The Crisis Potters:

Covid Playbook Rule #5: When the environment turns fluid, be the potter and craft something different.

Larger firms with many locations and multiple thousands of people had a multitude of complicated problems to solve. Their playbook was – safeguard and enable their people, ensure continuity of operations, and conserve cash – in that order.  This story plays out how a software product company swam effectively through the impact of lockdown and Covid for many critical deliveries including to the health services. Listen to the story of Girish Kurudi.

Story #1: Girish Kurudi

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“Chief, I am not 6-feet-1 tall in my socks… I am 12-feet-1, actually. The other six feet are below ground, as you need to be extremely well-grounded in times of chaos and need. Thanks to learnings from my teachers and leaders with and for whom I have worked.” These were the parting comments as I switched off my zoom video recording for Covid Tales with Girish Kurudi. Girish is the Finance Director and India Operating Officer for a multibillion Pound software company. This is yet another story of human resolve and resilience.

Covid hit Girish from multiple directions. Running software operations for a company that had committed to deliver a highly needed software to the National Health Services and some others in the medical and insurance fraternity, and Pune being one of the early hit cities, operations had threatened to spin completely out of control. Remember, for the first two months, was a complete lockdown and quick enabling of people to work from home was a challenge. “People were taking calls sitting in their cars because they lived in smaller apartments with a house full of people; the seniors were just too embarrassed to invite them to calls”, mentioned Girish sounding very somber. “Millennials seemed to have a much harder time in their PGs – they were doing everything themselves – from cooking to washing to cleaning – and so collectively Girish and his leadership team decided to send them back to their parents’ or native homes. A New WFH policy needed to be created for buying headsets, display screens, even furniture, and UPS as part of standard operating procedures. This was partially possible from the savings of employee welfare, transportation, entertainment, and other similar costs had been grounded to zero and hence replaced by WFH reimbursements.

While discussions are raging whether SEZ tax benefits are more important versus remote-enabled workforce – Girish’s view is – it is better to get access to the best people working from anywhere than save taxes. A newer class of potential employees too seems to have surfaced – giving a wider choice of candidates to choose from. Moms who can now spend time working-from-home and sharing their workloads with their working-from-home spouses are giving firms better diversity and those who don’t want to be bound by long-term employment commitments can sign up for niche short term engagements.

Girish’s tryst with destiny did not end here. He got hit by Covid due to a family gathering that could not have been avoided. “Before I found out that I was affected with the virus, the Aarogya Setu app had already turned red!”. It was with a mild impact and Girish continued running his office from his isolation. “And I found in the times of isolation, living alone is like inviting madness – It was webinars and meetings followed by large spells of silence – as if going through spells of vipassana.”

Being invited to several roundtable discussions on finance strategy and scenario planning, he was pursued and nudged into taking a new job all under lockdown! Some uplifting ending! Who says Covid is only bad! You just need to stay put and fight it out! Fight for yourselves and fight for the ones who look up to you, like Girish!

– Alok Sinha

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