Speaking about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on businesses across the world, Hari Menon, CEO of BigBasket, one of India’s famous online groceries platform, said his company lost 80 per cent of its workforce when the lockdown was imposed on March 25 even as orders kept piling up.
In conversation with BS Nagesh, Non-Executive Chairman of Shoppers Stop at the 9th edition of Isha Insight, Menon said he ‘went blank for a couple of days’ of the lockdown. “After losing 80 per cent of workforce in two days, we were really dumbstruck as orders poured in and we hired 12,300 people in 16 days. Through this we demonstrated the power of resilience,” Menon said.
The three-day virtual business leadership event by Isha Foundation kicked off earlier today with a keynote address by its founder Sadhguru.
During the conversation, Menon said that that the objective of BigBasket at the beginning of January this year was to become the top-three grocery platform by the end of the year and highlighted how he took inspiration from his father-in-law E Sreedharan when it came to managing huge projects and delivering it on time.
“He has devised a reverse clock cycle by which he finishes all his work on time, something which I have tried to learn from him,” Menon said.
He also spoke about the challenges and failures which he had to face while beginning his journey at BigBasket and how it is important to have people who are willing to learn all the time.
“It’s important to setup a learning organisation and the first thing we did at BigBasket was set up a training and innovation function. It is very important to keep your eyes open and learn…We had a whole bunch of senior people, who had worked in the physical stores business. It took us 6 to 8 months realise and take off our blinkers, we had to lose our past baggage to understand the online business,” Menon said.
“Learning elements of culture and managing people is more critical than being a technocrat and understanding technology, since that can be outsourced as long as you know where your organisation is headed,” he added.
Menon said that his business rose significantly during the lockdown, so much so, that they completed their year-long goals by July itself. During this period, his bonding with fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies grew as well. “We interacted with them three times a day during April-May, which is otherwise just once in 15 days.”
He also stressed on communication and transparency in a company. “You need to talk to your customers, during the lockdown, we messaged customers and briefed them about the challenges we were facing and apologised to them. Likewise, it is equally important to communicate with your employees. I spoke regularly to my delivery and operations team.”
Earlier in the day, Sadhguru kicked off the virtual event by addressing the participants from the Isha Institute in Tennessee, US. He said that people have to realise that only with conscious and responsible action can we all rise through this pandemic.
“As a leader, you need insight. You can get all the people who know the subject and do the business. Insight will happen when you see something not necessarily in the logical perspective of the data in your mind. For this, you have to bring Clarity of Perception,” he said.
He asked participants to continue to rise above the challenges presented during the pandemic and economic fallout. “You must be behind the wheel, putting your shoulder to the wheel, so that it goes ahead and creates possibilities. If you’re on the other side of the wheel, then you’ll get crushed,” he said.
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