Amid layoffs across industries, an Indian food brand is sticking to increments and upskilling

Food coma.
Food coma.
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The Covid-19 pandemic has triggered layoffs and pay cuts across industries in India. But this tough environment also throws up an opportunity for businesses to reassess and optimise their human resource strategies.

Bengaluru-based ready to cook food brand, iD Fresh Food is doing just that by focussing on developing its existing talent and avoiding any drastic measures that could demotivate its staff.

“The last two months have taught us valuable lessons in doing more with less,” PC Musthafa, co-founder and CEO of iD Fresh, told Quartz in an interview.

He also spoke about what will be the most important jobs at the company going forward and why he is committed to salary increments despite the tough economy. Edited excerpts: 

What is the one job that will be most crucial to your company in the post-Covid-19 world?

One of the biggest learnings from the pandemic has been the need to invest in robust and responsive supply chains. In the post coronavirus era, I expect to see a lot of demand for consultants, managers, analysts, and other professionals specialising in supply chain management.

As we stop relying on outdated processes and create smart and agile supply chains, we will need a skilled workforce to ensure that the transition is smooth. While digitisation will undoubtedly be the key to building stronger supply chains, without the right human resources I doubt there can be a possibility of lasting recovery.

In what ways is your hiring policy going to change amid the pandemic?

PC Musthafa, Co-Founder and CEO, iD Fresh Food
PC Musthafa, Co-Founder and CEO, iD Fresh Food
Image: iD Fresh Food

Given the uncertain and evolving nature of the Covid-19 crisis, it is difficult to make long-term business plans at the moment. But I anticipate that we will be minimising lateral hiring in the coming months and focussing more on developing internal talents.

There’s nothing like learning through doing. This crisis presents companies with an opportunity to maximise the potential of internal talents. With a disciplined and comprehensive approach, this can become a successful and sustainable growth plan.

Is your company facing any pressure to cut jobs? 

Just like doctors, nurses, and public health officials, iD employees have been doing an amazing job of providing essential service during the pandemic. We worked hard to ensure that people have easy access to fresh, healthy, and home-made food in these trying times.

So far, we have managed to weather the storm. Although we have scaled down the operations to limited products until the situation gets back to normal, we haven’t imposed any pay cuts or job cuts.

There are a lot of youngsters from rural India who work with iD, most of whom have been with us for several years. As a family of over 1,500 members, our unity is our biggest strength. We are in this together.

Will you be offering promotions and appraisals this year?

The current crisis has not affected promotions and appraisals are on track, too. We need a motivated workforce to recover from this global predicament. Socio-economically, I believe, things will get back on track in the coming months. Financial losses will be recovered, it may take longer, but it will happen.

What are the key human resource policies that you have introduced amid Covid-19?

We have introduced comprehensive insurance, covering pandemics like Covid-19, for all our employees. Training regarding workplace etiquette and safety measures have helped ensure that we understand and are ready for the “new normal.”

Given iD’s agile work culture, the transition to work-from-home was not very challenging. However, we have made conscious efforts to facilitate regular employee communication to keep the team’s morale high. Similarly, new functional online training has been instrumental in the reskilling of employees. Going forward, I see a more adaptive work environment. 

Has the company’s approach towards the upskilling changes due to Covid-19?

There’s a saying in Africa that smooth seas do not make skilful sailors. And I couldn’t agree more. The last two months have taught us valuable lessons in doing more with less. There has been a surge in online training, encouraging staff to participate in cross-functional tasks and assignments. This break from the routine has led to a palpable sense of reinvigoration across teams in the organisation.

Sangeeta Tanwar and Niharika Sharma contributed to this post.