The pandemic proved that our requirements and necessities are not as sacrosanct and indispensable as we thought they were
By Sajan Raj Kurup
Many of us have written ‘Vision 2020’ for brands and businesses. But little did we envision that 2020 would be like what it turned out. The year locked us down and, perhaps, cancelled the largest number of plans in the history of mankind. However, what has been by far the most Darwinian year of our lives, should be far from cancelled. Beyond the collective anguish and uncertainty that we felt, lies a rich repository of business learnings.
We are a country with 42.5 million SMEs that account for a staggering 95% of its total industrial units. At a very rudimentary level, for most SME business owners, nine months of this financial year have been like nine long rounds in a boxing rink duelling with a blurry, unclear opponent. As we would have seen in many popular martial arts movies (ironically, most of Chinese origin, too), when you have to defeat an unclear opponent, nothing matters more than going back to the basics and being frugal with fundamentals. There are precious business learnings from 2020 that will unravel for many years to come. Here is something to start with: today, the recovery we have seen has been a simple rhythmic three step routine — redefining what matters; redeciding what’s required; and redeploying what’s needed.
Redefining what matters
In the wake of the pandemic, for most of us, the entire world had shrunk to a few square-feet of an apartment overnight. It didn’t matter how big our offices were. Redefining the workspace became key to retain any focus. A lot of us would agree that through the process of creating a WFH protocol, we realised a lot of things we were otherwise conditioned to didn’t really matter. The desk size we envied didn’t matter; the cabins and cubicles we were so possessive about didn’t matter; the business attire we gloated in didn’t matter. What mattered was that we had access to our machines and information. And that there was strength in our business camaraderie and culture to be able to still stay coordinated in each other’s inevitable absence.
Redeciding what’s required
The pandemic proved that our requirements and necessities are not as sacrosanct and indispensable as we thought they were. The perks that always looked so required, suddenly didn’t matter as much. The face-to-face meetings, we often flew miles for, weren’t required; we could be anywhere at the press of a button, and involve everyone who’s actually required for the meeting — not just those we could afford to fly. Even intercity travel, which would so often take away precious hours in traffic, we realised wasn’t required. The list goes on. The travel desk requirements were replaced with wireless routers.
Redeploying what’s needed
To adapt and deploy was the most important thing we learnt, in all of 2020. Adaptation meant redeploying our skills, our people and our resources. If I look at my own industry of marketing communications and content, mainline studios were trained to become digital studios; art directors became just as awesome at designing digital creatives; account management became just as adept at deploying social content buckets. Training, collaboration and reskilling were key. We learnt to make films with just 10% attendance on set; and learnt to build relationships just as strong on our virtual office platform.
Most importantly, 2020 has been a clarion call to stay centred, stay agile and stay entrenched in the fundamentals of business wisdom. Through all this, what stands out most is the need to be there for each other through thick and thin. To save jobs, to help reskill and to be empathetic.
The author is founder and chairman, Creativeland Asia