It has been 52 days since the country went into lockdown mode due to the pandemic. The lockdown now has been extended till the 31st May. The recent outbreak of the COVID – 19 is also seeing a tectonic shift in most people’s lives. There are so much stress and anxiety about job losses, loneliness, and other factors. But this lockdown has also changed the way organizations are thinking, the way they work, etc.
MediaNews4U spoke to Subhash Kamath – CEO & Managing Partner, BBH India.
It has been 52 days since the lockdown, how are you coping and boosting the morale of your team?
Well these are tough, new & strange times for everyone. We have never faced something like this before. So it is not that we can fall back on past experiences to figure out a strategy. This is a situation in which we’re all learning together. But the best part is, the team has come together wonderfully in these new circumstances. There’s a huge amount of work happening, people are collaborating very well, despite being in individual homes. We are in touch with our clients daily. We have even done 4 online pitches in the past three weeks. While obviously big film productions are still not possible till the lockdown ends, there’s a lot of work that is being executed from home, especially for social media. As a management, we are also in regular touch with everyone. We have had two online ‘townhall’ / company meetings with all BBHers. We are in weekly contact with our colleagues in other countries too. Our people’s safety is the top priority for us, and we went into WFH mode almost 8-10 days before the lockdown was announced. So, we have adapted well, and are all in regular touch connecting with each other. In addition, we have also had some fun, cultural events like music etc that we have been able to do using Google Hangouts. So while it felt really strange in the beginning, we are now getting a hang of it and starting to enjoy WFH.
BBH handles some major clients, how are they responding to this period of crisis?
All clients are facing big challenges at this time. So the priorities would be more focused on the factory operations, distribution etc. Our business is intrinsically linked to our client’s brands, so we are obviously going to get impacted as well. Some categories like media, entertainment, travel, hospitality etc would be the worst hit. But all our clients are very sensitive to the situation, and are working from home as well. So we are all adapting and learning together.
What is the strategy to stay ahead of the curve?
I do not think anyone can stay ‘ahead of the curve’ in this situation. But we can be smart, focused and resilient. First of all, be there for our clients as their business adapts. Come out with smart ideas that will help their brands and build business in these times. It will require more innovative thinking rather than the traditional way of doing it. Be more responsive and be faster at it. Second, make sure your people are well connected and safe. Our people are the only real assets we have and we need to nurture and protect them. Be connected. Third, be ruthless in cutting all unnecessary expenditure & costs. These are not times to be indulgent in any way. Every little expense will need to be looked at to protect the business.
Globally, we are seeing an economic slowdown. China has reported a 17% fall in revenues. How are you envisaging India’s ADEX growth Post COVID-19?
I think it will be hit badly, anywhere between 15-20% at the very minimum. Look, 2020 is what it is. We need to plan efficiently for 2021-22 now.
What is that one special mantra you want to give to the millennials?
The one thing I would say to anyone, not just millennials, is to use this WFH situation as an OPPORTUNITY. Learn a new skill. Do something new. Whatever it is, be it cooking, music, online classes, raising funds for a social cause … whatever. Take advantage of the fact that you are having to stay at home. Exploit the time on your hands. Do not fall into the trap of laziness.
With major events being canceled, especially IPL, how do you see a way forward on this? Will this money on IPL be diverted to other activities and how will the brands be impacted?
Like I said, 2020 will be what it is. This is the reality. Naturally, many big events like IPL will be cancelled. Budgets will be cut. But I am also an eternal optimist, you know. This too shall pass and we will all come together again. All we can do now is be safe. So that, when the time comes, we can get back with renewed energy and focus in rebuilding.