How PayNearby is empowering kirana stores to fight Covid-19

Share a brief about the business you are in and the market that you have seen in the last 4 years?

PayNearby is the flagship brand of Nearby Technologies that operates on a B2B2C business model. Ours is an assisted hyperlocal fintech network that was set up to provide the last mile access of basic financial services to the unbanked and the under-banked. We empower retailers at the first mile to offer digital services to local communities, thereby boosting financial inclusion in India.

With more than 8,50,000 retailers comprising approximately 17,200 PIN codes across India, PayNearby today owns the country’s largest hyperlocal fintech network and services close to 10 crore Indians on a range of products and services. With a monthly throughput of ~4500 crores and clocking 10 lakh plus transactions on a daily basis, PayNearby today stands tall as the largest agent banking platform in the entire Southeast Asia region.

PayNearby is leading the segment with Aadhaar enabled Payment System (AePS), or Aadhaar banking with a 33% market share, which facilitates cash withdrawal, and balance inquiry through customer’s Aadhaar number and fingerprint authentication. Applying the mantra of “Automate or Eliminate”, PayNearby has automated every functionality, which has helped the company scale and handles large volumetric data. During the nation-wide Covid-19 lockdown, PayNearby through its network of banking correspondents it has been seamlessly facilitating cash withdrawal and transfer – conducting over 7-8 lakh transactions per day. This has been enabling the hardest hit especially the migrants and the rural population to access the Government’s DBT disbursements seamlessly.

With its well-entrenched network across the country, PayNearby has successfully enabled the availability of essential services in the most backward districts of the country. Today, PayNearby has its presence in the very hinterlands of India – from Muzaffarpur to Maldah, and Raichur to Rajnandgaon. The work done by the company has enabled financial inclusion worth INR 775 crores to the consumers in 115 backward aspirational districts, identified by NITI AYOG.

When you look at traditional retail stores they are very conservative in terms of adoption of technology. They are reluctant to adopt new things because they have a different business model. What kind of challenges did you face?

The small kirana store in the neighborhood has been an integral part of every Indian as it has been for the Indian economy. But with the rise of e-commerce and global retail giants eyeing the Indian market, there was a dire need to equip local retailers with the skills to perform digital transactions. At PayNearby we aimed to create a formidable combination of technology and last-mile connectivity by empowering India’s most trusted retail outlet – the local kirana.

We have therefore been working at the granular level creating awareness and educating them while also imparting the necessary knowledge and skills for making them digitally empowered. At PayNearby, we educate the retailers about the power of digitization and convenience of digital payments and operations, without the need for any additional investment. Besides digital empowerment, improving user experience and the interface is very critical. We have been offering our retailers with regular training programs which are offered to them. The training modules are also offered in every local language to our partners which further enables seamless consumption.

Additionally we have also partnered with renowned training partners – TRRAIN and RASCI. Besides e-learning videos, the partnership will offer a slew of skilling and knowledge-building courses, including financial and insurance planning and career guidance to our retailers. At PayNearby, training and awareness is an ongoing program that is helping our retail partners to evolve into micro-entrepreneurs who can navigate the financial and digital landscape of retailing seamlessly.

How do you see kirana stores changing post-Covid-19? How are you empowering them during this pandemic?
The lockdown period has served as a testament to the true resilient power of the humble kirana store. Where large e-commerce giants were unable to supply and home deliver goods to people, Indian kiranas emerged as the true corona warriors. Our Digital Pradhans selflessly committed to their national duty came to the aid of many in these challenging times including the banking sector which needed DBT disbursement support.

The nation-wide lockdown in the wake of Covid-19, predictably, hit the poorest sections of society the hardest, especially migrant workers and the rural population. However through bank Mitras and Aadhaar Banking, PayNearby offered customers cash withdrawals of up to Rs. 10,000 daily simply through the use of their thumb. We thus facilitated seamlessly cash withdrawals and transfers through the period – conducting over 7-8 lakh transactions per day.

From simple ‘brick and mortar’ stores they are gradually evolving into a hub for experimental research and development. We are also championing the cause for our banking correspondents’ sustenance during this time. We aim to adopt an omnichannel approach where the kirana stores are not only managing their customers efficiently but also have equipped themselves to reduce operational costs, inventory management, onboard new customers, while offering financial services seamlessly. We see the Indian kirana store to play the role of a catalyst in driving financial inclusion while transforming India’s socio-economic landscape.

