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Courage Under Fire!



Neeraj Balani - Managing Director, International SOS India


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The coming dayswill see us operating in a new normal, wherein we will have to face restrictions on logistics, heightened social distancing norms and even periodic shutdown to counter newer waves! This I foresee continuing for months, till the immunity sets in or the Covid-19 vaccine shows up.

The current ongoing pandemic has challenged me professionally and personally, as a leader like never before. I couldn’t help but think of a title and relate to many instances which my team went through in the last two months. I am sure that most of the CEOs and industry leaders will agree with my sentiment. As we gear up against this pandemicnew challenges loom in the horizon post the lockdown scenario.

The coming dayswill see us operating in a new “normal”, wherein we will have to face restrictions on logistics, heightened social distancing norms and even periodic shutdown to counter newer waves! This I foresee continuing for months, till the immunity sets in or the Covid-19 vaccine shows up.

India is a service lead economy wherein industries have delivered phenomenal results for us socially, by creating jobs and contributing to the tax receipts. India also has a dismal record in investing into healthcare. What this pandemic has shown is that we also have a dismal record as employers/organizations, to take care of our assets (employees) by investing proactively into healthcare. Today healthcare in India is restricted to medical insurance and annual health check-ups. Leaders across organizations are now thinking of how tobuild the right engagement platforms based on healthcare to take better care for their assets – like they do for machines, to generate higher productivity in a safe and working environment.

We have seen the humane side of our leaders during this pandemic, a side often not apparent. While interacting with the CEOs who we work with as advisors for tackling COVID-19, we see that the ‘Duty of Care’ aspect has become a lead KPI, which otherwise is taken up by revenues and profits. My prediction is that organizations that have shown greater empathy during these times will fare better in the coming months and years.

In the recent past, we have seen employers / clients enable multiple movements for people across countries with health conditions. We have seen CEOs take important decisions to save lives, not money. Similarly, we have seen many CEOs listen intently to our medical directors and the security directors for strategies and actions, with an aim to improve hygiene, health and wellness of their staff and dependents.


In the coming weeks, we will see our government lay down rules for “Return to Work”, with some major assessment requirements, which organizations will have to adhere, to provide a safe environment to their employees. We foresee large investments into IT enabled services introduced by organizations for employee engagement and well-being as we restart our efforts post the lockdown.


In my discussion with clients and peers I often use the below illustration that describes the COVID-19 crisis and the changes organizations have or should be making to their risk management strategies to protect their employees and resources for the rest of 2020 and beyond.


What organisations need to be crisis ready along the COVID-19 Curve?



In the next few months, it will be imperative for the organisations to have access to accurate and timely information, on ground intelligence on COVID-19 related developments as well as tools to help proactively communicate with and educate their workforce about the risks. It is important to initiate methods for tracking the sites and/or offices around the world to detect new emerging threats.


Expert health and security advice from a doctor and/or security expert specialising in pandemics and crisis management and resilience will become utmost pertinent in reviewing policies and plans for the workforce against mental stress and anxieties, health, security, and any new threats.


With my experience of leading a medical and security risk mitigation organisation and actively supporting COVID-19 crisis response teams and taskforce of multiple Indian organisations, I believe this is the right time for Indian CXOs to uncover and learn the strengths and weaknesses of your business continuity plans which is often omitted after a crisis.  Especially with the possibility of a second wave, this is the best time to review and address your plans – so, if your organisation is impacted by an outbreak or pandemic again, a process to managing it is clearly defined.


Based on historical data from previous pandemics, it is very likely that we will experience a second wave of cases. This could be minor or even as significant as the first wave. However, if you have put in place all the correct elements of combatting the curve to date – a robust business continuity plan will help to minimise the second wave’s impact.


I am sure that with the political leadership and industry leadership across our country and the world, we will overcome this crisis. The Indian economy juggernaut is waiting to be refueled and re-ignited as we wade through the next few months in the new normal. Till then our goal as leaders is to provide a safe working environment for our people for our trade and commerce to flourish.