Abid Hussain Barlaskar
Viral Diaries

“I don’t think any leadership should be like a policeman”: Harsh Vardhan Agarwal, Emami

In this interview for our Viral Diaries series, the director of the FMCG giant recommends that companies should prepare better for crisis scenarios.

What’s your tip for media/marketing professionals dealing with anxiety during these times? How can one focus better while working from home?

Since the market is closed, there would be limited activity in most of the segments. I would say that it’s a good time for senior people to reflect on long term issues on which they were unable to depute sufficient attention or time due to day to day challenges. They can work on those areas like pending issues, etc. Next, they can focus on the possible impact of COVID and how they are going to deal with possible upcoming scenarios.

Which app/tool are you using to video conference with your team/clients? And what’s your go-to option for file sharing? And which is your go-to newspaper/website to stay updated?

We use both Microsoft Teams and Webex for video conferencing. I don’t do a lot of file sharing.

I am looking for ways to avoid instead of looking for updates. Honestly, I have reduced consumption of news media since there is the same thing everywhere. I have restricted spending time on news apps. I follow business news apps and that’s it.

How do you draw a line between using social media for information and cyber slacking?

I’m not very active on social media and I don’t have an account on Facebook. So, cyber slacking isn’t really a challenge for me.

What do you miss most –and least– about office?

I miss meeting people face-to-face along with stepping out of the house. I miss the unnecessary meetings the least. One of the biggest problems in many organisations are the meetings that don’t help anyone.

How frequently do you check-in on your team? What’s the ideal frequently, according to you – any theories?

I try to get in touch with the senior people in my team once daily and then meet them depending on the task. I think everyone is responsible and it’s better to leave it to them to deliver on time instead of keeping a check on them. I don’t think any leadership should be like a policeman or an auditor.

Lastly, what’s the one thing you see yourself doing differently once the work-from-home phase ends? To rephrase, what’s the biggest lesson here, for you?

Focus and concentrate more on areas where I believe I can add more value instead of getting into too many things. I think COVID has also made us realise that we take many things for granted. Each company has to have a plan ready now to deal with any kind of scenario - how to prepare ourselves for any eventuality or risk. One way is by having the right technologies in place and having a better SOP for any scenario. This is something one really needs to focus on. There is no way of foretelling emergency but some things can always be kept ready, say technology, certain resources, a war room, etc.

Viral Diaries is a series of special interviews, a daily peek into how advertising, media and marketing professionals are dealing with working from home in these trying times.