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Leveraging 'People' Power of Sustainability

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Mr. Sanjay Chaudhari

Chief Executive Officer, Publicis Groupe, Sri Lanka

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Sanjay has been part of the world of Brand Communication for more than 27 years across a varied portfolio of Brands from multiple Fortune 500 companies such as Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, Colgate Palmolive, Coca-Cola, American Express and Philips.  

Sanjay has been fortunate enough to live and work in diverse markets including Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Morocco, Lebanon and India with some of the world’s leading Agencies.

He has led teams that have won high profile awards and campaigns such as a Bronze Spikes Asia and a Bronze Digital Media Award for Coca-Cola “Hello”, an AME Award and PR Week Award for Pond’s, as well as managing the implementation of Dove’s Real Beauty campaign in Asia (one of the first campaigns at that time driven by real-time digital participation).
 

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Getting Back from the slumber- Experiences From Sri Lanka 


I am fortunate to be able to share my thoughts from my current assignment as the leader for a communications group in Sri Lanka where the situation is rapidly getting back to normal.  

Sri Lanka was one of the first countries to adapt the 'hammer and dance' approach. We went into a complete curfew for about 55 days. There was no stepping out to buy essentials. There was no stepping out, period.  

This appears to have paid off. The curfew was lifted mid-May. Offices including ours started returning from June 1st on a roster basis and we expect to be back to pre-epidemic levels of normalcy by end August.

The extended lockdown was a completely new experience for our organization. 

We had fortunately put in place a BCP (Business Continuity Plan) and were able to go into the lockdown fully prepared with all employees having access to their work stations. We also ensured that the organization compensated employees for any additional bandwidth needed during the entire Work From Home (WFM) period.

How did we fare? Well, the economy took a huge hit as expected and along with that our industry was negatively impacted as well. It is unfortunately true that communications is usually the first line item to get cut. But we've picked ourselves up, dusted off and are facing the days with enthusiasm and positivity.

It is a cliché but every crisis is also a learning experience and this was no different for us. Some of the lessons were obvious but brought to light more starkly and at a larger scale. 

We learned that we did not need to spend time traveling to meet Clients for every small discussion. When no-one could travel, Clients also adjusted quickly and sometimes faster to the reality of Teams/Zoom meetings rather than in person. We learned to work as smaller, more empowered and more effective teams.

We obviously learned how to use technology better. Soon all of us were experts at Teams, VPNs and troubleshooting without running to IT every minute.

Most importantly, with everyone working from home with different family support systems or even limited space, we respected each other’s private time and spaces. We made personal time sacrosanct. 

We've actually become closer because we were apart for so long.

Our way forward

Now we are planning our way forward. While we did work well remotely, the nature of our business is in interpersonal connect, relationships and engagement. We do our best when we are together. We will however, retain some of the practices we put into place during our Work from Home sessions.

Thefirst one is simply reducing travel (frequency and number of people) to only the bare essential. This will take away the pain of unnecessary commute time for meetings, give us more productive working time and will also help us do our bit for the environment. 

The second one is in the area of greater empowerments and smaller teams. Large and long meetings will never come back. This will not just improve our efficiency but will also enable professional growth. 

Finallyand the one closest to my heart, we will continue to respect our colleagues personal time. This will be non-negotiable. Yes, there will be exceptions but it will never be the rule.

Getting back to pre-epidemic levels is going to be difficult and challenging but our experiences have made us stronger and we are going in with the positive mindset that we will get there.