What according to you are the biggest challenges for the retailers in India, especially the post-Covid-19 era?
The unorganized retail market indirectly generates livelihoods for more than 20 crore people and thus it is crucial that this segment espouses digital literacy facilitating ease of transactions. However with the rise of e-commerce and global retail giants eyeing the Indian market, there is a dire need to empower them by upscaling their digital and customer servicing skills. This hyper-localization, therefore, needs to be supported with training and upskilling programs for retailers to ensure that they thrive in the consumption market against the disruption provided by online aggregators.

Secondly, to be indispensable to the consumer, the local retailer must constantly evolve to accommodate the consumer’s changing needs. Kirana shops are unlikely to grow beyond a point and invest in shelf space unless they are enabled with the expertise to draw insights based on consumer interactions for e.g. if a kirana store is offering money transfer, venturing into a new vertical such as insurance will only be possible if he is armed with the infrastructure and adeptness to gauge demand. This ensures that the retailers transform the shop beyond a mom-and-pop store and become a one-stop solution for an assortment of needs.

What’re your biggest learnings in the Covid-19 period?
One of the greatest observations made during this period was how the government initiative to facilitate a more digitally inclusive economy has served as a foundation for the current period. Our financial services strategy to unbanked and underbanked helped us being extremely relevant. Where companies were facing challenges of failed transactions, we were strongly backed by technology and our systems have been running up and strong without any disruption.

We are proud of the fact that PayNearby’s services were called in for national duty of relaying government grants to millions of citizens through our Business Correspondents channel. This accentuates the credibility of our work and we hope to raise our service standards and emerge as a national asset.

What are the products that you are offering to the retail stores?
We have carefully analyzed the needs of consumers and identified a list of offerings we wanted to supply through assisted tech, thereby boosting financial inclusion at the last mile. At PayNearby, we offer a bouquet of services including Aadhaar banking, domestic money remittances, Micro ATM, bill payments, mobile/DTH recharges, granular investment, and insurance among others. Similarly, we also offer various solutions on the enterprise side – CashNearby, SalaryNearby, CollectNearby.

CashNearby – here organizations utilize the vast network of PayNearby retailers across the nation to disburse cash to its on-field employees. SalaryNearby – It allows enterprises with remote working locations to digitally pay salaries in the bank accounts of their workers/employees while ensuring compliance for identification and age regulations. With CollectNearby – NBFCs or Insurance companies can enable their customers to deposit their EMIs or premiums at their nearby retailers.  At PayNearby we are developing a one-stop-shop model to ensure all individuals and organizations are able to access financial services within their targeted catchment locality, and are assisted towards a less-cash economy.

How far has PayNearby grown in India? What are your expansion plans?
Our agile and judicious use of technology has allowed us to grow our business in a short amount of time. We have built our network PAN India spreading over 17,200 PIN codes. Currently, the company is well-positioned to meet its aggressive goals to ramp up and extend assisted hyperlocal services in the county – and upgrade its network from 8,50,000 retailers to 50,00,000 retailers in the near future.

We have plans to foray into international markets and are actively evaluating Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and South Asia markets for future expansion. The level of digitization in this region is similar and very high, alongside, the state of banking which remains similarly low.  In addition to this, we have witnessed a large number of job losses among migrant laborers. With our new initiative ‘JobsNearby’, we hope to ensure that these workers and their families are not left bereft and can regain their dignity and livelihood. Through our database, we hope to provide these workers with an opportunity to rebuild their lives, without having to compromise on their skills. The rich data analytics that we have of our retail partners are valuable inputs which will also help us to risk score and offer customized lending solutions to our retail partners and customers shortly.

We are well-positioned to move to version 2.0 with multiple verticals and brands, including TravelNearby and InsureNearby.

Empowering retail stores is really necessary these days but at the end of the day you have to make money. How do you make money?
PayNearby is a B2B2C company and offers various financial and non-financial services to the masses across the country. We have commercial arrangements with the service providers whereby we earn a small percentage on successful transactions. PayNearby runs on positive unit economics. While scaling up, we have ensured that the business fundamentals are maintained for us to sustain and grow the business.

