‘WFH surest way to ensure continuity’

Neeraj Tandon, CEO of Conneqt Business Solutions   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

Quess Corp entity Conneqt Business Solutions (formerly Tata Business Support Services) is a leading customer lifecycle management and business process management service provider. Put simply, it ensures smooth operations of many tasks for client companies, from digital transformation, managing customer calls, collections to KYC verification. When the coronavirus-induced lockdown set in, the Hyderabad-headquartered firm had to ensure business continuity for them as well as for itself like never before. CEO Neeraj Tandon explains how the challenges were met, the learnings and road ahead. Edited excerpts:

With over 100 clients, headcount of more than 30,000 and multiple facilities, how did Conneqt Business Solutions ensure business continuity during the lockdown?

The lockdown hit us suddenly. Until then, work from home (WFH) was a fashionable concept and we had very few working from home. With the lockdown we got into a war zone. Our tech and operations teams got into gear and pushed for WFH like we have never done before. Everyone pitched in. By April, we had 55-60% working from home. We heard we were the fastest to respond to the circumstance, customers and our employees.

WFH is easier said than done for many. What were the challenges and how did you manage?

When we began WFH, we gave opportunity to our known employees. It was seen as a privilege that they will be able to work when everybody had a little bit of uncertainty about continued employment. That helped.

While our technology team did a lot to facilitate WFH, it was the motivation levels of employees that mattered. Several made innovative space arrangements in their house and even used their 4G mobile network to hook on to our VPN and provide work for clients. The internal communication team did a great job by rolling out campaigns to keep them engaged. In terms of productivity, we were truly overwhelmed and surprised. In most cases, we had far better productivity than we had in office.

Is WFH here to stay?

Absolutely, we have more than half of our people working from home. But with Unlock, we have lots of people working from offices as well, maintaining social distancing and safety norms. The surest way for our customers to ensure continuity is to ensure WFH. Not all are comfortable, like the financial services industry because there is sensitive financial information that gets shared. While we have put lots of information security and processes in place, I know when Unlock happened they wanted everybody to be working from office. So there would be clients who want to do that. There also are clients proactively telling us even if the disease goes away we would want certain percentage of our employees WFH.

Will WFH result in rationalisation of your facilities?

There will obviously be some rationalisation, but not a great deal because there is a place for work from office. Also when we look at work from office, we have to be prepared for social distancing. Rationalisation will happen, but it will not happen to the same extent as WFH population. We have to also provide for business growth and started hiring again. Rationalisation will be limited, looking for new facilities will be far less now.

What are your hiring plans?

We do hiring for two reasons. [One] to support business growth. We also hire which is replacement hiring if there is attrition. Following COVID [outbreak], some employees working away from their hometown were asked to return by their parents. As a result, there was some attrition. As we grow 10-15% every quarter for the next two quarters, we should be looking at low single digit thousand hires every month.

Do you see WFH helping women resume their careers?

It will bring to mainstream a large number of people who were unable to work, especially women. I think many women would look at the opportunity to work for a few hours a day. It will mean more people coming to resource pool and government is also changing regulations to support WFH. All these will be good for overall resource pool and beyond some point lower costs for us and our customers.

You cater to a wide range of industries. Which among them will rebound faster?

Travel, automotive and financial services were impacted. In any case, NBFCs were passing through difficult times even before COVID. There is a wide sector of businesses that will rebound like e-commerce and the business of collection. Some kind of surge in our collection business is likely once the RBI announced moratorium period ends [in August]. There would be lot of unpaid instalments in September.

Will the push for digital mean only people with certain skill sets will be preferred?

WFH and acceleration of digitalisation initiatives are the two top changes this crisis has brought. The biggest investment we have made in the company in the last couple of years is in the digital area. The primitive, regular, easier calls or process types will now be automated. Whatever get passed on to a human being in terms of work content will be more complex than it has been so far. Skills required are far more empathy, far more intelligence, ability to deal with complex problem, and not necessarily digital skills. There is definitely going to be a higher employment for those digitally savvy, who automate the work. But when the demand is high and resource availability is low, then it doesn’t matter whether you went to college, were bright or not, as long as you made effort to acquire the right kind of skills to restart a very different career.

How was the first quarter performance for you and when do you see a pickup?

We saw substantial decline in revenue and margins compared to January-March quarter. But this quarter, we have started seeing improvement. Our Q4 this year will have a substantial chance of looking better than last year.

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2021 5:29:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/wfh-surest-way-to-ensure-continuity/article32242444.ece

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