A crisis brings out the best of a leader. And the leaders who will lead the way today will be remembered throughout history as heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic. Chief – Strategic Partnerships & Supply Chain Management of Sterlite Power, Amitabh Prasad has been leading the organization and managing global teams. He is responsible for providing a strategic vision to Sterlite Power in ensuring that the team delivers best in class cost, margin and project fulfillment for high impact Energy Infrastructure projects.
In an exclusive interaction with CPO Innovation, he shares his thoughts on managing crises as a leader and keeping the team motivated in these unprecedented times, challenges faced by supply chain in the current situation, and how he envisions the future of supply chain industry. He also shares his views on ‘Vocal for Local’ supply chain. Read the excerpts here:
CPO Innovation: This is a tough time for each one of us. What are some of the leadership lessons that have guided you in this pandemic situation? Also, being a leader, what’s that one piece of advice you would give to someone who is managing a team working remotely.
Amitabh Prasad: Indeed, these are tough times for all of us, personally and professionally both. Mankind has neither historic reference nor living memory of such a pandemic, and therefore, to deal with it is a matter of situational leadership supported by intuitive and problem-solving approaches.
My leadership mantra is to keep things very simple which is easy to communicate and implement with minimum resource allocation. It is also to take one step at a time, keeping safety, survival, and business continuity in mind all the time. This is also a time when one needs to be thinking short term, preserve resources, avoid fresh commitments, and be helpful to people around. It’s like the announcement by the cabin crew inside an aircraft- “First take care of yourself and then people around you”.
Working remotely has unlocked new frontiers in productivity and effectiveness of our workforce, provided they are well provisioned and are able to avail uninterrupted supply of utilities like power and telecom. The families have been supportive of the working professionals to give their best while working from home. Apart from work, I connect with my team at least in one informal setup every week; for example – we had a virtual coffee time over Teams last week. If I have to say one thing, don’t lose personal and human touch even when it is through a virtual medium.
CPO Innovation: With COVID-19 boosting remote working, how do you see the future of work post this crisis?
Amitabh Prasad: One thing is for sure that future working pattern is going to be very different than what we have been used to. I can foresee many ideas to take shape like staggered working hours, maintaining workspace only for essential workforce, keeping people equipped for remote working, virtualization of all that can be termed as ‘Office Infrastructure’ and so on.
In such a setup, it is important to focus more on outcomes than means to achieve business goals. Inter-dependence and accountability of individuals, as well as teams, will shoot up as it will be more evident that who is delivering with higher efficiency and effectiveness than others. For managers, being organized, managing the time, and keeping in touch while building the morale of team members would be key to make remote working sustainable and productive.
CPO Innovation: What are some of the biggest challenges you think companies are facing to manage their supply chain efficiency in this pandemic?
Amitabh Prasad: The supply chain function has many moving parts and unless the orchestration of each part is not synchronized there are bound to be disruptions in delivering as per customer requirements. It has become evident that these multiple moving parts are showing signs of recovery but in an uncoordinated and inconsistent manner. For example, while we may have construction workers at site and cement in-store, the lack of transport to deliver from the store to a site might break the chain thereby hampering productivity.
We, therefore, need to think of breaking the large supply chain into smaller and manageable pieces and set priorities to deliver in small packets that will lead up to ensuring overall delivery. It may not take place in a synchronized manner but rather in a sequential manner. The planning becomes tougher as keeping it all together, even when the picture isn’t complete, is extremely difficult and risky in the end.
Additionally, it is important that as the pandemic wanes out, we are first-off the block. Therefore, it is imperative to keep an eye on resources as they become available. More so as everyone would rush to consume these resources leading to disruptions yet again. For this very reason, preserving cash and a handy war-chest is of paramount importance.
CPO Innovation: You are having a strong experience of over 2 decades in the field of procurement and supply chain. How do you see this journey of yours and what is your agenda for your current organization five years from now?
Amitabh Prasad: Procurement and supply chain management in India and globally have gone through a massive transformation over the period. At the beginning of my career, it was all about receiving an Indent for procurement of material with a given part number which had clear specifications and quality requirements. The service items were far and few and even if they were there, the cost of procuring services was very low compared to material procurement. It was a time when the manufacturing sector was dominating the economic activities and as a purchaser, I always knew what I was looking for.
In the late 90s, post liberalization of the economy, quite a few service sectors like BFSI, Telecom, IT, ITES grew from strength to strength. The procurement of services for meeting the need of consumers gained more importance, value, and impact. The specification and quality of material were replaced by terms like the Statement of Work (SOW) and Service Level Agreement (SLA). It was clear that despite best efforts, there is always an element of subjectivity and therefore, trust and relationship with the supplier became critical to success than just having a contract in place.
As Indian companies worked more and more with a global supplier base, a great deal of globally accepted terms and conditions become part of our local supply chain, especially around risk and cost.
My agenda is to strengthen an extremely agile yet scalable Supply Chain ecosystem where time to market and cost leadership are always best-in-class. It is not either-or, but together. Especially in the scenario where consumers are dictating the product and service quality, the bridge between supplier and consumer is getting shorter and the journey from concept to delivery has to become much quicker.
In this light, the supply chain cannot afford to beat down the established paths of RFP/RFQ, negotiation, and contracting thereof, but to co-create the value offering along with all the stakeholders in a concurrent manner. Even within the same industry segment, there can be substantial diversity where on one hand, the supply chain needs to do complex software contracts while on the other hand, deal with global commodity trading. To keep it all together is the art that a supply chain leader has to be tuned in all the time, as clearly there is nothing like one size fits all.
CPO Innovation: What do you envision the future of supply chain industry look like, especially after the latest reforms made by PM-led government on local supply chain? Being a supply chain leader, what are your views on ‘Vocal for Local’ supply chain?
Amitabh Prasad: As somebody who has spent a large part of his career in the telecom world, I’m a great believer in ‘Last-Mile Delivery’. I have always kept this at the center of my execution strategy with a clear conviction that if we’re not super good in the last mile, all our efforts in all other parts of the business will never get customer appreciation. Generally, in India, the last mile is left to small, local players who have limited ability to scale up, bring technology into the play or to attract high caliber talent. As more and more entrepreneurs focus and invest in this area, there is bound to be a massive improvement in efficiency leading to a superior end-consumer experience. This applies equally to all sectors whether retail, utility, or government services. Also, it is bound to bring prosperity to the grassroots level. I am excited to see this being cited by our Hon’ble PM as a core to India’s growth story!
Amitabh Prasad is a C-Suite Business Executive with more than two decades of strong experience in Procurement, Supply Chain Management, Operations, Pricing & Bidding. He has proven expertise in leading large and diverse teams across multiple locations. Amitabh Prasad is a highly analytical and articulate professional with ability to network & influence CxO/Board level stakeholders for driving high impact initiatives across the organization.