In normal times, it is par for the course to sign-off any communication with wishes for good health. However, in the times we live in today, I start on a similar note, wishing all of you and your families are healthy and safe. I do hope that all of us are practising the relevant social distancing norms as we navigate the spread of Covid-19 and the consequent lockdown to limit its growth. To that effect, I think India, despite stray incidences, has done a fabulous job at handling what has been a very challenging situation.
Impact on India
India`s healthcare infrastructure is limited in its ability to handle a rapid surge in Covid cases. In this backdrop, the lockdown was key to ensuring that the hospitals do not get overwhelmed with cases like we have seen in the western world. However, the flipside has been that the economy has come to an absolute halt in this period. Especially for the economically weakest segments of our society, who have been primarily engaged in the unorganized sector, this has been as challenging a time as any they would have seen in their lifetime. I would, therefore, take this opportunity to also request each one of you to help them in whatever way you can. Every step counts and it is these small steps together which will help our country navigate this challenge. Many of our employees are already doing this and I would like to applaud you all for your self-less service.
Even businesses are facing a challenging time staying afloat as the squeeze on liquidity affects organizations across all sectors and of all sizes. Therefore, it was important to slowly ease the lockdown restrictions so that the economy can start once again, albeit in a gradual and calibrated manner.
Re-start, but with caution!
At Edelweiss, our approach has always been employees first and to that effect, we were already operating at staff levels which were much lower than normal, even before the lockdown began. This was enabled by the swift, pro-active approach taken by our Tech team and I must commend Nitin for ensuring what has been almost a seamless transition to Work From Home. And to achieve this without any significant loss of productivity (I would argue that productivity has been better!) has been to the credit of Nitin and team. As we now transition to a relaxation of the lockdown norms, we are starting to open some of the branches in the green zone and then subsequently the orange zone. We will continue to work with minimal staffing from premises and only scale this up as the situation eases.
While we work towards slowly returning to normalcy, we must also recognize that we are now returning to a world which will be different from what it was a few months back. Safety and hygiene will become even more important and key as we embrace this new normal. It will become even more important to stay connected, yet physically distanced. The key would be to find the right balance between the two and ensure that while we put safety and health first, we also figure out a way and mechanism to re-start the idle economic machinery.
Navigating the crisis
The beauty of a crisis is that it helps cancel the noise and makes you focus on what really matters. The current times are no different. As we started receiving reports of Covid, it was clear to us that there were three things that were paramount -
- Employee Safety - We restricted most of our staff to work from home from even before the lockdown. As we now enter the re-start phase, while we as an organization will continue to take all necessary precautions, we would rely on you as a collective to be disciplined and demonstrate your alignment in following the changes at work to ensure a Covid-free workplace
- Clients - It was important, especially during these challenging times, that we provide whatever support and help we can to our clients. And I feel proud in saying that our employees have risen up to the challenge admirably. All our businesses have pro-actively reached out to their clients and I have had a lot of clients personally call and thank me for the exemplary support shown by our employees in what are clearly challenging times for them as well. I would urge all of you to continue to pro-actively communicate with your clients, listen to them with patience and assure them that Edelweiss has, is and will continue to be there for them now and in the future
- Liquidity - While we have extended EMI non-payment benefits to our clients, the same has not necessarily been available for us. It is therefore important in these times to be cautious, conservative and prudent wherever possible. We have restricted the spending to the minimum possible and all of you play an important role in helping solidify this prudence. I would urge all of you to continue to be measured in spending, both in your professional and personal life, in the near future
While we exercise this caution, we must also celebrate our wins, both the big and small ones.
- Tech team has done a fabulous job in ensuring that we have returned to Business As Usual, albeit in a Work From Home avatar, almost immediately and seamlessly
- HR has been another keystone to navigating this crisis. Rujan, Priya and team have put day and night together in not only ensuring minimal inconvenience to our employees but more importantly in creating an ecosystem which has been the bedrock of support for all employees
- All the business teams have, despite the lockdown, helped navigate the year-end closure, one of the most important time for any financial services organization. We have in fact been closing Investment Banking deals even with the current challenges and restrictions!
- Even today, as I pen this, our Finance & Accounts and Audit group continue to work with the auditors to close the book of accounts, a challenging task in these non-physical times!
As we express our gratitude, I would like to take a moment to thank the true warriors of this fight, the foot soldiers who have been the driving force behind all our efforts - the people at the data centre, the admin teams that have held fort in offices, the incident room that has been the hub of all data and information, the IE trading teams that have had to come to office in some form, the employees in retail businesses who have stepped out in the field to do collections or service customers, the list is endlessâ¦ these are the heroes we look upto and salute. Thank You!
The crisis has also left its indelible mark in terms of various learnings it has given us. Be it the lessons around frugality and conservatism or around the need to build resilience for long-term sustainability or the need to stay connected, we have each derived our own learnings. However, the biggest lesson it has left for me is that of being more thankful and grateful. Often, we take our family, friends and our own lives for granted but the crisis has shown us that at the end of the day, these are the things that really matter. I am grateful for my family, my friends and my Edelweiss family and that is really my greatest takeaway from this crisis.
The next few weeks would be especially critical in India and how we navigate these could actually determine the long-term future of our nation. We are amidst a disruption that is similar to 1991, maybe even bigger. Striking the right balance between re-starting the economy and maintaining social discipline will be key to determining the path we take. One slip could prove expensive and we must all do our part in ensuring that we donât let that slip happen. We also have an opportunity to actually play an even bigger role in the new world order that will emerge post-Covid. For that to happen, we must all join hands together (figuratively!) and come together to help India build a towering presence in the new world order.
As we look ahead, the return to normalcy for the economy as a whole will also take some time. And it will be not be a very smooth recovery either. The year ahead will be a bumpy road and the same will hold true for all organizations including ours. However, like we have done before, I am confident that Edelweiss will emerge out of this stronger, leaner and more resilient than ever before. As long as we are able to channelize our spirit of togetherness and adapt and improvise to sustain in the new normal, not only will we emerge unscathed, we will thrive and prosper in the India of future.
As ever, I welcome you to write to me with your thoughts and suggestions on Dil Ki Baat.