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Triggering A Mindset Change: Sameer Garde, President, Cisco India and SAARC

Organisations will have to accelerate the reinvention of their business operations, and will also look at plugging gaps through strategic partnerships says Cisco India & SAARC's President, Sameer Garde. Excerpts:

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What are some of the consumer behaviour changes that you have observed and will compel businesses to reimagine their offer?

The pandemic is building a different world that will be shaped by new rules and new habits, which are, in turn, the result of shifting consumer behaviours in two ways. First is our reinforced commitment to safety, health and hygiene. This is not just limited to washing hands or social distancing. The concept of sharing itself is transforming, as consumers remain cautious of whom they interact with. As a result, shared transport, hotels, retail changing rooms, restaurants, etc. will have to be reimagined. Second, consumers are becoming more independent and self-reliant, learning new skills. Subsequently, they will become more diverse and distributed, necessitating the invention of business models that reach and cater to their evolving needs. 

Similarly, what have been the systemic changes in companies that are here to stay?

Having experienced the benefits of working from home, many organisations are veering away from the conventional wisdom that offices are critical to productivity. Today, work is an activity, not a place. They are now looking to keep their workforces remote even post Covid-19. This is sharpening their focus on cloud-delivered remote working solutions and data security, which have served as the greatest enablers of secure and seamless work-from-home at scale. The growing preference for digital alternatives will further spur long-lasting systemic changes in businesses. Companies are fostering new online practices to engage with dispersed, diverse and digital consumers. Lastly, most companies took drastic measures to reduce costs during this time, a tendency that will lead to large-scale automation across every touchpoint of the supply chain. As technology becomes core, companies will turn to simplified, scalable, and secure technology to reduce operational costs, automate processes, optimise resources and future-proof their businesses.

What do these changes imply from a long-term perspective for businesses?

This pandemic has triggered a mindset change amongst leaders across industries, who are displaying the willingness and ability to abandon the familiar, adopt a digital-first strategy, and take bold actions to help their teams navigate the new normal. From a workforce perspective, as enterprises become geography-agnostic, companies will have a choice between hiring local remote workers and global remote workers, thus allowing them access to a vast and diverse talent pool. As employers inclined to hire remotely, more women can be brought into the workforce, as the previous challenge of commuting to work is omitted. In the context of business impact, in addition to a drastic reduction in operational costs, new business models and opportunities will emerge as the need for digital, low-touch services such services as payments, legal proceedings, citizen services, healthcare, etc. rises.  With regard to small businesses, this is a bit of a paradox. India has over 70 million small businesses contributing over 30 per cent of India's GDP. Many are at survival risk as production, distribution and consumption have taken a massive hit across most sectors. However, this also presents them with a significant opportunity for disruption. Small businesses can pivot quickly, plug gaps and create a gamut of differentiated offerings for the newly digital consumer as well as create a level playing field. To successfully navigate through this crisis, the willingness of businesses to disrupt themselves will be key, and those who do will emerge stronger.

What are some of the changes Cisco had to undertake during this crisis?

Our priority now has been to help customers, partners and the industry keep their newly remote workforces productive. Cisco is managing this transition, as remote working is not new to us. To help, we made our products, policies, plans and processes on remote business continuity available to everyone, and enabled free access to cloud-delivered technologies across our collaboration and security portfolios. 

We have continued to serve customers virtually during the pandemic and have helped our partners to do the same. As our customers prepare to start operating in the new normal, we are working closely with them to help scale their remote collaboration and security efforts, migrate their processes to the cloud, and modernise their backend systems. Also, supporting our communities, governments, and frontline workers is a top focus area for us. We have enabled business continuity for over 200 government organisations, helping them stay connected and collaborate securely and seamlessly. In Gujarat, we have connected over 80 government hospitals that are using Webex to communicate and train 4,000 doctors and paramedics in Covid-19 response; we have also helped the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences train over 25,000 health workers over video. And to plug any gaps in learning, we have partnered with the government to enable access to our Network Academy programs online via a government-run portal. Over 15,000 classes have been registered, and over 100 faculty members have been trained in India's first-ever training program over Webex. 

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technology transformation sameer garde cisco india