65th Annual General Meeting

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The evening started with the mellifluous rendering of invocation song by Ms Padmaja. Mr Ravichandran Purushothaman, President, MMA and President-Danfoss Industries Ltd delivered the welcome address. A special digital issue of MMA’s Magazine –‘Business Mandate’ was released on the occasion.
Mr. Harish Pati Singhania, President of AIMA, and Director-J K Organisation and Vice Chairman and Managing Director, J K Paper Ltd was the chief guest. Dr J Radhakrishnan, IAS, Health Secretary, Government of Tamil Nadu was the Guest of Honour. Mr C V Subba Rao, Senior Vice President, MMA & MD, Sanmar Shipping Ltd proposed the vote of thanks.
From 1 lab to 280 plus
Delivering the Keynote Address virtually from New Delhi airport and squeezing in his time while on an official trip, Dr Radhakrishnan explained that prior to Covid, the previous outbreaks like the 2009 Swine flu pandemic, the Ebola virus that spread in Africa, the Nipah and Zika virus and the still-prevalent Dengue were major challenges but they were all considered purely as public health subjects. But Covid-19 has changed both this perception and the world.
He highlighted that when Covid was first detected, though Tamil Nadu has a better health management system compared to many other Indian states, it had just one RT-PCR testing lab in King Institute, Guindy. Today, thanks to the government’s management of the crisis, there are 285 such labs in Tamil Nadu. He also pointed out the changing requirements of drugs and devices like ventilators from the first wave to the second wave. “Even now, we do not know if the third wave will strike and if so, when and in what scale,” he wondered.
According to him, the other major challenges were the large number of deaths occurring in a short span of time, complete stoppage of fund flow due to lockdowns and the supply chain disruptions leading to difficulty in procuring active ingredients from China, who is a major supplier for India and other countries, for manufacturing drugs.
However, the silver lining was the coming together of key stakeholders. Thanks to the coordination by the government and CSR support from L&T, the National Institute of Ageing was transformed into a 750 bed Covid Care centre, he said and added, “In the current situation, we keep learning every day and the pandemic is a tailor-made situation for us to exchange ideas and share knowledge. This is where MMA plays a big role.”
Accepting the MMA Managerial Excellence award for 2021, Dr Radhakrishnan thanked all the health department staff in Tamil Nadu. Though he could not receive the award in person, he said in a lighter vein, that it was a poetic justice that his wife, who had to bear the brunt of managing the family and supporting her husband who was engaged in visiting many Covid care centres, could be present at the MMA venue and receive the award on his behalf.
What made King Institute a world-class centre?
Prof Dr K Narayanasamy, Director, King Institute of Preventive Medicine & Research, Guindy, Chennai was the second recipient of MMA Managerial Excellence award for 2021, for his outstanding contribution to Covid care. Dr Narayanasamy, in his acceptance speech outlined some of the positive and unique steps that they took which made them provide world-class service in Covid care.
The steps taken:

  • We categorised patients as mild, medium or severe based on the degree of infection, and followed a holistic treatment protocol.
  • Our team was closely monitoring the effects of drugs in patients’ recovery.
  • We started a 24×7 mental care system to support patients who suffered from loneliness and depression
  • With voluntary donation from Covid recovered patients, we set up a 2000 books library for patients to read and have a home-like ambience.
  • We put in place a ‘no-attender policy’ so that the infection was not passed on to family members and community.
  • We introduced counselling for family members of Covid patients, joining hands with NGOs, and assuring them to feel safe and comfortable.

Mr. Harish Pati Singhania, President-AIMA congratulated MMA for receiving the Best Management Association award from AIMA for the twelfth time in a row. He also congratulated Dr Radhakrishnan, IAS, Health Secretary, Govt of Tamil Nadu and Prof Dr Narayanasamy, Director, King Institute for winning MMA’s prestigious Managerial Excellence awards 2021.
Excerpts from Mr Singhania’s Chief Guest address:
The pandemic has redefined what managerial excellence means. Before Covid, managerial excellence essentially meant getting things done well, keeping the organization in a good shape and preparing for the emerging opportunities and challenges in the business environment. After nearly 20 months of the onset of Covid pandemic, managerial excellence is now about handling radical uncertainty and complexity and also being a good person and an efficient one.
The pandemic has tested managers like vehicles tested on a bad road. It has separated the good ones from the flawed ones and created an opportunity for everyone to learn and improve.
Given the restrictions on working together, managers have had to find the capacity to get things done remotely. Those who believed that their job was to hold courts and interrogations to drive employees, have been lost in the new work environment.
Even those managers who used to insist that their employees work according to their schedule and calendar, have struggled to get things done. However, excellent managers have adapted and accepted the reality that a distributed organization would necessarily involve everybody working asynchronously, and have shifted the focus from watching the employees to ensuring output and accountability.
Managerial excellence has also shifted from cold numbers on a spreadsheet to emotional bonding up and down the hierarchy. Managers appreciated the context of work, role and performance, where at one time they could always use the blunt test of obedience and loyalty.

