Sumita Dutta, Executive Director (Corporate Affairs), SAIL says that crisis opens up new challenges and businesses that spot the trend and seize new opportunities will emerge as market winners
Challenges manifest as opportunities. Difficult times open up new possibilities, trigger out-of-box ideas and encourage innovative thinking to surge against all odds. The story of successful business organizations is the story of continuous evolution and adaptation to the changing market realities. Covid-19 is a reality, which has changed the business perspectives. The prolonged lockdown and future uncertainties have forced the business organizations to re-calibrate their business strategies. It is bound to have profound impact on the marketing strategies and practices too.
Steel, being the material of choice for construction and infrastructure development for years, is regarded as the backbone of a country’s development. The per capita steel consumption is regarded as a measure of socio-economic development of a country. Steel, an industry which is covered under ESMA, kept operating during lockdown period also. Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL), the largest steelmaker in India, operated all its plants and units albeit at a reduced level to around 50% of the capacity during this period.
It was a new learning experience for the Company. The challenge was to reach out to the customers and it was realized that the traditional ways of conducting business had to undergo a complete change. The customers preferred to have the transactions in remote mode. It called for modifying the enterprise portal to include all information related to each customer like accounts ledgers, payables, receivables, progress of orders placed etc. at one place. Further, the portal needed to be modified to include all procurement related queries including stock position, issuance of materials, money receipts etc. also at one place. It is a paradigm shift from the conventional mode of business. The guiding factor is that in the changed scenario, the customers would expect seamless business transactions without having to visit the marketers’ premises. The need for physical signatures required for the purpose of security had to be changed. Digital authentication processes have to be vigorously followed. The writing on the wall is clear – in future majority of the meetings will have to be made on secured videoconferencing platforms on mobile phones. SAIL is taking proactive steps to educate customers, having diverse profiles to use this platform effectively.
In view of changing paradigms, the future belongs to e-marketing even in commodity like steel. It will also bring about major change in internal communications. The internal communications also need to be more and more on e-platforms. All employees need to be trained to go paperless & communicate on virtual platforms with all stakeholders. These would require imparting of proper soft skills and training. Processes have to be reviewed to make it easy for operations to be conducted from remote for employees and stakeholders. The pace of such changes has to be fast and futuristic.
It was also realized during these times that ‘Work from Home,’ with necessary checks & balances system, has to be prepared so that in situations like these, the work can be carried out from respective remote locations without a hitch and seamlessly. Door delivery system may have to be strengthened with documentations in digital mode for ease of business. The organisations will also have to invest and spend more on IT infrastructure, keeping future growth in view. Innovative financial instruments, channel financing mechanisms have to be worked out for cushioning financial constraints during a prolonged calamity / disaster.
Crisis opens up new challenges, new opportunities. It is the time to spot the trend and seize new opportunities. Smart businesses that can adapt to the changing paradigm will emerge as market winners.