Article (January-2021)


Varun should demonstrate mindful leadership

Tanjul Saxena

Designation : -   Consultant META AIDE

Organization : -  Jaipur


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The case "Wheeling Up the Lockdown Road-Blocks" is not a case in isolation but represents almost all businesses and sectors -- post lockdown. Except for a few sectors like digital economy, e-commerce, retail, FMCG, healthcare and pharmaceutical that have been able to convert pandemic induced economic threat into opportunity, almost all other sectors have seen a steep decline in bottom lines and have accepted the new normal. Perhaps, given the Indian consumer psyche associated with festive indulgence and restricted public mobility through public conveyance, automobile sector - for both new and used - has registered the fastest recovery post lockdown in the non-essential category.

In this backdrop Highway Movers (HM) is just another 'spoke in the wheel' of the automobile dealership sector. However, as an independent identity enjoying leadership position in the competition landscape, HM has to not only ensure sustainability and swift growth path for self but also lead optimism sentiment for the sector. Moreover, no business can survive for long with contracted target achievements, very low morale and motivation of employees, and an anxious, fearful and pessimistic leadership team.

1. The problem in the case is complex and multi-fold. Since the dawn of twenty first century, the global economy and business world has been centering their strategies around disruptions. Disruptive innovations, non conventional business models, blockchain, artificial intelligence, augmented reality - the global management world was abuzz with business jargons prompting thought leaders to embrace disruption with minimal seismic tremors. However, the last year of second decade of the century manifested the worst fears in cruelest possible form and tested social, economical, and philosophical resilience of every single entity on similar standards without any exception. The pandemic transcended geographical borders, management philosophies, strategic objectives and brought the universe to a standstill with no clues of present and future.

Volatility at its bubble-best, Uncertainty at its omnipresence peak, Complexity at its omniscience worst and Ambiguity at its incomprehensible best, the lockdown initiated VUCA world was not what anyone had ever even dreamt about.

3. As advisor to Varun, the suggestions will centre around integrated strategies like

1. Individual-Department-Organizational level performance linked incentives for Festive seasons sales and service targets: Generally incentives are limited to front line sales and service departments and the backend staff's efforts are not directly attributable to bottom-lines specially sales/profits/revenue. The case also reflects that the incentives are so far selectively offered to sales people. The organisation wide, target driven, shared incentive will address the motivation issue of employees at all levels and will also convey "WE ARE IN THIS-TOGETHER."

2. Simultaneously the performance records of employees could be mapped on PEPO (Performance/Potential matrix and the stars should be given higher responsibilities with a promise for fast track growth opportunities after the festive season.

3. Considering ESOPs (Employee Stock Option Plan, if there is a provision) or profit sharing on the lines of ESOPs will increase both loyalty and efficiency of employees at all levels. It will help align personal goals with organizational goals and increase sense of citizenship and ownership.

4. Crafting  promotional schemes for targeted customers like bundled sales and service schemes; interest free initial EMIs; flexi payment options; buy back options; extended warranties; augmented levels of services like service at doorstep, pick and drop etc; virtual test drives; customer engagement through social media; contests around vehicles may increase customer interest, involvement and willingness to buy.

5. The lockdown has already stumbled the employee body clock and concept of fixed time working. This new momentum can be harnessed through flexi-time (or rather time-less) schedules to ride the wave of festive demands. HR needs to come up with innovative strategies to keep employee morale and motivation high along with low lead time recruitment efforts to fill the key positions soonest.

Concluding Remarks

Weaning off effects of unprecedented major economic catastrophe like the recent one needs new ways to stabilize a new normal. Data based decision making, crafting strategic options that address new consumer needs, compassionate market approaches, a subtle shift from capitalistic business approach to socialist business approach, reinstating faith in market, sector and product category, balancing short term and long term goals are a few vision agenda that all businesses have to incorporate afresh. It is time to revisit the Vision, Mission and Objectives and rewrite what is needed. Disruptions like these ae distant and rare, but once there; offer ample time and space for DNA level introspection and impart lessons that will determine the growth orbit for next acceleration.

Tanjul Saxena