Interview with Mr. Fahd K. Chinoy – CEO, Pakistan Cables Limited
COVID-19, its prolonged stay, has changed and continues to change the way companies operate business around the world. With numerous restrictions and preventive measures such as social distancing in place, Pakistan Cables has managed to embrace the change which is required to thrive in the new normal. But what is the new normal?
In this interview, Pakistan Cables Ltd’s CEO, Fahd K. Chinoy share his thoughts on the impact of COVID-19 and driving business forward in the new normal.
PAGE: PCL is the leading wires and cables manufacturer with offices across Pakistan. How has the pandemic impacted the way PCL operates?
Fahd K. Chinoy: Our teams are used to collaborating, so there hasn’t been much change in the way we communicate with each other or with our customers. As the safety of our people is our highest priority, we went into a work from home protocol in our offices even before the first lockdown and have continued that whenever the COVID situation worsened. Similarly, we take following of the SOPs very seriously with a vigilance team and stringent protocols firmly in place at our factory.
There is a greater preference for conducting meetings via Zoom and other video conferencing tools to avoid large employee gatherings, meetings with suppliers and vendors, customers. What has changed, however, is that our employees have had to adapt to working from home, and that has been a challenge for some, as the home environment doesn’t always lend itself to work. On the other hand, reports of people struggling with anxiety due to the uncertainty of the pandemic are on rise globally. That’s why it’s been very important for our leadership team to stay connected with our employees and boost their morale.
PAGE:What changes have you observed in the way PCL conducts business?
Fahd K. Chinoy: Majority of our meetings are done online. For us and for many of our customers remote working is now accepted as a part of the new normal. Physical meetings, if necessary, ensure that all preventive measures are in place for everyone’s safety.
At Pakistan Cables we benefited from having launched the PCL e-store in September 2019, in that sense we were ahead of the curve. We didn’t anticipate the pandemic but we certainly were able to proactively adapt to changing customer behavior. It helped us prepare for this most unexpected turn of events. We weren’t particularly offset due to COVID-19, in fact we were super busy constantly communicating with our customers via e-store and other digital platforms such as the social media, WhatsApp and counted more on our fulfilment partners for their support during the challenging times.
PAGE: With many people working remotely during lockdown, how do you keep your teams motivated?
Fahd K. Chinoy: I think being motivated is a mutual responsibility between the employees and the employer. For the employees staying motivated is about finding strength to stay positive to carry on working during these uncertain times. For the employer, keeping employees motivated is about providing them with a job that is meaningful and that has purpose. Regular communication with employees in various forms helps keep them informed and motivated. Managers and team leaders should take off their formal hats and make an effort to connect with their direct reports on a more personal level. Moreover, small wins during challenging times are opportunities to celebrate and as the saying goes, success breeds success.
PAGE: How do you perceive the outcomes of the pandemic, especially what changes within the construction sector do you foresee in the next six months or so due to the recent incentives announced by the Governmeneconomyt of Pakistan?
Fahd K. Chinoy: I think it’s important to call a spade a spade. I am generally a political but one must acknowledge the steps this government took early in the pandemic and on an ongoing basis to keep the wheels of the economy turning. Kudos to them for taking timely calls on reducing the policy interest rate, rolling out the construction package, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) payroll package (which helped people stay employed while taking the pressure of organizations) and the Temporary Economic Refinance Facility (extremely low borrowing rates for investment in plant and machinery). These were critical steps and the results are there for everyone to see. Building materials and construction related industries are showing impressive growth and this is also being reflected in the stock market. In addition, imports have come down and exports are starting to grow. Based on all these steps taken by the government and first-hand knowledge of what is unfolding in the market, one can expect plenty of activity in the construction and building materials sector in the next six months.
PAGE: In your opinion, will the incentives be able to boost the economy? What are the hurdles with regard to their implementation?
Fahd K. Chinoy: I am quite confident that demand will remain strong. Of course, how soon the Naya Pakistan Housing roll-out will actually happen is something that everyone is watching closely. In addition, the SBP is taking a position on housing finance but whether that will actually translate into banks lending for housing in an aggressive manner, it is still not clear. But things are indeed moving in the right direction.
PAGE: What do you think the new normal is going to look like for the world?
Fahd K. Chinoy: I think that all that’s happening now will have a tremendous impact on the way we do business. In terms of business operations, I think that people will return to the office, although, working remotely will become a widely accepted practice for certain functions. Organizations that have reopened their doors are following numerous health precautions and updating office layouts to ensure that employees can work in a safe work environment. Online meetings and webinars are here to stay. I do believe travel will continue to be limited for the next 18-24 months as the impact of the vaccine and its successful distribution and roll out start to take effect. As such many will opt for online meetings over business travel and holidays and vacations may be limited for a while.