March 5, 2020, Poornatha received its first bank transfer from a client for its Journey in Joy Leadership Transformation which was due to start on 16th April. The young team at Poornatha was filled with hope and giddy optimism, for we were closer to fulfilling the revenue target promised to our Investor who has been fully funding us for the past couple of years. It was also supposed to be one of the first major steps towards the much longer journey we had in mind to transform the MSME sector across the globe. Little did we know that we had a hard-left turn waiting, not just for us but the global population. It has been a truly VUCA world since then. (VUCA- volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity)
In the weeks that followed, we monitored the global, national and local situation continuously and took actions ranging from cancellation of meeting with potential applicants (which usually happened at large hotel conference halls) and vendors, cancellation of trips for multiple Intern teams travelling from Ross School of Business for multiple projects (which were later converted to Work from home assignments) in addition to the standard social distancing and sanitization protocols implemented in our office. We also started adopting to Work from Home a good one week before the official lockdown announcement from the Government.
Uncertainty surrounded the start of the program and we started sending out communications regarding the same to our 100+ applicants on 23rd March 2020. As weeks went by it became increasingly clear that staring the program in the next few months was not a reality. Though we had stopped collecting fees for JnJ 2.0 in March 2020, we decided to proactively refund the money received in April 2020.
In the meantime, we tried to reach out to the Entrepreneurs community through the small ways we could, including
a) Crisis time Leadership Session by our Chief Mentor for both the Alumni and the second cohort applicants of JnJ through video conferencing and Youtube, followed by a Q&A session
b) Published two articles in English and Tamil to help MSMEs embrace the new normal, tilted –
i. Surviving the Crisis for Small Business and
ii. Can MSMEs work from Home
During these difficult times, the team at Poornatha has tried to make the best use of the lockdown time to carry out development activities like
a) E-learning options are being explored and considered, to take JnJ online
b) Fine-tuning of training materials and content
c) Business Assessment tool built during the lockdown waiting beta testing
d) Multiple Internship projects have been established with 17+ interns working from 7 different states in India and US on projects ranging from E-learning to SME Landscape study. The interns are from some of the best institutions like Ross School of Business, IIM-Bangalore, IIM-Indore, BIMTECH (Noida), NIT-DoMS (Trichy) and TSM Madurai.
e) To make Poornatha a tech-enabled company, new avenues have been explored and a SaaS product is being developed in association with Mr. Sarav who has teamed with Team Poornatha to float a Joint Venture for the same.
There has been no alteration in the salaries paid to employees during this period. However, the Co-Creators of the organization have voluntarily chosen to defer 50% of their compensation during the time of the crisis to be able to comfortably fund the development activities. The team also negotiated a 50% reduction in rent during the lockdown period for the new property taken on rent just before the lockdown.
The most important forced adoption is the Work from Home model which has enabled us to tap into a national talent pool and rethink staffing. We realized it is a new normal and we have broken physical boundaries and suddenly have a work a force that’s working from 7 states across the country. Now we are checking the national news more regularly to understand about the locust attack in Jaipur, the highest daily corona cases in Pune, the cyclone in West Bengal and check if Poornatha’s interns in these states are affected. It indeed is a new normal for the organization.
Though it has been a tough time for people around the world, the crisis seems to have only made Poornatha stronger and more capable to take up any opportunities and challenges that may come in its way.