KS Murthy: Employee first in response to Covid-19

It’s not just about working from home; the current pandemic shines a light on an organisation’s entire culture, employee journey and people experience, according to KS Murthy, deputy managing director, Toyo Ink, who says that this is an opportunity for leaders to redefine and re-imagine the company’s future with their people at its heart

29 Sep 2020 | By PrintWeek Team

KS Murthy, deputy managing director, Toyo Ink

PrintWeek (PW): How have you been leading your organisation through this once-in-a-lifetime crisis? How much has been altered?
KS Murthy (KSM):
The leadership of Toyo Ink has emerged strongly to tackle this crisis. We believe that continuous collaboration by arranging meetings at regular intervals within team members can effectively manage and motivate the workforce. Daily scheduling of department-wise general meeting is being done by means of web conferencing. Scheduling sessions with psychology experts is helping teams to align the thought processes and eliminate negativity. Employees are being encouraged to attend online yoga/health exercise sessions.

PW: Describe a typical day?
As a team, we are continuously working towards maintaining the standards by assigning smaller goals into the day-to-day schedule of responsible experts. We are consistently in touch with the clients (both existing and prospective) to ensure smooth executions of all the work-in-progress and streamlining operations and fund flow. We are adapting the effective and efficient cost-cutting methodology to minimise the losses. Social distancing norms, and PPEs are being used wherever physical presence is necessary. We are taking care, so that the collaboration with only reputed and secured service providers can be done, to protect trade secrets.

PW: We’re in an extraordinary time. As a leader what are you telling your team now?
I firmly believe that my team should take this as a challenge to evolve and upgrade their learning skills and techniques. We can overcome this pandemic by increasing the readiness and adoption of emerging technologies to enable remote working in a better way. In all, we are currently working to ensure proper infrastructure, experience, and best practices to ensure our success and operational continuity.

PW: With businesses taking a blow, how is your company safeguarding the daily interests of your workers?
For Toyo Ink, workers’ responsibility and safety is our prime concern. Travelling facilities have been made available free of cost for our workers. We are facing the daily challenges to keep up the company’s morale despite this situation, we have given performance appraisals to all our employees. I believe that this is the time when employers must stand for their employees.

PW: How easy has it been to restart the operations?
We faced significant operational challenges. Some Toyo Ink offices are temporarily shut down in response to government-imposed restrictions or falling demand. However, factories are experiencing substantial increases in need, as we supply essential products for various organisations and entities. Working from home is not an option for frontline plant workers. Therefore, plant leaders are looking for ways to operate despite this immediate crisis — all the while preparing for a potentially extended period of rising uncertainty regarding demand and supply, and a constant need to maintain hygiene and social distancing.

PW: The post-Covid-19 world will need massive HR repair with your entire team. How are you planning to achieve this?
Toyo Ink is rolling out different guidelines for working from home and working at office/ production site presence, and providing better infrastructural and social support. We have endeavoured to keep the spirit of every employee high during this pandemic. We are making many changes to policies, structures and practices aligned with the way of working. Organisations should collectively focus on their people like never before.

Toyo Ink plant in Noida, Uttar Pradesh

Packaging trends

PW: Can we use this period to pre-empt the changes in our society to come out with new product concepts?
Current situation does not warrant a call for any disruptive changes. A large section of people are merely struggling to meet the daily necessities in life. It’s difficult to divert their minds towards a new product and can result into a considerable loss. We as a packaging solution provider would prefer that the packaging industry move towards laminate structure of same family and we are actively working on developing necessary solution for such packaging system. The motto is to have such packaging structures that can be easily recycled after its purpose is served thus minimising plastic waste and simultaneously boosting the circular economy.

PW: How can our industry re-engineer manufacturing practices, say for milk, so that we can offer for those who operate outside the main grid?
The packaging trends for milk vary concerning the area, region or consumer habit. We have to re-engineer the packaging and manufacturing process in terms of innovative solutions such as refrigeration and preservation techniques to ensure and increase the shelf life of milk. Packaging material of the milk must be recyclable and environmentally friendly so that consumers can easily buy it.

PW: Based on your interactions with the FMCG and food majors, which packaging prototypes do you anticipate a boom – and why?
There has been a growing need to get instant and active protection against germs. Sachets and pouches are easy to carry and then throw making it convenient for the consumer. Further suitable safeguard from Covid-19 is a hand sanitiser, and the packaging for it is already seeing a boom in the market. There are strong indications that cartons, sachets and pouches, films and most of packaging material will see a boom in this present and future period.

PW: Going forward, is there a solution that can be worked out with brands to boost online packaging applications with customised and virtual solutions? Basically, minimising the need for multiple tests run…
With the advent of virtualisation, the industry requires a new software delivery system to help with all the benefits of virtual infrastructures. Virtual solutions on packaging offer a new paradigm for customers’ experience. But you may require a touch-and-feel system. Virtual solutions have a few benefits such as having a secure distribution, getting an optimal customer experience, vendor platform independence and extensibility.

