#LeaderTalk: In Conversation with Mr. Karan Yaramada, CEO of Jade Global

How did a trusted Digital Transformation Partner fare during the crisis? To find out we got an opportunity to speak to Jade Global’s CEO and he shared some valuable insights.

  1. Please share your thoughts on how you are managing productivity and employee morale during this crisis?

It’s the most extraordinary situation we have entered in recent history. A catastrophe and a humanitarian crisis of this magnitude has overwhelmed mankind and crippled global supply chains. The lockdown in March in India was an unexpected move, and if we hadn’t prepared in advance, we would have been in a heap of trouble in ensuring BCP for some of the mission-critical processes that we handle for our clients.

In the Bay Area, where we have our HQ, we went into lockdown by the 15th of March – at the time when Stay At Home order was issued. For our Indian operations, we were very particular that employees’ health is our primary concern and we encouraged people to use the WFH option even before GOI had mandated it. We had learnt from our US experience that precautionary measures had to be taken very early. Having time on our hands, we were able to transition smoothly to the WFH model and provide secure access to all our employees. Our people have been extremely resilient towards enabling this massive change. The positive impact of it all is there to see – no employee has been infected so far, customers are happy and there has been very little disruption to speak of. Admittedly, we were extremely worried in the beginning but so far things have worked well.

At the same time, we were also focussed on the mental health of our employees during this period of great uncertainty. To put people at ease, the leadership team communicated that jobs were safe but we were prepared for the worst-case scenario as well. Being transparent goes a very long way in earning trust and support. When people work out of remote locations, it’s very important to communicate and keep them abreast of the developments.

  1. In a Post-COVID world, the disruptions you see in your industry? And, how will you turn them into opportunities?

We communicated to the customers that we were always there to help. That meant if they faced challenges in payment, we doubled up to offer them, flexible pricing models, to see them through. And, we did this proactively.

We dug deeper and re-prioritized tightly bound SLAs even as we continued to partner with them. This helped us a lot and the impact on our revenue has not been more than 10 – 15%. On the other hand, our costs have come down too – no travel or marketing events, etc. We don’t have significant exposure in businesses such as travel & hospitality.

  1. How do you see this new model of WFH shaping up? Is it here to stay?

In North America, even in Pre-COVID days, 30% of knowledge workers worked from home. In India, IT Services did see 10% of the workforce adapting to this model earlier – particularly women. But in general, we didn’t see too many of these instances.

Once the lockdown is lifted, what happens? It may turn out that 50% would continue to WFH. A lot of people in India may not have a suitable environment at home which is conducive for the WFH model. They may have compulsions to come to the offices. On the other hand, the WFH model saves a lot of commuting time which can be better utilized. In the new normal, there’s a strong likelihood that this flexibility will continue. I am very optimistic that it’ll work well for Indian conditions in the long-run and help people lead a better quality of life and stay safe.

4. How can India optimize from this crisis – IT and services angle? Things that will work and those which won’t?

  • Convergence between software & IT services.
  • Transition faster to the new way of doing things, particularly leveraging Cloud, SaaS models, Open Source, etc.
  • In the short-term, the overall industry may shrink and there’ll be pressure to turn capex cost into opex. Low priority projects will be deferred.
  • Right now and for the next 6 – 9 months it’s critical to preserve cash.
  • I expect, post-2021, there’ll be an acceleration in Digital Transformation journeys. We are lucky this pandemic struck us now when we are powerful in digital capabilities. If it had happened 15 – 20 years earlier, things would have been much worse. After a few years, this period will only exist in our distant memories.
  • India has a great future ahead in intelligent automation and to play in the long run, the right kind of investments are required at the moment.
  1. Specific Leadership traits during a crisis?
  • Great leadership is about focusing on the right things.
  • Be humble so that people can talk to you like a friend. They require empathy in a crisis.
  • A very high degree of transparency is needed too.
  • It’s normal for the leader to be vulnerable during a crisis but they have to stay calm and avoid panicking. This will help in building emotional connect with the team. Empathy is the most desirable quality to have in these times.
  • They have to be optimistic but prepare for the worst-case scenario.
  • The crisis will soon pass over but the leader should be capable enough to transition to a peaceful environment as well. Those times call for a very different kind of mindset.

Interviewed by Soumitra Dasgupta

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