At the outset, I would like to mention that the article you are about to read isn’t going to give any specific pointers and recommendations in terms of how you should enable sales during the pandemic. If there is one thing that I have learnt in the last few months, it is that there is absolutely no magic pill for sales, nor are there any specific guidelines you can follow to increase your business. Sales in itself is dependent on a lot of factors – external operating environments, internal processes, products and a market itself that has to have a demand. There are countless articles that have spoken about empathy with customers and pivoting to digital services etc., but while some of it may be true some of the time, none of it is true all of the time. Hence, what I am about to document here is a personal recollection of what we did, how we did it, and the circumstances that helped us weather the storm. Mind you, the storm still rages on. I would say we have been fortunate to be in an industry that sees increasing relevance in this day and age and I should not take those circumstances for granted.

Doomsday predictions

At this point, the aforementioned topic has moved beyond the point of interest to one that is almost routine in it’s outlook. When the pandemic first started, the initial wave of panic and gloom about businesses being hit in a way that we would possibly never recover from possibly gave us all some sleepless nights. At a personal level, I was despondent to watch what had so far been one of the best years in our sales cycle almost get wiped off as the country went into lockdown and businesses went into a huddle. While ever hopeful of the future, I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of sadness and uncertainty regarding where we were headed during those initial days. Reading the doomsday predictions on every major publication and social media platform didn’t help the cause. Yet, and this is the most important bit, work never stopped. We continued to function as our normal days and nothing changed in our daily schedules. I will highlight why this was important a little later in this article.

The Charge

 
It was possibly on the second day post the nationwide lockdown that we got a call for a Saturday morning huddle with the senior management. While some of us probably anticipated bad news, the outcome was quite different. The meeting outlined our strategy and intent for the coming days. We would be leading charges on multiple fronts – we got to work that very weekend. Product steering committees were instituted and end to end products were configured and deployed from scratch within 5 days. Sales and BD had the mandate to create all kinds of go-to-market collaterals spanning multiple functions across marketing, product and platform teams. We went to work like men possessed. Most importantly, instead of suspending long term strategic product initiatives already in place due to uncertain market conditions, we doubled down on the same. The result – the birth of Saarathi – our digital lending platform to engage lenders and DSAs on one common unified network and the launch of VahanaHub – perhaps the first API marketplace of it’s kind in India. I know it’s perhaps a common business axiom to focus efforts during market uncertainties in order to conserve cash flows and other assets – yet leading charges on such multiple fronts only helps us be more resilient for the future. Truth be told, The Charge was exhilarating, tiring & perhaps sometimes even counter-intuitive. Yet, it was a challenge well worth it.

The Learnings

I had half a heart to caption this section as the rewards but that felt pedantic. While yes, we have had our fair share of rewards even in the midst of this pandemic and we remain hungry for more successes, as I mentioned before – there are too many variables to safely attribute our successes as our own. However, I do want to focus on some key aspects in terms of learnings during this phase –
  • It’s important for the regular work cycle to not be disrupted due to externalities. Even in the midst of lack of businesses, we moved as one and continued with our daily work schedule as it were, leaving aside the externalities.
  • You need to have a strong focus and vision to execute – I do not necessarily think all of us had all the answers when the pandemic started. Yet, it was clearly communicated what we needed to do and the fact that we needed to do more and more to succeed.
  • Reassurance goes a long way – We have all had our fair share of pangs and uncertainty in this pandemic. Reassuring that our future is safe and secure helps everyone focus on the task at hand and not be distracted by other circumstances.
I had a mind to write this note for a long time, but I also promised myself I would write this only after I see our efforts bear fruit. I believe we have done some things right. I also believe there is much, much more to be done. The pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon. Even if the economic recovery takes a long time, the world keeps spinning. There is still more business to be done.

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