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‘New leaders are emerging out of this crisis’

By Kaushik Kashyap|23rd Apr 2020
As tech firms tune their operations to meet the challenges posed by COVID-19, a new set of leaders take on the role of mentors and guides.
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Participants at the Creative Sandbox on tech companies coping with Covid-19

(From left): Saurabh Saggi of Huawei Consumer Business Group India; Nikhil Dey of Weber Shandwick, India; and Pooja Garg Khan of Panasonic India

In times of crises, how organizations treat their people makes the difference between a good company and the rest. The ancient Latin writer Publilius Syrus had famously quipped, “Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” Hundreds of years later, as whole nations and economies go into a tailspin over the spread of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and companies are trying their best to adapt to an unprecedented situation, a new set of leaders are steering the ships through choppy waters.


As lockdowns have become the norm and uncertainty has crept in, technology and telecommunication are forming the backbone of what has essentially become the ‘new normal’, employees working away from their office. Tech firms are finding newer and creative ways to keep employees engaged and energized as they grapple with a crisis the world was not prepared for.

Work and play together on one platform

Communication teams within companies have had to make innovative use of the technology available in very quick time — in some cases, over a couple of days — to ensure unabated flow of information. Speaking at the ‘Creative Sandbox’ an online get-together of communication heads of tech firms to share learnings, Pooja Garg Khan, Head Corporate Communications, Panasonic India, said the company put up a robust internal communication platform that allows employees to share their experiences and is making optimal use of social media. “We are connecting with each other on Facebook At Work for transacting work as well as for engaging our employees, many of whom are getting anxious about the whole situation,” she said. “We have a lot of fun activities and our CEO also uses the platform for his blog addressed to all employees.”

A new breed of leaders emerge

The working from home model or WFH as it is being called, is throwing up quite some interesting finds, among them the emergence of a new breed of managers who have taken on the responsibility of keeping their teams motivated. “While overall leadership is important, individual team managers are now stepping up to motivate their respective teams without being told. They are playing an important role in assuring employees, including telling them not to get perturbed by background noises during team calls, which has become a new normal now,” said Saurabh Saggi, Corporate Communications, Brand Marketing - Huawei Consumer Business Group India.

Different strokes for different folks

Nikhil Dey, Vice-Chair of communications firm Weber Shandwick, India, said he found companies were attuning their efforts to suit challenges specific to the countries they were operating in. “Consistent and clear communication has been key in keeping employees motivated. Under such circumstances, communicators have to bring the outside in perspective to organisations, which will become important for formulating business strategies.”


Dey said some companies including start-ups have adapted faster to WFH as they have always been nimble to change and are looking at partnerships for shared learnings. “A new breed of leaders is definitely seen emerging especially in sectors like healthcare and technology.”


For companies that have factory floors for the bulk of their business, while marketing and communication work can continue from home, after sales and customer services are suffering from the lockdown. To address this, tech firms are turning to innovation in their offerings and bolstering their backend to keep customers satisfied. Panasonic is launching a program of letting your devices engage with you, a do-it-yourself kit to help consumers, a measure most tech companies are adopting to address queries about their products.

HQ (Human Quotient) at the heart of everything

Interestingly, the human quotient of it all that rests with employees is an area that all companies are pushing the envelope on. The emergence of a new set of leaders from an existing crop is a heartening sign for firms that are looking for innovative ways to stay ahead of the curve during this pandemic. Startups and smaller companies are being nimble in their moves suited to every market.

Companies like Panasonic and Huawei that are megatrons in the world of consumer electronics, have had to adopt a different method. All of them, however, are placing a lot of faith in the leaders this crisis has thrown up to sail through these difficult times.


The Creative Sandbox is a platform for communicators to share and learn from each other, hosted by Weber Shandwick.

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