Unquestionably 2020 has been an unprecedented year and industry leaders hope that the upcoming budget will address the challenges faced by businesses and propel the economy towards faster recovery and growth.
IT experts opine digital technology and connectivity continue to be the cornerstone of India’s growth and leadership. Since the pandemic accelerated the shift to digital, they say there is a need to maintain this growth momentum, as it will have a cascading effect on creating efficient businesses, new jobs and all-round development.
Lower interest rate regime
According to CP Gurnani, MD & CEO, Tech Mahindra, R&D spending must be increased to accelerate digital transformation and jumpstart education with a focus on next-gen technologies, skilling, reskilling and upskilling programmes to nurture young talent pool, subsequently accelerating a journey towards an ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (Self-reliant India).
“We also hope to see focused initiatives to boost consumer sentiment, accelerate infrastructure development, move towards a lower interest rate regime and increase investments in key areas including healthcare and education,” he said.
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From an IT perspective, Gurnani expects the government to create a fund for product companies along with extended SEZ (Special Economic Zone) benefits in the new normal of remote working, besides nurturing an ecosystem for deep tech startups in areas including blockchain, artificial intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality.
“India is on the path of a higher growth trajectory and the vision of a $5 trillion economy can be achieved with a focus on economic growth and development,” added Gurnani.
Sundararajan Sampath, EVP & Chief Financial Officer at CSS Corp, suggests that the upcoming tax regime must ensure that there should be 100 per cent clarity on the continued availability of SEZ tax benefits to all existing and new SEZ units even if they continue to operate on a WFH basis.
Furthermore, he said, “We hope all expenses to ensure WFH would be allowed as business expenditure. There should be no ambiguity on the allowability of such expenses.”
He further said, “With the recent Karnataka High Court verdict in M/S Biocon Ltd Vs Commissioner of IT, we hope the Employee Stock Option cost (Fair Market Value less strike price amortized over the vesting period of stock options) will be allowed as business expenditure.”
“We also urge the centre to bring back the 80G deduction for CSR expenditure for companies opting for the new tax regime,” added Sampath.
CSS Corp, a new-age IT services and technology support company today announced that it has been named as a gold winner in the ‘Most Resilient Company of the Year 2020′ category in the 10th Annual Best in Biz Awards.
Right at the onset of the pandemic, CSS Corp’s proprietary and award-winning resilience framework enabled the seamless roll-out of a 100 per cent productive Work-From-Home (WFH) model across its 18 global delivery locations. Being among the early movers in the industry to follow a WFH model from March, the company embraced the new normal with resilience, agility, and determination, thus rendering utmost support and efficient service with zero-disruption to its clients.
The three-phased resilience framework of prepare, stabilize, and thrive created a cohesive and structured blueprint for the organization which enforced guidelines, ensured employees with adequate support and resources, as well as assured clients with timely support, communication, and engagement. CSS Corp was among the few companies in the industry to roll out annual compensation hikes, as scheduled in April 2020.
The company also implemented their five-pronged strategy called the CHEER framework, which stands for- Communication with Employees, Highlighting Accomplishments, Energizing teams, Engagement with Employees, Recognition of achievements for employee well-being. It spreads positivity and recognizes employees for their consistent efforts during these unprecedented times.
“When the world was facing an unforeseen pandemic, we made sure to create a consistent and vibrant culture across the organization that encourages and comforts our employees and provides seamless and constant communication. We are proud to be recipients of this award as it reflects how CSS Corp ensured zero impact to its clients and employees through tremendous resilience. A lot of credit is due to our 8,000 plus employees across the globe who showed immense passion and unstinting commitment during this phase to keep our flag flying high,” said Manish Tandon, Chief Executive Officer, CSS Corp, commenting on the recognition.
“Corporate resiliency has never been more important than in 2020 and the winning entries in the 10th annual Best in Biz Awards have impressive accomplishments in this area,” said Mark Huffman, Consumer Affairs, having judged six of the last 10 Best in Biz Awards competitions.
2020 marked the 10th annual Best in Biz Awards and – with a continuing global pandemic – was also a year like no other in the program’s 10-year history. Despite the global challenges, the 10th annual program saw a particularly strong field of entries from public and private companies of all sizes and spanning all geographic regions and the judges were impressed with the year’s winners’ agility and adaptability that allowed their businesses to thrive, their willingness to always go the extra mile to help their customers in these unusual times.
We spoke with several CFOs and found out the following jargons to be commonly used by many of them…We all know what EBITDA stands for, but do we know what EBITDAC means? Let’s find out.
We have brought the top three words and meanings that CFOs taught us in 2020:
1: EBITDAC: Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, Amortization, Covid
(Sundar Sampath, Executive Vice President & Global CFO, CSS Corp)
2: Circle of influence and concern: Helps us focus on what one can do instead of what one can’t do
(Sandeep Bhatia, Group CFO, Lendingkart Technologies)
3: VAS – Value Accretion for Stakeholders
(Gopal Balachandran, CFO & Chief Risk Officer, ICCI Lombard)
4: Insight – Smart data provides intelligent insights. For data to be smart, it must evolve through its various stages; Descriptive stage, Diagnostic stage, Predictive stage and Prescriptive stage.
