#LeaderTalk: In Conversation with Mr. S. Swaminathan, Chief Executive Officer of Hansa Cequity
Blog: NASSCOM Official Blog
Hansa Cequity is an advanced analytics company that “helps businesses acquire customers intelligently, retain them optimally, and manage them profitably.” Simply put – they build customer’s equity through data-driven insights.
How are they faring during the crisis and looking at it from a broader standpoint too – that of the SME sector – we had their CEO, Mr. S. Swaminathan speak to us over virtual coffee. It was indeed a very candid conversation.
Please read on and see why:
1. What are some of the specific tech interventions at your end during lockdown to ensure that employee morale remained high and productivity too?
When people are working in a distributed environment, as is the case in the WFH model, the challenge is about sustaining the level of collaboration that has been established over a period of time. Towards meeting this end, we used Microsoft Teams quite effectively and tried hard to replicate the spirit of regular F2F meetings that we are all so used to. One is never sure if it has been adequately compensated but I have only one thing to say – COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, and never stop. In these times, it’s better to err on the side of over-communication than not.
This approach required a massive effort across the organization and a complete change in mindset. I knew that I was the one who had to set an example for others to draw inspiration from, and to start with, I started to use the platform rather extensively while communicating with my team members. This I knew, was the first step needed, even before embarking on the journey of securing organization-wide morale. Soon, we were having daily huddles, albeit virtual ones, and a new habit formation started taking place among a diverse set of internal stakeholders – our talent pool.
We have been able to ingrain these practices in our DNA and when we go back to the old normal (if we do) I am confident we are inspired enough to sustain it.
2. Your insights please, on managing revenue and customers?
The first thing that we did was, give assurance to our clients that we were available 24/7 to provide support – i.e. through our back-end IT infrastructure and our domain expertise as well. They were experiencing tremendous volatility so it was critical to assure them at that time. We also have a diverse set of clients in BFSI, Retail, Media, and others, so we had to finetune the narrative accordingly.
Advanced preparation and to the extent possible, is most important. We were always high on accountability and during the crisis, we were even more sensitive. Once again, we leveraged the collaboration platforms optimally to create real-time value. Admittedly, our revenues have been impacted but we are monitoring the status at a granular level, and with greater frequency than what we did earlier. We expect a semblance of normalcy to return in the next 6 – 9 months. And, we continue to put our best forward while meeting the Client’s SLAs.
3. What are your plans for Opening Up 1.0? How will you go about it?
There are essentially three angles to be looked into – People, Process & Mindset.
With people, your approach cannot be transactional. There are many considerations that we have to look into. For instance, some may be residing in containment zones, having elderly relatives, etc. We created an SOP and got all employees to fill up a self-declaration form which captured various risk parameters. These inputs are essential to identify the people who are “better equipped” from a safety standpoint to resume office, even in a staggered manner.
We cannot be draconian in our approach and for some time to come, we have to learn to be flexible that only 30% of people can come to the office at any given point of time.
Leaders across levels have to walk the talk. When we open up, they need o come to the office and set an example. Of course, in their cases too, the approach has to be staggered to minimize risk. Perhaps they can come on alternate days. As an SME, we don’t have too many people in that position but for very large companies with a top-heavy layer, things may have to be looked into quite differently.
We have invested substantially in creating home infrastructure and we can’t dismantle it immediately, or we should not. What if the lockdown is imposed again at a later point? No one quite knows how this virus will behave.
4. The future ahead from your vertical standpoint – short to medium term.
We are a Marketing Analytics company. We think it will take anything between 6 – 9 months for our customers to see demand picking up. It’ll certainly not be easy during this time. And, 9 – 18 months from now is when we are likely to see gradual progress as things limp back to Pre-COVID levels. We have also co-opted to research alongside our clients and come up with new findings as to when they expect their end customers to bounce back. This will give us all a clearer picture of the demand cycles that we can expect and make financial investments accordingly. Till about the last quarter of FY 21, things are going to be difficult.
5. Specific policy interventions that you have in mind.
• The top-down execution of policies needs to happen much faster. There’s a decoupling of the slide in the growth of SMEs and the pace at which financial packages are being offered. Things need to accelerate.
• There needs to be an institutional framework that can rank SMEs, else, banks will continue to dither in giving loans. And, in the banking sector, very few are willing to make these decisions.
• There are way too many government departments that we have to work with at an operational level. At a local level, we need a nodal agency that can help SMEs break this bottleneck.