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‘We will have a conservative growth plan that is recalibrated to newer growth segments.’

9 Aug 2020

Featured today in this exclusive series of Business Leaders’ Perspectives,Narayan Iyer, General Manager, OHI Leo Burnett, shares the company’s basic principles based on the 5C Model – Category, Customer, Content, Creative and Costs. Excerpts:

What is your brief assessment of the position of your company in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly during the peak season of Ramadan when business in Oman faced a challenge like never before? 

We remained positive and our teams stayed motivated and inspired in spite of the challenges. We prepared for a harder phase during Ramadan by being proactive and also used the WFH mechanism that we continue to deliver on our client needs. We remain cautiously optimistic of the near term and the immediate future. Oman is a growing market with a young population and it will bounce back faster.

What plans/strategies did you adopt to maintain your operations during the lockdown period over the past 2-3 months? How beneficial did this prove to be?

The first thing that we realised was that this was going to be there for the long haul and we need a sustainable strategy. We evaluated the teams that can work remotely and those that have to be essential in the office. We put together a crisis centre in the office to ensure business continuity. Currently, we are operating with 50% talent in office and 50% from home. The team members rose to the challenge seamlessly and from a conventional 8-hour office we transformed into a 24×7 operation to meet the challenges and address the varied and different needs of our clients

Looking ahead, what are your immediate and short-term plans that you believe will help the company recalibrate and move forward with renewed purpose?

In the communications business, there will be a renewed emphasis and speedier transformation towards digital and social media. The basic principles will continue to be the 5C Model Category, Customer, Content, Creative and Costs. Our focus will be still creative, so mediums will keep changing but the creative will always remain to be a competitive advantage.

What immediate changes are required in your workplaces, with regard to physical infrastructure, employee welfare, work culture and business promotion, in view of new guidelines related to COVID-19 (social distancing, hygiene/sanitation, health and fitness)?

We were able to adapt with the support of our management to move to WFH immediately and continue to have 50% WFH. Meetings have been moved to digital channels and even new business and presentations are through Zoom, MS Teams. We had moved our own communication ecosystem on the cloud hence rolling out our EFH strategy was quick and efficient. 

What do you see as the most feasible solutions for mitigating losses experienced due to the lockdown (cost-cutting measures, downsizing staff, enhancing performance, increasing work hours, any other). Do you consider these as short-term or long term measures?

We expect losses to be two-fold. In the short term, we need to lower our expectations from industries which are directly impacted, such as tourism, travel, airlines. In the long term, we need to have measures for enhancing performance, multitasking, 24×7 on, which will be the model to offset the losses.

What are your primary concerns regarding building/maintaining your company image, post-COVID-19, as well as improving performance to regain connections and trust with your consumers/clients?

We are a creative/delivery driven, client-centric agency. We have maintained that during the crisis and we believe that we need to continue to do the same.

Did you have the option of working from home for your staff during the lockdown and to what extent was it helpful? Will you continue to offer that option as part of your new strategy?

We had a successful WFH strategy and we will continue to extend it till the end of the year. Also it has opened up the opportunity for us to hire new talent from around the world who can WFH.

What lessons were learnt from this crisis that would help redefine your corporate goals as well as helping your company experience sustained growth in the years ahead?

Be prepared. Health is more important than anything else. ‘People , Performance and Productivity’ would be the key not the number of hours that you sit in office or where you are based.

What additional challenges do you anticipate in 2020/2021 and would you now place greater emphasis on risk management so that you are not caught off guard again?

Coming out of the pandemic, we need to have an inspired business plan but it needs to be conservative as all business will be cautious. We might also have to prepare for mini-crises as the virus keeps showing up to creative waves. We will have a conservative growth plan that is recalibrated to newer growth segments. We will be focused on our offering and try to be the best.

In your opinion, how important it is for staff to undergo training to realign themselves with the company’s policies/new strategies as well as to immerse themselves in a new work culture that the pandemic has dictated?

It is very important for the people to be aligned to the agency’s approach and values, and we believe our people strongly are. The WFH culture has been embraced well. It is important for people to be disciplined and active, with a focus on maintaining a ‘Work Life Balance’.

How long do you envisage it will be, if at all, that your particular sector is performing at pre-COVID-19 levels?

This will be the new normal and the industry will change, and you need to adapt to the new, be it in terms of business, talent, media, office, etc.

Are there examples of new thinking in other sectors that yours could adopt to good effect?

We are always looking for inspiring new ways to work and there are great innovations within technology companies, especially on how they have championed the WFH culture. 

What is the No 1 positive aspect you would take from the last three months? 

Business is important for livelihood. But lives are more important and it’s important to always stay positive, and good will follow.

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