habitat. We suffer physical isolation but are engaged in hyper digital communication. Organizations need to be better prepared for greater resilience, both financial as well as with their supply chains.

  • Business leaders will have to decide whether to choose resilience or cost optimization.
  • Environmental consciousness will get increased traction.
  • A big question mark on the sharing economy and how it will adapt to the new normal.
  • Consumer outlook expected to change which will create challenges for business.
  • Contact free economy is clearly going to dominate over the next decade.
  • Automation will get a greater thrust and become irreversible.
  • Government interventions in the economy will increase.
  • The new normal is set to witness the rise of trusted brands that have done the right things during this difficult phase.