Interview with Mr Ather Iqbal — Director & CEO, SAI Company (Private) Limited
PAGE: Kindly tell me about yourself and your organization:
Ather Iqbal: I am an MBA by profession and Director/CEO of SAI Company (Private) Limited. We are into oil and gas equipment and services business, serving the industry since 1962.
PAGE: How would you describe the impact of COVID-19 on the employees working in various sectors?
Ather Iqbal: COVID-19 is an unfamiliar viral pandemic which has changed lifestyle and working style since March this year. No one is sure when the vaccine will be available and until then there will a new normal and we have to adopt around this pandemic to regain lost rhythm. Since outbreak of pandemic businesses have slowed down, temporarily shut down and some have been out of business and this has effected the work force. It is also difficult to implement the SOPs in the general market trade activities where people remain oblivious of the fact and not willing to follow the instructions to safeguard themselves and the others.
PAGE: Do you presume the use of technology would spike in every job from now onwards?
Ather Iqbal: Technology has always been the driving force of the new era, it would not be possible to conduct businesses without the necessary tools. Now it is becoming mandatory to be tech-savvy. The businesses have to rely more on the technology to get their stalled operations rolled out. In Pakistan one can see the trend of online activities is increasing. Now it is also government’s responsibility to facilitate the businesses by providing adequate Internet Services in terms of speed, prices and abolish taxes. Currently 32% taxes are applicable, which makes this unaffordable. Allow VoIP and allied services to keep the momentum going.
PAGE: What kind of transformation would corporate employees go through in the next couple of years in the wake of pandemic?
Ather Iqbal: Majority is working from home, which has been in practice by some of the major companies for certain employees, but now it is for almost everyone in the corporate world. This has given realization to the businesses to cut their expenses in various categories. In my personal view, work from home is not a long term permanent solution. This will start causing psychological issues. Humans need change and to interact socially. Limiting work environment will be counter-productive in the long run. If this continues for very long time, then the productivity may start decreasing.
PAGE: Do you think organizations would be able to decelerate their cost by virtue of digitalization in the workplace?
Ather Iqbal: From commercial point of view, yes, digitization and work from home would certainly decrease the cost for a period of time, then it has to be accessed the productivity being achieved. The work from home is good for certain number of days in a week but then it still requires presence and interaction at the work place. Some jobs cannot be performed from home or through complete digitalization.