Mutual care and trust have been the forces that have kept organizations from being knocked over and continuing to function effectively.

However, during the pandemic in which everyone has suffered irrespective of their position or wealth, managers have learned to see the tasks and schedules from the points of view of both their employees as well as top leadership.
New form of organisational energy
The leadership also had to renew its thinking about the managers’ role when they are expected to engage with employees more than ever now. Mutual care and trust have been the forces that have kept organizations from being knocked over and continuing to function effectively. This discovery of alternate source of organisational energy is likely to be central to managerial experience in the future as well.
Managerial excellence is also being revolutionized by the increasing use of technology. In fact, technology is taking over many of the conventional management functions. As a lot of work is being done remotely, companies are using technology to allocate schedule and monitor the tasks of employees. Getting things done is changing in manner and content. Now managers need to excel in helping employees to perform, instead of pestering them to perform. Managerial excellence now has to adapt not only to the pace of change of work and workplace but also to the extent of the change.
Pre-covid best practices become outdated
A lot of business leaders complain that they are losing huge opportunities that have been created by Covid because they do not have the right people in processes. Clearly, fighting for survival using pre-Covid best practices has left little intellectual or financial capacity in most organizations to tap the windfall opportunities. Therefore, from now on, excellence would also include having ready blueprints for process agility to manage some disruptions or opportunities and openings.
Besides reconfiguring operations and the organization with new technology and attitudes, managers also need to recalibrate their compass to navigate a much-changed world in terms of supply chains, market access, competition, geopolitics and digital globalization.
The disruption of both domestic and international supply chains during the pandemic has broken the spell of sourcing at the lowest possible cost approach. Most businesses have suffered as they were not being able to meet contractual obligations or take advantage of a spike in demand because of delays or uncertainty over the availability of inputs.
Just in case: The new mantra
The reliance on tiered suppliers at particular locations has come undone. For the past year, most business leaders have explored suppliers and alternate locations or asked their trusted suppliers to supply from other locations too.
A little high-cost now is considered a fair price paid for resilience. Just in case has replaced just in time as the mantra of inventory management. However, it is easier said than done. Developing new suppliers takes time and investment and it is not easy to exit the existing long-term supply contracts. Moreover, market is shifting more rapidly now than ever before. Therefore, managers have to find ways to introduce flexibility into contracts, while distributing their supply chains wider.

Miracles are known to happen. The key to making the miracle happen is boosting demand.

In addition to supplier issues, businesses also have to contend with buyer issues. The geopolitical developments during the pandemic have made protectionism sound patriotic and nearly every country and state in the world have taken temporary or permanent measures to localize supplies and reserve the market for local suppliers. Those looking at exports for growth will have to rethink their globalization strategies.
Digitalize quickly and grow
While localization is the flavour of physical economy, digital globalization is growing. Everything and everyone is relying on digital intermediation. It has become critical to take an ecosystem approach to business by including technology providers, more as partners rather than supplies.
Unlike physical products, standardization and interoperability of software and online services is a fundamental requirement of the digital economy. Indian companies can digitalize quickly and cheaply by using partners and platforms, instead of looking for custom solutions only.
In addition, India’s managers also have to navigate a turbulent economy. Even before Covid hit, India’s economic growth had a downward trajectory, which was turned into an outright recession by the lockdowns undertaken to contain the pandemic.
The second wave of Covid in April-May pulled back the recovery. If nothing goes further wrong this year, the GDP could probably grow by around 9.5 percent instead of the double-digit growth expected before the second wave.
The economy may settle in the groove of six to seven percent growth from the next year for some time before kicking on again. However, for the moment, the government’s target of making India a five trillion dollar economy by 2025 looks improbable and difficult. Because, to get there, the Indian economy will need to grow by more than 13 percent in each of the next four years.
Demand is the miracle
Miracles are known to happen. The key to making the miracle happen is boosting demand. Indian government’s stimulus is largely helping producers get over their financial hardship. It has left out the other part of the equation–Consumption. Already, inflation has spiked because of production slowdown and lower capacity utilization levels in Indian industry, in the absence of adequate buying power and confidence.
Though the growing distance from the memories of the second wave is encouraging consumers to spend, and the industry to liquidate stocks, a categorical push for consumption is necessary to drive investment in new and technologically upgraded production capacities.
The overall economic environment is no longer grim but challenges remain. However, the key to doing well in this situation is to accept the current reality as a long-term trend and adapt accordingly. More than policy and regulation reforms of fiscal incentives from the government, managers must explore their own ingenuity and use the latest technologies to transform their businesses, for continuity and long-term growth.