Undoubtedly, the lockdown period has derailed the ambitious growth plans of IT distribution houses, but most of the businesses are now showing recovering signals from this unprecedented situation. CRN India finds out from India’s leading security distributor RAH Infotech; its Managing Director, Ashok Kumar, the lessons learned and issues being faced during the lockdown as well as strategy to bring business on track
What’s your assessment of the lockdown situation and what are the lessons learned?
This was an unprecedented development. As far as recent history goes, no single incident alone has brought the entire world to such standstill. However, human beings are also very fast to adapt to situations. The nation-wide lockdown, though it brought the economy, businesses and overall human life to knees, was however necessary to contain the spread of the pandemic. As per government data, it certainly has borne fruit and both infected cases as well as fatalities remain much lower than most of the other countries. Businesses like us where most of our interactions happen over physical meetings with partners and customers, the lockdown, needless to say, has put a lot of impact. However, we were quick to adapt to situations and the entire workforce was moved to Work-From-Home (WFH) mode and we tried to offer the maximum possible support and services to our needy partners and customers during this phase.
Since lockdown has adversely impacted the IT distribution business, how do you see the overall impact of lockdown on the business?
The lockdown restricted free movement and our logistics and supply chain also got affected because of this, resulting in delay or no supply of hardware products to our partners and customers. The restriction also impacted the timely deal closures, collections and new customer acquisitions. This is precisely a broad scenario for every business house in our domain.
What sort of preparedness has your business exhibited to handle such unprecedented situations?
No one was prepared to handle this type of situations as there was no such case study available from the past. However, as an agile and tech-savvy company, we were quick to adapt and deploy all the best practices to remain safe, healthy and continue our businesses. During this period, we changed our work environment completely. We moved our workforce to WFH and adopted measures that allowed our technical services team to work remotely. Our sales team is also functioning remotely with no physical meetings with customers, which previously was the primary method of our sales engagements. We shifted to virtual marketing activities and also managed through lack of components in the supply chain and closure of some of our logistics centres. We organised lots of training programmes, webinars, technology sessions with experts – all on virtual platform – to keep our employees, partners and customers engaged and updated with latest trends in technology, security, cloud, data protection and overall business processes. Separate sessions are continuously being conducted for our internal teams.
With rise in cyber threats and attacks during this period, how are you ensuring cybersecurity for customers?
We are a leader in the security space with the best of the global names in cybersecurity as our partners. With the support of our OEM partners, we keep our channel partners and customers updated about cyber threats, offer best practices and provide them with the necessary security solutions. As our customers and channel partners are also working from home, cyber threat surface has increased multi-fold during this period, and as a technology enabler, we keep offering them new security patches from our OEMs, new security solutions and upgrading their existing ones. Along with our OEMs, we conduct virtual technology sessions and trainings for our customers and partners to keep them updated about any new security threat arising during this nation-wide lockdown. Our technical team has been at standby 24*7 to assist and support any such requirement from our customers.
Highlight some of the challenges being faced in providing service or support during the lockdown period
Most of the challenges are related to restricted movement and our business demands to supply hardware and components to our partners which got affected as supply chain and logistics centres are closed. Our stores and warehouses are also shut which affected the supply. Though we are providing all sort of support that can be offered remotely, there are situations that require physical presence. Because there is a nation-wide lockdown, physical movement was not possible and these types of issues get delayed get addressed.
With remote working becoming the new normal, what are the best practices that your customers should adopt?
Remote working has become the new normal and this will be there for long. Acknowledging this as a part of evolution process of working culture, organisations should transform their technology infrastructure as well as make amendments to their administrative policy to adapt to this new change. Though it would be quite premature to say, but remote working will have its economic impact which can be assessed by organisations post Covid. I believe the Covid phenomena will bring a lot of transformation in work culture first. Departments that do not require physical presence in offices on a regular basis can be shifted to WFH; secondly, physical meetings which can be replaced by virtual meetings like that of Zoom, Webex, Teams or similar apps, should be replaced as a practice. This will help appropriation of cost. Thirdly, automation will take a big stride post Covid era as organisations and industries across verticals would like to minimise human touch points wherever possible. Fourth, because we are going to experiment with a new normal – remote working – this will open up a new arena for the bad guys in the cyberworld. Cybersecurity will be a bigger challenge going ahead.
How would you complement in such a scenario?
We continue to upgrade ourselves – our people, processes and technologies. These are our biggest assets. As WFH, remote support, virtual meetings are going to be the new normal, we will improve and add solutions that enhance our portfolio. We will also devise innovative ways to support our partners and customers, which would help them tackle any such scenario in future.
What’s the recovery plan of RAH, post covid?
We are closely observing the Covid development in the country and following the government guidelines and advisories. Employees are our biggest asset and we will allow them to join office only when it is felt safe for them. Once our employees join office physically, our first priority would be to attend to our partners and customers who remained unaddressed because of the lockdown, simultaneously we will mobilise our supply chain.
Recognising this change, what’s your message to partners and customers?
Adverse situations leave us with new learnings and situations, like the Covid crisis demands us to be more agile and quick to adapt to new things. The situation also suggests all of us to use resources and technologies optimally.