Masked, jabbed & tested: CEOs get back to in-person meetings

Masked, jabbed & tested: CEOs get back to in-person meetings

Several C-suite executives — most of them fully vaccinated — have restarted face-to-face business meetings, declaring that these are far more productive than virtual ones forced on them by Covid-19.

One company boss said online meetings were akin to a pilot in a simulator, rather than actually flying a plane. Chief executives and the senior leadership at Xiaomi India, Parle Products, Maruti SuzukiHyundai, Future Group, Levi’s, Panasonic India, Bosch Siemens’ home appliances arm, Mercedes Benz, Skoda Auto, Edelweiss AMC, upGrad and Axis Securities, among others, have resumed in-person meetings. Some of these entail travel to other cities to take stock of manufacturing and strategising with sales teams, besides meeting vendors, business partners and external stakeholders.

This comes as businesses have recovered strongly after the second Covid wave and are planning for the crucial festive season that starts in a few weeks.

Personal meetings with dealers or customers are very critical to gauge the pulse of the market, as long as all protocols are observed, said Shashank Srivastava, senior executive director for sales and marketing at India’s largest car maker, Maruti Suzuki. Future Group chief executive Kishore Biyani and its leadership team have been holding face-to-face meetings regularly, as well as those at the country’s largest biscuit maker, Parle Products.

“The buzz is returning to offices,” said Parle senior category head Krishnarao Buddha. Flipkart chief executive Kalyan Krishnamurthy and Myntra CEO Amar Nagaram, along with other senior leaders, have started going to warehouses to oversee supply chain operations, meet employees and bolster their spirits.

Edelweiss AMC chief executive Radhika Gupta has conducted a few meetings at five-star hotels with senior hires and clients, since offices are still shut for outside visitors.

RAISING SPIRITS
Axis Securities managing director and chief executive B Gopkumar has started scheduling a few weekly face-to-face meetings. With online fatigue setting in, these can help reignite a sense of belonging and allow team members to forge stronger bonds, he said.

Manu Kumar Jain, chief executive of India’s largest smartphone maker, Xiaomi, last Monday tweeted that he was “super happy” to visit the office after four months and was looking forward to meeting some team members, even though work from home continues.

Sharad Agarwal, head of the Lamborghini brand in India, has started meeting external stakeholders ahead of a model launch this week.

Panasonic India CEO Manish Sharma has been holding oneon-one meetings, apart from the few he did at the plant. Santosh Iyer, who heads sales and marketing at Mercedes Benz India, recently went to Mumbai and is now adding more cities to his calendar.

“The connection and intensity is much better from face-to-face meetings as compared to virtual, online ones,” said Delhi-based Sanjeev Mohanty, managing director for South Asia, Middle East and Africa, Levi Strauss & Co, who undertook his first business trip this weekend since the pandemic to meet team members and business partners in Bengaluru. He said attending a meeting is a personal choice and perceptions of safety can differ.

To ensure safety, strict Covid protocols are observed at all such gatherings, with double masking being the norm. Some CEOs restrict attendance to those with both jabs or a negative Covid test report. Companies typically facilitate these before such meetings.

And it’s not just office conference rooms–cafeterias, office rooftops, open-air cafes or five-star hotel coffee shops are venues for such work meets.
Mayank Kumar, MD at edtech startup upGrad, said it’s much easier to brainstorm, find solutions and get the ball rolling at physical meetings. “I would compare it to being in an aircraft seat versus being in an aircraft simulator,” he said.

However, several companies such as ITC, Nestle, LG, Reliance Retail and Dabur are yet to restart physical meetings, waiting for cases to drop further, all employees to get both vaccine doses and be sure that the next pandemic wave is not anywhere near.

News source- Economic Times

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