An invisible virus that originated in a small, wet market in China has brought the entire world economic machinery to a standstill in one of the most unusual examples of the butterfly effect. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the various chinks in the armour of the globalised economy. The supply chains across the globe have been severely affected by the spread of the virus, forcing many service providers to declare bankruptcy or being on the verge of financial distress or to take other suitable countermeasures. But there are lessons to be learned and shared with everyone which will have long-term implications for the world which I call The Five Ps for a Pandemic.
“I am prepared for the worst, but hope for the best”- Benjamin Disraeli.
Be ready to accept that this is the new normal, in which we may have to live for a long time. Before the pandemic, most organisations had a business continuity plan, but none of them accounted for the COVID-19 pandemic type of scenario. When the pandemic started to unfold in other south Asian countries and countries, many organisations still did not start preparing for the worst; hence there was a last-minute scramble when the disruption finally unfolded in India. In my organisation, we kept a watch on what was happening in China and other south Asian countries, learnt from our colleagues there and had already started implementing the BCP for our India operations. We announced work from home for the majority of the team, well before the actual announcement came from the government. The point I am trying to make is: having a BCP is good, but global awareness is better.
We live in a globalised economy and it is important to stay aware of how an event, say, in China or Europe, can have an impact on your business in India. I am still hopeful that we will be able to be back to the new normal, very soon.
Your people are your biggest asset; empowerment of the right people in the organisation can go a long way in making any organisation successful. Some organisations consider employees as only “Human Resource”, but that’s not the sustainable way to work. An organisation which keeps its employee engaged and aware of its progress has a longer sustained growth. A well-aware and empowered employee knows what the organisation’s strengths and weaknesses are and is able to take the right decisions based on that knowledge. We saw that in action many times during the start of the
COVID-19 crisis with flights cancellations, our operations team aware of the developing situation used their knowledge to route the cargo based on their discretion to ensure it is delivered to the destination. We received many appreciation emails and calls from our customers for the way Agility
handled their cargo in the time of crisis.
Having the right talent is just the half job done for any organisation; it’s only the nurturing of skills and right empowerment that can ensure organisational growth.
In the COVID-19 pandemic scenario, price was not a factor for the customer, with the majority of air and ocean cargo capacity out of service; whoever was able to provide a suitable, executable solution, won the business. All that the customer wanted was that we move their shipment. We have a set of partners with whom we have built a strong relationship over the years. These partners were eager to offer us the best solutions at the best price so that we can service our existing customers. Similarly, our customers did not question us for prices quoted, as they knew we were not overcharging them, even in the times of crisis. Price can help you win one transaction, a relationship can help you win a lifetime of businesses. Hence, invest in building relationships.
There is an old dictum that goes: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected organisations which went for over-specialisation by having only one product or variants of that product. Overspecialisation can help you garner huge market share in a normal economy but can severely expose your company in cases of events like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. There are logistics companies which specialized in serving only verticals like Automotive, Fast Fashion, Chemicals or Life Sciences; while all of these verticals have faced issues in the current pandemic, some verticals like Automotive and Fast Fashion were severely affected. LSPs who were serving these verticals on exclusive basis were more affected than the ones like us who have solutions for a gamut of verticals.
Liquor manufacturing companies started manufacturing alcohol-based hand sanitizers overnight, a product they are likely to start marketing more aggressively in the days to come. Auto companies, who manufacture medical equipment like low-cost ventilators, will probably continue manufacturing the same in the long run too. Specialized LSPs need to also start expanding their product portfolio to serve a wider gamut of verticals, to cushion themselves from Black Swan events likely to occur in the future. Product diversification is the way forward.
Traditionally, large corporates have been located in the metro cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, etc. which they would have considered as an advantage but in the current scenario, these places have been the most affected. In future, organisations would probably move away from metros to non-metros. With work from home becoming the new normal, even traditional businesses can now attract better talent from anywhere in the
world, places will no longer be a constraint while hiring the right talent.
This article has been authored by Satish Lakkaraju, Chief Commercial Officer, Agility. All views expressed in the article are of the author’s own.