Aditya Birla group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla has asked India companies to remain cautious and keep an eye on all the financial parameters so that they can effectively face any crisis like the Corona pandemic. While asking companies not to worry about sharp volatility in prices, Birla said companies must make sure that they do not get caught in any “ço-morbidities’
In a web post, Birla drew parallels between the way Corona hit people with measurable and identifiable co-morbidities such as diabetes and hypertension, and the shocks the pandemic delivered to businesses.
“(This analogy is) Partly applicable, since co-morbidities take away the power of businesses to withstand shocks like the financial crisis of 2008. But (it is) also different in that, unlike human conditions which often are beyond our control, there is no genetic predisposition towards co-morbidities in businesses. The co-morbidities are self-inflicted. The excessive financial leverage that provides sugar highs while weakening fundamentals in the long term, lax processes that lead to inventory build-ups clogging supply chain arteries like some pernicious cholesterol, or most devastating, a lack of focus on building consumer and human relationships,” Birla said.
“These are co-morbidities that can prove fatal when pandemic-type shocks rock the system. These dangers lurk beneath the surface during good times, and so it is imperative for corporates to be ever mindful of the first principles of good management practices,” he said.
On work from home, Birla said as India Inc prepares for a calibrated return to the workplace, it is facing a larger question on the future of work.
“Many have opined that WFH is going to be a mega-trend of this decade. I have a slightly contrarian view. The ‘Office’, after all, isn’t just a place where we come to work. It is a melting pot—-of people, ideas, and conversations. The coming together of people with diverse skills and experiences is what makes an office more than just a place of work. This is what defines culture,” he said.
“Culture is not some amorphous code that gets handed out to employees. It emerges from human interactions. It’s hard to imagine that this is possible, on a sustained basis, by talking to computer screens,” said he.
At the margin, dispersed working has two distinct advantages that need to be harnessed. It offers employees the choice to be productive, even if their personal circumstances force them to be tethered at home. It also allows organisations the ability to recruit a more diverse set of people. “But I do expect most companies to revert to the pre-Covid workplace equilibrium in large parts, once the pandemic is quelled,” he said.
“Perhaps most importantly, the last year has forced an inward look. The people, companies, and nations who have emerged stronger have been the ones who had accumulated reserves of strength and not necessarily the ones who were sprinting the fastest. In each of our professional contexts, we will often be called upon to be innovative, disruptive, and resilient. But I have learnt that these outcomes do not necessarily stem from moments of individual brilliance, but from the patient building of reserves. Continuously upskilling to build reserves of knowledge, openness to the world to build a reserve of ideas, and collaboration and teaming to build reserves of goodwill,” he said.
Birla said it is a good time to take stock of each of our personal reserves and the meaning of work. “An honest assessment could well be the best investment one can make in 2021 – the chance to start with a blank sheet of paper and the three words: “What matters is…” I hope you find the process of individual reflection as cathartic as I found penning this note for myself,” he said.