‘China’s loss in manufacturing could be India’s gain’
Harvard Business School (HBS) hosted a webinar to brainstorm the opportunities for countries in the economic uncertainties due to Covid-19
As the world grapples with the unprecedented challenge of Covid-19, business leaders and management thinkers are helping navigate the crisis and plan for the future.
At a webinar by Harvard Business School (HBS) and Harvard Business Publishing, members of the HBS faculty and India Inc executives brainstormed on economic uncertainties resulting from the pandemic and the opportunities for countries like India.
With Western countries, looking to diversify their manufacturing from China and Japan, earmarking $2.2 billion to help its companies shift production, India could be a fertile ground for these supplies, said Sanjiv Mehta, CMD, Hindustan Unilever (HUL). He said this could well be a moment for ‘Make in India’ to shine. “If you look at the history, the impetus given to Y2K converted a challenge into an opportunity. We could significantly build on the credibility of our IT industry and prove how resilient and strong we are,” Mehta said.
The second opportunity is investing in our healthcare systems. “We can also undertake reforms. It could be India’s moment once we come out of the crisis,” added Mehta, who expects the government to move its focus to livelihood, along with saving lives and announce relief measures and an economic stimulus. Mehta was speaking on the theme at the webinar: ‘Going beyond the medical impact of Covid-19’.
Ravi Venkatesan, former chairman of Microsoft India, who has created a social initiative called The Global Alliance for Mass Entrepreneurship that is building a $100-million-plus SME Stabilisation Fund, said although there are a lot of people with ideas and resources, they are disconnected and working in silos. “We need to act in cohesion and learn fast to make a difference. After this crisis, everyone needs to have an entrepreneur’s mindset. What’s needed is leadership that can come from anywhere and everywhere, and it does not come with a title,” he said.
HBS professors Robert Kaplan, Herman Leonard, Amy Edmondson and Ananth Raman presented a framework for leaders to navigate a low-likelihood, high-consequence crisis: ‘What to do when no one knows what to do?’ Elaborating on why teaming matters, Edmondson used insights from a case study on the Chilean miners’ crisis and how it was a team effort and leadership that ensured they were rescued. The example highlights a challenging situation, which was equally unpredictable in its outcome as the current crisis that has brought the world together. “The 33 men knew what they were up against. They knew the odds of rescue were near zero, but they teamed up and somehow coped in a hopelessly difficult situation. Engineers showed up from various arenas to team up and innovate,” said Edmondson.
Edmondson said what’s required from leaders today is to create conditions for people to innovate and come up with solutions and not micro-manage, which she said would be a big mistake. Edmondson said the world needs leadership everywhere as ideas can come from unknown sources. “Leaders should ensure they put in place psychological safety so that people know candour is welcome,” she said. Suneeta Reddy, MD, Apollo Hospitals, which is working to improve the capacity of ventilators and hospital beds, said keeping up motivation levels among staff would be essential so as to retain healthcare professionals as their requirement has only grown over the days.
Leonard said it is crucial to create critical incident management teams, which include people who can oversee all aspects of the event, highlighting the importance of recruiting three groups: The people who know the firm, who have the expertise, and people who understand and represent the firm’s key values.
While stressing that cash is king in uncertain times, Raman said organisations need to read signals and recognise quickly which fire is going to become huge. A ‘chief worry officer’ could be useful to plan response in unprecedented situations. “Like in today’s scenario, bottlenecks can keep shifting. The headquarter team needs to take corrective action. Different approaches may be required in different schemes,” said Raman.
On supply chains, Raman said the real problem leaders would encounter is what supplies need to be made and what need not be prioritised. Establishing confidence in the supply chain, he said, would be vital for it to work.Amit Chandra of Bain Capital described his collaborative, multi-pronged approach of working with a state government to improve PPE supply chains, increase testing capacity, and ensure food security through a network of NGOs.
Courtesy: The Times of India