I would see the outbreak of Covid as an opportunity because it has given technology a much needed trust, recognition and an opportunity to prove how it can change the world. Trust in digital technology is a reality when you pay with Google pay to a small street vendor or when you sign an e-agreement, this would have taken another 10 years if it was not for this pandemic so yes it’s a big boom for all technology companies, says Gaurav Srivastava, Head-IT, Xiaomi, in conversation with Elets CIO.
1. How did Covid-19 outbreak impact the electronic sector? What major challenges did you come across?
Have you ever witnessed a good news and bad news in the same sentence? How ironic, we are a hard core electronics company and in times when everyone wanted electronic devices to deal with the lockdown, we were made to stop manufacturing by this pandemic, so it was a double whammy for our sector, we faced challenges across factory resources migrating to their native and uncertainty around their return, disruption of supply chain due to limited resources with our delivery partners post unlock session etc.
While there was very little to do, we did ensure all our inventory available in the channel is mobilised and consumed, we ramped up our manufacturing plants within the guidelines shared by Government of India, we had less workers on floors strictly in accordance to covid safety guidelines but had multiple shifts to coverup for the supply deficit, with proper fumigation after each shift.
2. What are your views on the technology as an enabler of employment and opportunities during the pandemic?
I would rather see it as an opportunity because it has given technology a much needed trust, recognition and an opportunity to prove how it can change the world. Trust in digital technology is a reality when you pay with Google pay to a small street vendor or when you sign an e-agreement, this would have taken another 10 years if it was not for this pandemic so yes it’s a big boom for all technology companies.
But it all comes with a sense of responsibility to ensure that we build on this trust, pass on the benefit to the customer, serve them well to build a sustainable skeleton that will last long and that would open up several opportunities to our young cadets who pass out every single year but never see the demand to absorb them. India is on the verge of digital explosion in my opinion and will consume more than 40% of its current workforce serving global demand on India centric digital solutions only if only we play it right!.
3. Which tech-based practices did you deploy at your organisation to ensure growth and safety lately?
While we all have to agree there wasn’t much growth in last 6 months, we can obviously talk a lot more about how we started doing things differently, while working from home is an idea being tossed in the industry for over 2 decades now, there has always been a sense of right and left wing there but the covid outbreak brought everyone on the same wing, which made things easier to an extent.
This meant we all agreed to the problem and together were ready to solve it, I personally believe that this is nothing short of a miracle how quickly a country like India adopted to it, how solidly our ISP’s supported the sudden increase in bandwidth and speed requirement, how fast we transformed into a digital nation having police to grocery to health appointments online…this is a case study in my honest opinion. It was a hidden caliber discovered during the pandemic, India is capable of anything and everything and it just proved it. Like, many other organisations the challenge for us was same, make everyone productive from wherever they are and so a series of web conferencing to attendance monitoring to digital health surveys were deployed to ensure continuous productivity within safe environment. Sensor based sanitisation to contactless screening of temperature to daily health record of employees are fairly common tech solutions that we deployed for limited audience that attended the office in last 6 months because largely it has been a remote working year for us overall.
4. How are you making optimum utilisation of the opportunities in disguise against the challenges thrown by Covid?
Let’s talk about the challenges in chronological order:
Complete lockdown: Meaning, everyone and everything stays where it is. Your production has come to a halt so not much can be done there but Your demand supply went for a toss for your moving inventory is blocked in the channel/store/WH so it won’t earn you a penny until such a time the lockdown period is over so the challenge was, can we do anything about it while sitting and working from our respective remote locations and if Yes, what is it that we can do? This is when we brought all our think tanks together on endless zoom sessions and decided to be future ready because there’s nothing that can be done at present and launched this O2O solution called Mi Commerce right before the ease of lockdown started in the beginning of May and was a Mega Success for us.
To be future ready we need to define the challenges of future, we all at some point realised that covid is here to stay so it’s not just about the lockdown period but the fear that non-stop media reports had garnered within us was far to go anytime soon so it was aptly clear that even if government allows things to open there’ll be lot of reluctance among people to go out and shop, especially now when we have gotten used to accepting our tomatoes in any colour, form and shape they land on our door, despising all our traditional inspection mechanism of picking each one of them, so we stick to our core problem which was inventory which is blocked in channel and store and will stay stuck for the time to come, causing huge losses not just for us but our partners as well so we decided to build a platform that connects our customers with our store partners present in the their very neighbourhood on an online platform.
Bringing together the buyer and the seller together in their own neighbourhood had its way to overcome challenges imposed by Covid restrictions. This solution ensured while there were several restrictions on goods movement for intra/inte- state, we delivered all our customers what they wanted by recycling the inventory which was otherwise stuck in channel/store. This helped us serve our customers in need despite all covid challenges and also benefitted organisation and our retail partners in generating revenue. We launched this O2O solution called Mi Commerce right before the ease of lockdown started in the beginning of May and was a Mega Success for us.
5. What are your views on the role of social media as a medium to ensure brand expansion?
Well, Social media platforms are not new and have been around for over a decade now, disrupting many of the traditional approaches for brand endorsement and marketing campaigns but we must agree that the covid outbreak has acted as a turbo force for this segment which has enforced the so called traditional or unwilling industries also to relook at their way of working and do the needful course of correction.
The hidden power of social media lies in the fact that you market, endorse, sell, serve on one single platform without making it explicit to the customer and that helps build your gold mine for customer profiling unlike the brick and mortar model.
Considering the covid outbreak has put us all in closed territories thereby enforcing all of us to carry out all of our activities, be it work, studies, entertainment on internet.
In fact, social gathering for that matter has significantly improved the adoption and usage of social media platforms. One of the recent studies indicates that the average phone time for every individual globally has gone up by 40% which means social media is now one of the most important platforms for marketing and brand advertisement.
We have always been a social media driven company right from the start and course it gives us a much required edge over our competitors.
However, we have also taken few additional steps in terms of cutting down on celebrity endorsements, print media ad campaigns etc as the physical news paper circulation itself had gone down the drain and focusing more on leveraging our presence on social media platforms to engage more with our customers at large and passing on the cost savings to our customers which were spent on these channels otherwise.