Our business like any other was struck by the tsunami called Covid-19. It felt like everything was starting to crumble around us in what had pretty much been a steady financial year, when in March 2020 the pandemic struck the world. We were faced with the conundrum of partial lockdowns and uncertainties in our logistics chain. Our situation went from optimism and vigour to one of precariousness. Our immediate concern was how this crisis would impact our people, our clients, and our business. Thus, the first two months of fiscal 2020-21 were spent in making adjustments to our work, workplace and workforce so as to be productive in this unprecedented scenario.
Thankfully lockdown restrictions in April 2020 for export units such as Gandhar were eased and we were allowed to re-start our operations. We could resume work at our units within two months after putting in place safety guidelines and social distancing and sanitation norms. At Gandhar we were also fortunate that our production facility for Middle East and Africa based out of Sharjah continued fulfilling export orders without disruption and in fact also diversified production. Because of this impetus, all our industrial orders had picked up by September 2020 and we even ended the last financial year with our best numbers in terms of revenue and profitability.
At Gandhar, we also tried to embody the spirit of service to our nation in this hour of need. Our liquid paraffin production lines which typically cater to the cosmetics and pharmaceutical sectors were quickly revamped to cater to the stringent and urgent need for this composition in the production of the Hydroxychloroquine drug being prescribed in the treatment against coronavirus. This occasion served us in three ways. Most importantly it allowed us to give back to the nation in the time of a crippling crisis. It also gave us a new opening in the pharma industry which we hadn’t had before and lastly, it gave us a chance to energise our production at a time when business was erratic.
I often tell our people and all our stakeholders that what enabled us to make it through this crisis was an unwavering belief in our core values. Specifically, at Gandhar we try to be the following through the tightest of tight rope walks:
- Open-minded: The buck stops with the leader, but before making a decision, we invite input, positive or negative, from everyone as that is valuable and it is being inclusive
- Keep a finger on the pulse of our people: Silence festers fear and serves as an entry point for the rumour mill, especially in unpredictable times as the present. We try and answer all questions of our team, even if the answer is, “Good question. We don’t have the answer but we will get back to you.
- Caring: During a crisis of this magnitude, the onus lies on us to ensure everyone has suitable conditions to get work done wherever they are.
- Stick to a routine: Gain consensus on a regular cadence of work schedules, meeting times to track progress, etc. and ask team members to treat this as a priority.
- Assume the best: People tend to interpret messages or actions differently depending on their mood or their assumptions about the carrier. Train yourself and your team to assume good intentions for every message and action.
- Commit to communication: Commit to being responsive and keeping an open message thread with team members. Use messaging channels that best fit the need, be them, synchronous channels such as phone and video calls or asynchronous ones which include email, text, messenger and any other where you can compose an answer before hitting send. If an email thread goes back and forth more than three times, move away from email and add the item on the agenda to an upcoming discussion or hold an impromptu zoom call.
The above had worked for us even before and during the pandemic. Would love to hear what people practices have worked for you and your organisation.