We asked some of the CEOs and Heads of our Company to tell us how they and their teams dealt with the long hiatus; the work-from-home situation; the vast changes that took place from March 2020 onwards. The pandemic hit us, but it also unlocked our strength. And our executives kept the organisation together, never failing to motivate their teams and taking care of their staff. Here we have Abraham Alapatt, President & Group Head – Marketing, Service Quality, Value Added Services & Innovation, sharing his views with us.
What, in your opinion, are the top three challenges that you and your team faced in business due to the Covid-19 pandemic?
- Total loss of business and category demand – for the first time in our lifetime
- Avoidance of Travel and even a negative perception for those considering non-essential travel
- Heightened concerns above health, safety and hygiene, discouraging even potential travellers
- Uncertainty and concerns among the teams about their jobs/future
- Extended WFH – and the multiple related issues around this.
- Co-ordination, connectivity, blurring of work-life balance etc.
- Cost cutting measures meant we had to stop our support partners like advertising, PR, social media agency services – and had to do everything ourselves
What measures did your management take to meet these challenges? What were the major changes you had to incorporate to hold it all together?
At TC and SOTC we have also been leading from the front since the pandemic struck, staying in touch with customers and partners, launching several new initiatives and offerings in line with the new realities and market needs and restrictions – such as staycations, nearcations, workations, private villas, camping, biking, wildlife oriented experiences etc.
You may also have noticed that we have been the first to bounce back to active marketing and launches after the first wave last year and again now, after the second wave.
During this time, we also embarked on several market-leader initiatives including our benchmark “Assured” Safe Travel Program – the only comprehensive set of travel safety protocols in association with, and endorsed by, Apollo Clinics in 2020, which not only covered the best in class protocols for our distribution and delivery teams, but also of our partners in the travel ecosystem.
In 2021, on the back of vaccinations and enhanced safety requirements we upgraded Assured in the form of what we call “TravShield” – a 360° safety program that also includes only vaccinated staff and co-passengers among many others, and made this a pan-organisational cornerstone across both TC and SOTC, and each of our lines of business, to ensure traveller safety in the pandemic era.
What were the key messages to your teams during the lockdown, and how did it keep the team morale high?
Internally, we moved swiftly to a smooth WFH environment and stayed connected, both as senior management (with calls every alternate day), and with our teams, regularly to ensure the pace of work and the discipline did not ebb.
This also helped keep our teams mentally connected and more reassured and motivated during the uncertain times. This also helped keep the mood positive and constructive.
We also regularly published inspiring stories of work and non-work related examples of excellence with our Heroes series – sharing these across the organisations.
We also were actively involved with ensuring our teams were/are vaccinated with both a third part – app based national service provider, as well as camps in cities like Mumbai, Bangalore etc., and are close to a 100% coverage for vaccination among the eligible population.
The pandemic revealed our vulnerabilities, but it also surfaced extraordinary human resourcefulness and potential. Do give a couple of examples/illustrations., inspiring stories…. Of staff who shone in the face of adversity.
There are multiple examples with our Heroes series. Check out this section in the magazine!
List five words to describe how your teams rose to the occasion.
Faith, confidence, positivity, strength and empathy
What do you feel is the way forward, and what message would you give your staff?
We recognise that the last 18+ months have been very challenging for all of us in the travel and travel related services industry both professionally and personally.
We are just beginning to see the early green shoots of sustained recovery on the back of the ebbing infections and rising vaccinations, and we should be truly proud of ourselves for the way we have weathered this once in a lifetime black swan event.
As we have now moved into an endemic stage where the world is now coming to terms with co-existing with the virus, we have a unique opportunity to leverage our strong brands that enjoy unparalleled trust, and with our leadership position with TravShield, and its benchmark 360 degree safety commitment, to ensure we are the first choice for discerning travellers as travel quickly recovers.
Our customers are going to be more keen to travel with us, and have us ensure we keep them safe and take care of them in this new environment where there are more variables than before.
Our smaller and less capable competitors both nationally and regionally are less likely to recover as fast and well as we have, and we need to make the most of this opportunity to re-establish our leadership position across all our lines of business.