It has been three months since India went under lockdown. The country is slowly opening up now. The recent outbreak of the COVID – 19 has caused a tectonic shift in most people’s lives.
WFH is the new norm now, many companies are now willing to extend this facility even after the lockdown is lifted. In our endeavor of bringing our readers views from a wide variety of stakeholders in the industry, Medianews4u continuing its series on Digital Communication experts speaks to Dr. Ranjit Nair – CEO and Founder, Germin8. Nair, a tech entrepreneur wanted to fulfill a desire to see India become known as not just as an exporter of IT services but also for world-class software products and innovation. With this goal in mind, he founded Germin8 along with his father, Raj Nair, who is a successful strategy consultant and serial entrepreneur.
Today, Germin8 helps many large companies across sectors like financial services; automotive, FMCG and pharmaceuticals to use analyze their customers and become more customer-centric.
Germin8, a Digital Intelligence company. Germin8 uses Germin8 Social Listening™ which can help you understand the current public sentiment on the trending events happening in India. Germin8 uses AI across all social media platforms and collects and analyses conversations in real time from public sources and private sources, and converts them into industry-specific actionable insights.
Can you take us through Germin8 and the ideology behind it?
Germin8 is a digital intelligence company that is focused on helping companies become more customer-centric. We do this by combining technology, both proprietary and procured, domain expertise and analytics capabilities to derive insights that help our clients act based on understanding their customers better.
As WFH is the new culture which will be adopted by many companies, how have you positioned yourself?
We are one of the first companies to announce that we will all be working from home 100% of the time until the end of this financial year. This decision was not made lightly – we did it keeping employee safety and the safety of their families in mind. Of course this will mean challenges related to employee engagement and productivity but we think these can be overcome. It also means an opportunity for us to hire people from any part of the country or even the world without insisting that they have to relocate.
During this lockdown many Brand communication has changed, your thoughts?
In general, brands have all had to show their compassionate and human side during these times. They had to make sure that they came across as humble and not as brands trying to exploit the Covid-19 pandemic. Brand communication for those brands with a physical delivery model have had to emphasize on the safety of their products and the buying and delivery process right from no touch car sales to the sanitary conditions in food delivery kitchens. Of course, it is easier for brands in fields like online education, gaming and social media. Communication for such brands has been largely around the products themselves. The hardest hit are those brands whose product and services are seen as non-essential and even potentially risky like salons, luxury products, hotels, airlines, etc. They have had to struggle in terms of finding relevant ways of staying in touch with their customers in these tough times.
What kind of communication tools have been developed to help clients?
We are using communication tools like Whatsapp for all quick and urgent communication with clients, and video conferencing tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet for meetings. All our sales demos with prospective customers also happen now through video conferencing tools.
What are some of the post-lockdown business strategies that you will suggest to your existing clients to bring the business back on track or at least get it in the right direction and also create demand?
For businesses that were more reliant on physical interaction for customer transactions, we have emphasized the importance of digital channels for both attracting new customers as well as all customer transactions. This would mean:
- Figuring out the customer journey for customer acquisition and ensuring that every touchpoint in this journey is well designed and frictionless.
- Developing and improving the customer experience for all customer transactions across all digital channels whether it be their website, app or social media.
- Educating the customers about precautions they should take so that they don’t fall victim to online frauds.
For brands for whom a physical touchpoint cannot be avoided like automobiles, etc. our advice has been around communicating the measures being taken to ensure that physical touchpoints are hygienic and sanitary.
What is the way forward for your company?
We have used this crisis as a way to ensure that we are able to work from home efficiently. This has enabled us to start hiring people in other cities too without needing them to relocate. The other change has been an expansion into new markets. When India was still under lockdown, we saw that there were other countries which although more badly affected then by Covid-19, had already begun opening up. This helped us realize that now would be a good time for us to try to sell our products and services in other markets. Our initial foray into new markets has been quite successful and augurs well for the future.
As a Communication and strategy expert, what are your thoughts on this unprecedented pandemic?
No one could have predicted or prepared for this pandemic in advance. One can critique the government’s handling of the pandemic and the subsequent humanitarian and economic fallout but one thing cannot be denied – the situation today would have been much worse if not for the lockdown because we knew much less about this virus then and our medical facilities would have been completely overwhelmed. So rather than looking at the past, I would rather look at the future.
From a government standpoint how does one ensure that the health and wellness of citizens is taken care of and that the economy is on the path to recovery? This means more testing and treatment facilities everywhere including rural areas, and it means food distribution to the poor. From an economy standpoints, the government should offer direct financing to businesses who commit to:
- not laying off any employees
- no increases in the senior management salaries, bonuses and stock options, and
- no stock buy-backs
From a business standpoint, how does one ensure that one’s business survives and potentially thrives? This might mean pivoting to serving new needs or entering new markets. Businesses that cannot transform will perish and others will take their place.
During this lockdown how have you boosted the morale of your team, and some of the measures you have taken at this juncture?
The number one thing we have done is increasing the amount of internal communication dramatically. We do town hall meetings every 2-3 weeks to update everyone on how the company is doing, changes in approach. Every team does more catch up calls and each manager talk’s one on one with their direct reports to ensure their physical and mental wellbeing.
We also do Fun Fridays where we socialize with each other by singing songs, playing music, playing virtual games.
Most recently we have started eating lunch together and having tea together virtually so that we can just casually shoot the breeze and chat.
A learning and a message to the young millennials.
A key learning for me is that everyone’s experiences will vary and so an individual approach is required for management. Some might have anxiety or depression while others take it in their stride. Some might have a good private place at home to work while others don’t have a house that affords them a distraction-free environment. Some might be able to work without much supervision while others need more micromanagement. There is no one size fits all, and so we need to be extremely empathetic and tailor-make in our approach with each employee.
A message to young millennials is that this is the challenge that their generation is going to have to overcome. While they often get a bad rap for being overprotected and overly anxious, I think this crisis will show us what millennials are really made of. Millennials need to lead from the front and help open up the economy. They have the youth energy and the ability to overcome obstacles, so they should do what it takes while taking necessary precautions to make sure they don’t pass on anything to elder folks whose immunities are not as strong. That is the boost that this country and economy needs. So do not be locked down anymore while still being careful.