PW: What happens to the debate on single-use plastic now?
Single-use plastics have been enlisted in the fight against many things such as food waste, keeping food and water fresh for longer and reducing the potential for contamination. Due to Covid-19, the entire concern has shifted towards managing day-to-day activities and to keep the show running. There seems to be no changes in the directions for single-use plastics. It has been a hot topic for debate and will remain so.

PW: Employees are working from home. In such a scenario how does an organisation monitor their well-being both – physical and psychological?
It’s not just about working from home; the current pandemic shines a light on an organisation’s entire culture, employee journey and people experience. Businesses have to listen, learn and adapt. Here is an opportunity for leaders to redefine and re-imagine the future with their people at its heart. At Toyo, if any employee gets affected, he/she will not be discriminated, rather will be treated normally and all required support be provided for recovery and rejoining duty. Regarding the staff working at the premises, they must take care of themselves and take significant precautions by learning and gaining more information about Covid-19.

PW: HR’s role has become more significant than before…
Our HR was regularly in touch with all employees to check on their well-being, ensure their safety in this critical hour thus, were driving valuable communication chain and internal engagement campaigns to help every employees cope up with negative thoughts. Our HR would call minimum of 30 employees per day to enquire about their health, mind and safety including their family members. In view of our social responsibility, we also increased insurance coverage limit for all our employees. Learning and upgrading skills have become paramount in this time of crisis. We were offering virtual learning classes and trying to get the maximum leverage out of this lockdown. These courses give employees enough time to gain skills and stay relevant for the future.

PW: Have you been re-negotiating deals with your customers? From a position of strength? Or is it the same old same old?
In every business, there are some loyal customers for whom we can adjust. At the same time we have to think about this situation and our future. Many buyers can lure even seasoned salespeople into deals based on emotion rather than on solid business sense. So there is a challenge to protect the interest of the company and preserve the relationship when the customer is trying to negotiate. The current situation is to be in the market and help customers rather than dominate just because we are in a strong position.

Toyo Ink plant in Dahej, Gujarat

PW: How have you been planning your next step with your banks and financiers when you don’t know what the future will hold? One step that you have taken...
As we move through the next few months, we will try to show our bank that we are already prepared by keeping up-to-date with every business finance details. This way, we gain the bank’s confidence and prove that our business is reliable, which will help us to gain their support during this crisis.

PW: Is your factory ready for what’s next? How have you been empowering your team at the bottom of the pyramid?
Toyo Ink has an effective working tool in which frontline manufacturers can check shift schedules right from their digital devices. The communication and notices from the HR team get announced in their preferred language. Our operation managers are gaining real insight into the day-to-day operations of the business in this pandemic. Solving many small problems has a far more significant impact than fixing a few large ones. We use digital communication tools to connect with our employees. We utilised the free time in the lockdown period by providing ongoing training and support to their employees to scale their skills and expertise. We were hosting live e-sessions on their learning platform on different technical and managerial topics and on managing personal finances. We encouraged employees to sign up for online courses, which would add to their existing skill set.

PW: Any specific steps (sanitisation, plastic partitions, physical distance, air vents, and WFH) to keep your office healthy and psychologically safe?
When the lockdown was announced, we actively worked out necessary plans and it took just six days for us to start our operation under “essential goods” category with complete adherence to the Covid-19 guidelines. We established strict rules and regulations, improvised process and method of working for our employees to maintain a social distance of six feet,  and face coverings (with mask, face shields) became mandatory. Social gatherings are not permitted. Outdoor/indoor recreational activities such as walking and biking got restricted. PPE kit, staggered seating arrangements in office and PPE section cover on work station are there to safeguard the employees. Every day a routine sanitisation is done in the offices and factory premises.

PW: A personal question: How has Covid-19 changed the nature of what you are working on your own resilience and self-renewal and how you do it?
I have used this opportunity to focus on ways of applying new techniques during and after Covid-19 and to help my employees. When we are in leadership positions, we feel like we have to solve everything immediately, but that is not true. We should not be afraid to pause and recognise that our roles are not to just shoulder 100% of the burden. Our purpose is to lead our teams to develop solutions and execute those solutions.

PW: In what way has your team prepared for Webex or Zoom or Skype usage? Any creative ideas?
Our employees were aware of meetings through video calling applications even before the pandemic, as we have offices from all over the world. This mode of conducting meetings is easy to set up, use and manage. We simply send one message in our group and within five minutes, everyone is ready to join.

PW: Any final predictions about how, as a leader, you can harness digital technology for good?
Using digital technologies in this pandemic has dramatically helped to bringing down the cost in our organisation. With the use of technology in organisations, efficiency is being taken to a whole new level. Less pressure is put upon employees, since a great deal of work is done by tools and software. We are using block-chain technology in our organisation to see the accounts section. As nobody can lie about where they sent money, it implies that though no personal information is attached, it is still trackable.