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Recovery plan for 2021

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Guest Column: Umesh Shrikhande, CEO, Taproot Dentsu, explains why many businesses are finding it important to review their business models so as to make them less vulnerable, more resilient & flexible

Back to first principles

We are now living in a RUPT world. Rapidly changing. Unpredictable. Paradoxical. Tangled. It is now quite evident that ‘what got us here, won’t get us there’. For starters, the pandemic seems to have created a new kind of consumer. She isn’t just digital-centric. She is emotionally charged too, fuelled by insecurity, worry, anxiety and displays some new behaviours, attitudes, preferences and routines. As a result of all these changes, many businesses are finding it important to review their business models so as to make them less vulnerable, more resilient and flexible.

When it comes to the world of marketing and communication too, we need a more holistic introspection. Given the collective penchant for new jargon we are now talking of a ‘new normal’. Pray tell me what is ‘normal’ about the way the world is changing? It’s new alright. Normal it ain’t. The sooner we realise that, the faster we will try to find new answers to fundamental questions by going back to first principles. Here are a few such questions that occur to me and IMHO are worth asking.

Not too many businesses spend time with this very existential sounding question. But it is a wonderfully nuanced question that allows you to reflect on the very core of your brand and business. Does the business you are in still leave you with a positive and exhilarating feeling about the future? Is the size of your opportunity growing and is it promising? Is your current expertise readying you for a changed world? Do you need to figure and address new unmet needs? Do you find it relevant to offer newer profitable services and for that do you need to build new capabilities? Have preferences changed so much that you need to revisit your business model? Will that new model give you the much-needed flexibility of responding to a wider array of unpredictable situations?

Is your culture sticky enough?

As the company grows, which pillars of your culture are helping you to preserve your key values? Is it making your company a better place to work and helping you perform better? Is it helping you distinguish yourself from your competitors? Or is it merely warm and fuzzy without helping you deliver better results? Culture matters because it enables the creation of differentiated products and services. Are you ensuring that critical operating values such as building stronger client relationships or delivering value-added services persist? How is this long and extended phase of WFH affecting result orientation, behaviours, energy levels and enthusiasm? What new values and counter behaviours seem worth considering?

Is your talent pool deep and energised enough?

WFH is a risky business because in trying to ensure business continuity, it could lull you into taking your eyes off your key talent. Spotting unhappiness and dissatisfaction when working remotely is not easy. More so since we neither have past experience nor do we have a ready playbook. The earlier you realise it, the faster you could respond with new initiatives, behaviours and policies that could energise your business-critical resources and keep them engaged with your core purpose. Are you building capabilities for a new era? Do you have formal processes in place to do so? More than ever before, your communication needs to be transparent and free-flowing. In the WFH era, you need to replace your ‘open-door policy’ with a fully accessible ‘open-phone’ policy.

What are your new yardsticks of success?

For the foreseeable future – surely till the dust settles down – only focusing on traditional definitions of success viz. Growth and profitability will be inadvisable and to some extent dangerous too. Mostly because it will keep you fixated with an irrelevant past and delay your readiness for the future. New business models, new customer segments, new or modified product – service – delivery methods, new capabilities, agile systems and more will all have to be part of the critical success factors. Only then will the organisation get ready for the new landscape and will become resilient in the face of similar tectonic shifts in the future.

What is your response to the fastchanging and uncertain business environment?

The response to this question straddles all fundamental pillars of business organisations. Business definition, culture, talent and new definitions of success – all need to be aligned so as to create a new agile, responsive and learning organisation. Your robust past experience will pull you towards tried and tested behaviours, while the reality and the future will keep signalling you to transform in fundamental ways. Over and above all the aforementioned areas, embedding an R&D mindset into the DNA of the organisation will be needed to make everyone comfortable with a ‘build-test-modify-destroy-build…’ approach to work and results. Scenario planning will have to become a new important capability. A war-room approach to execution will become a critically necessary process. In sum, dealing with and responding to uncertainty will have to become second nature.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of

About the author / 

Umesh Shrikhande

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