Prime Minister Modi introduced a 21 day curfew in the country yesterday, a much needed step to control the spread of Covid 19 in the country. While a lot of panic buying started halfway through his speech when he announced the duration of the speech, the ministry has since clarified that all efforts will be made to provide essential services to regular folks.
Business continuity is an issue most good firms prepare for - but we live in extraordinary times, and the contingency plans need contingency plans in these times. Today we look at the continuity challenges of some of our most critical requirements, and how they are being addressed.
The border checks
With the border lockdown begining in states, a few days prior to the lock down announced by the PM, trucks carrying essential items across state/district lines had already begun facing a few issues. As the power at the hands of the district border checkposts increase, smaller firms and SMEs sending goods across will start facing issues due to the trouble in acquiring the right paperwork, etc. While larger firms will also get affected to a certain extent, primarily on the procurement side where a few firms have already begun to see slightly erratic supply, a combination of proper inventory management and better paperwork, will help them tackle these difficult times.
While we wouldn't like to go deeper into this issue due to its sensititive nature, it would be prudent for higher ups at the respective departments to have clear instructions to ensure there are minimal issues for the passage of essential goods.
One of the key areas where maintaining continuity is important is the workforce. While good parts of these systems are now automated, you still need a significant amount of labour, not only in the manufacturing plants but also in warehourses and further down the supply chain. The key risk here is one of the people on the manufacturing floor falling ill, pulling the health of everyone else, as well as the manufacturing itself in jeopardy.
The way firms have begun to tackle this is having <50% of their workforce on the floor at any given time, with enhanced sanitation drives. Depending on the worker count you have and the shifts you had during business as usual times, you would thus be able to have 2-3 "batches". This ensures that if a positive case is found in any of the folks working, you could request that batch to self quarantine and continue business with the other batch(es).
Given a large amount of automation at most of these plants, the time required for training would be relatively low as well. In cases where that is true, it would perhaps be helpful for the firms to bring in additional folks and have a few of the regular workers train them. This would enhance the bandwidth you have in the number of batches available.
The last issue is probably the toughest to deal with. If fear around this increases you could have essential elements preferring to stay at home instead of risk their life going out. Everyone from the manufacturing floor worker to the warehouse executive, to the person driving the delivery trucks, to the owner and worker at the mom and pop shop, are people whose health and well being should be top priority. Having good protection and reasonable care for these folks to ensure that they stay safe is critical, and larger FMCG firms have already started working to ensure that people at the very end of the chain are protected as well.
The next few weeks and months will be challenging. But if we stay in this together and apply ourselves, we will get through this. While thousands of critical employees including police, doctors, nurses, essential goods manufactures and distributors and farmers are out there ensuring that things stay normal, the least we can do is stay out of their way. So please do stay at home people. We will, as a country, emerge out of this. Until then, stay indoors, stay safe.
About the Author: The post is written by Ganesh Nagarsekar. Ganesh is a graduate from IIM Calcutta and has worked with J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs, before founding GSN Invest.