(Sameer Kamath, ED & Group CFO, Avendus Capital)
5: Time value of money (in financial services business): One rupee in hand today may be better than 10 in an unknown future period
(Sandeep Bhatia, Group CFO, Lendingkart Technologies)
Here is how some organizations are working towards improving the quality of work-life post-COVID-19:
Provide clarity to plan: Global organizations like Twitter, Google, and Uber have led the charge on this aspect by announcing the likely duration of functioning in a remote working setup much sooner. Nutanix is yet another organization, among many others emerging, to take a stand and provide clarity to employees. Nutanix’s India SVP and MD-Operations, Sankalp Saxena, shared, “To ensure the safety and security of our people during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have extended work-from-home for our employees until September 2021. Post that, we will likely return to the hybrid model of both remote and in-person work options, depending on what works best for our people.”
Implementing and executing relevant initiatives: Focused on self-care and resilience, Accenture has offered a variety of programs and tools to enable people to take care of their well-being. “We have a digital hangout destination known as myDigital Workplace for our people to stay connected, and access learning resources and guidance on subjects ranging from setting up a virtual workspace to managing one’s time and well-being. Our AI-enabled chatbot provides mental health self-help techniques and access to mental wellness experts,” shared Lakshmi C. She added that the organization has also introduced a Virtual Summer Camp under their existing Parents at Work program which provides parents with online and offline resources to keep children between the ages of 5-12 constructively engaged.
Boosting productivity with a hybrid working environment: “A value-oriented and culture-rich ecosystem spurs the motivation levels of employees, wherein stress levels are neutralized and greater mental well-being is achieved,” emphasized Satyanarayanan Visvanathan, SVP, Head – HR (Global) and Corporate Quality, CSS Corp. He added that post-COVID-19, when employees return to office, “the transition is bound to take time and it has to be a facilitated process with policy amendments.”
Visvanathan added, “Especially in the IT industry, flexible remote working should no longer be an exclusive privilege, and more employees could likely deliver expected levels of productivity (or even more!) with hybrid work environments.
Employee wellness, as shared above, buckets several components of well-being. 2020, bringing upon the worst health crisis the existing generations have gone through, forced one and all to rethink and reset the importance we place on wellness.
Post shifting to remote working overnight, several organizations emphasized communication, connection and collaboration as focus areas, to the extent of incorporating over-communication, not realizing the long-term impact of the excess conversations and timelines on the blurry work and home boundaries, and consequently, the well-being of employees, which has in recent months resulted in excessive stress and burn out, and deteriorating mental health.
Microsoft’s latest Work Trend Index report brought how the pandemic impacted well-being at work globally with five key findings:
According to the report, over 30 percent of firstline and information workers stated the pandemic has increased their feelings of burnout at work. The report also highlighted that everyone is experiencing this time differently—44 percent of those in Brazil are feeling more burned out compared to 31percent in the US and 10 percent in Germany. In terms of how longer workdays impact feelings of burnout—workers in Australia saw the highest increase in workday span in Microsoft Teams (45 percent), with a medium increase in burnout. While workers in Germany saw very little change to workday span or feelings of burnout. Among all the surveyed markets globally, India was found to have the longest workday span.
Highlighting the criticality of ensuring mental well-being, SVP and Head of HR (Global) & Corporate Quality, CSS, Corp Satyanarayanan Visvanathan, said, “Uncertainty breeds anxiety, and we are living in uncertain times. Since the pandemic began, 36 per cent of India Inc. employees reported that their mental health had worsened, found a recently concluded survey by HR and well-being firm – The7thFold. It goes without saying that it is the need of the hour to have our minds healthy and hearty to overcome the isolation, fear and agony caused by the pandemic.”
Speaking of the much needed education about mental health to effectively address it, Shefali Garg, Senior Director, People Strategy, Publicis Sapient, said, “We need to create spaces at work that are inclusive and non-discriminatory. To do this we must empower ourselves with the right knowledge about mental health, practice empathy, and help to create a safe space where people can open up about their mental health issues, instead of feeling judged for seeking help or wanting to seek help.” Garg added that despite mental health being a pressing subject, most healthcare providers don’t share it in their plans voluntarily. “At Publicis Sapient, we worked with healthcare providers to include mental healthcare as part of the insurance cover, over and above the Employee Assistance Program services we provide.”
Many companies are planning a new combination of remote and on-site working, giving rise to a hybrid work model in which employees can work from home, office, or anywhere.
“Although it’s contended that for developing nations like India, work-from-home may not be very effective because of the nature of occupations which are physical in nature for a majority of our workforce, I believe, the silver lining is that the IT/BPM industry which employs 4.4 million workers and contributes to 8% of the country’s GDP, is well positioned to leverage the work-from-anywhere approach using collaboration and cloud technologies. Many organizations have announced strategic plans to transition to a target proportion of remote workers over the next 3-5 years. The recent compliance relaxations by the center for OSPs provide further flexibility to create a hybrid work-from-anywhere model based on specific client and organizational imperatives. This augurs well for an accelerated operational transformation at organizations leveraging digital frameworks that factor in location-independent delivery while ensuring security and agility. The eventual percentage of remote workers for each organization would depend upon its specific needs and context.” – Vivian Gomes, SVP & Head of Marketing, CSS Corp