Resilience, doing more with less helped us during COVID-19: BigBasket CEO Hari Menon

Resilience and 'doing more with less' were two key tenets followed by BigBasket during the COVID-19-induced lockdown that helped the online grocery retailer sail through and grow, a top company official said on Friday.

BigBasket co-founder and CEO Hari Menon said the company hired over 12,000 persons in 16 days to meet the surge in demand as a large number of people started turning to digital platforms to shop for grocery items amid the lockdown.

Recounting his experience at the 'Isha Insight: The DNA of Success' event, Menon said the company lost 80 per cent of its workforce within two days, just as the nationwide lockdown was announced in March.

"Stores were shut, people scared to get out and orders were pouring in (for BigBasket). There was a surge in business, and we had 20 per cent workforce. We realised that we can't give this up...(realised) how important this quality is...resilient organisations are winners," he added.

He said the company hired 12,300 people in 16 days, which demonstrated the power of resilience.

E-commerce companies had initially struggled to deliver orders after the 21-day lockdown, imposed to contain the spread of coronavirus, came into effect from March 25. Even though the government had allowed delivery of essential goods including food, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment through e-commerce platforms, players complained that their delivery staff was being hassled by police.

Also, with local authorities shutting down warehouses and stopping trucks from crossing state borders, e-commerce players had seen massive disruption in their operations even as orders spiked during the lockdown. Companies like BigBasket and Grofers hired thousands of staff at that time to deliver the orders.

Menon noted that another critical aspect is that resilient people become more innovative in times of crisis.

"And, when you become more innovative, you start doing more with less. I made the organisation internalise this - 'doing more with less'...shortage of people, making sure we use technology to the hilt, make sure we come up with new things like community delivery, we did about 60 innovative things, and the whole theme was doing more with less," he said.

The 59-year-old executive also emphasised on the importance of being a learning organisation.

"An organisation needs to be a learning organisation and the first thing we did at BigBasket was set up an excellent training and innovation function," he said.

Learning elements of culture and managing people are more critical than being a technocrat and understanding technology, since that can be outsourced as long as you know where your organisation is headed, he added.

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