How can PayNearby increase digital spending in rural areas of India?
PayNearby offers financial products and services which are required for the masses in India. The focus is primarily to provide services at the interiors and to the lower strata of rural India, which constitutes 93%. With the help of Data Analytics, we can analyze demand and supply of various products at respective locations, for instance, the DBT disbursal, insurance in Red Zones, etc. We are offering financial training programs with our retail partners better known as ‘Digital Pradhans’, which will help create awareness about various financial products that are beneficial for rural audiences. For e.g. Insurance consumption in India is a mere 4 percent, and a major chunk of it comes from Urban India. There are already various insurance products that are customized for the audience of the lower pyramid. PayNearby will help deliver such kind of products to rural masses. The same is the case if e-commerce and online education. Our network will help e-Commerce companies to reach the interiors of India.

Where would you see the digital spending market of India in the next 5 years and how would PayNearby contribute to this journey?
The world’s largest and the most stringent lockdown in action, home quarantining more than 1.3 billion has interestingly brought about a huge surge in everything ‘digital’. With a huge influx of new users, digital payments, OTT, online gaming, e-commerce, and e-learning among others have been soaring. There has been a drastic behavioural and lifestyle shift among the masses. On the positive side, people are now more adaptable to anything digital. From payments to learning to stream, online has captured the imagination of every Indian like never before. Going forward we expect this trend to grow further.

Similarly, in rural India too we believe a lot of things will change fuelling a rise in spending patterns. The government’s measures towards MSMEs will help retain the jobs in rural regions and also encourage newer businesses to erupt thereby eventually boosting the consumption patterns across the country.

With the potential to be the pulsating nerve center of the locality it is situated in, kiranas can offer a customized experience at a much higher scale, creating sustainable economies and societies. PayNearby’s vast and robust network can surely play a major role in facilitating this paradigm shift by bringing technology to the last mile.

…but cash continues to be king

Almost four years after a shock crackdown on cash accelerated the adoption of digital payments, the use of banknotes has jumped during the virus outbreak with many kiranas, the only ones open for business during the lockdown, insisting that customers pay in cash.

While many small retailers started accepting digital payments after the sudden invalidation of high-value currency notes in November 2016, many of the store owners have little choice but to seek cash from customers as their suppliers are demanding payments in paper money.

“In my area in Powai (a Mumbai suburb), several shops do not accept digital payments, citing the demand for cash from their suppliers. During the lockdown, getting cash has become difficult as people don’t want to use ATMs for want of sanitization after each use,” said Anand Kumar Bajaj, CEO of PayNearby, a digital payments company.

According to Bajaj, since a retailer is selling multiple categories of products—branded and unbranded— he has little incentive to create a behavioural change by accepting digital payments from customers since some of his suppliers are asking for cash.

A look at the digital payments data for April paints a dismal picture as all but Aadhaar-enabled payments system (AePS) have seen volumes crash. Take the case of national electronic fund transfer (NEFT) where both inward and outward remittances have shrunk 33% between March and April to 175.9 million.

Volumes on immediate payment service (IMPS) have also declined 44% in the same period to 122.47 million transactions. Unified Payments Interface (UPI), used by some merchants, have seen a dip in volumes to 999.57 million in April from 1.24 billion in the preceding month.

Meanwhile, the cash in circulation in the economy has risen by 3.6% to 25.35 trillion in the first month of this fiscal year, showed RBI data.

AePS surge shows cash is king again, for now

Average daily transactions via Aadhaar-enabled Payment System (AePS) surged to 11.3 million in April, making them an outlier. Unlike peers Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and Immediate Payment Service (IMPS), AePS emerged a winner amid the lockdown, piggybacking on government transfers to the disadvantaged. Cash is convenient and reduced mobility has done little to change that even if it is a temporary phenomenon.

As Yes Bank MD & CEO Prashant Kumar pointed out, much of the spending relates to basic everyday requirements at shops that deal in cash. “The spending is only for taking care of the kitchen and is taking place at neighbourhood shops which have always been accepting cash. So, basically cash becomes more convenient at this point of time,” Kumar said. He believes that as e-retailers open up for more business, the purely digital modes of payments will catch up.

Also, as Anand Kumar Bajaj, founder and CEO, PayNearby, explained, beneficiaries of schemes such as the JanDhanYojana habitually use cash, “The segment of the population that the government is making transfers to anyway deals in cash. So right now, cash is in because there is no other option,” Bajaj said.

As people turn wary of using ATMs in the middle of a pandemic outbreak, banks and non-bank players in the payments system have had to find ways to reach cash to their doorsteps. In some cases, they have had to remove charges on cash transactions in order to ease the flow of money.

Lockdown leads to resurgence of cash as digital payments decline

The use of cash seems to be becoming more prevalent during the ongoing lockdown as smaller retail outlets, the only category of retailers open for business at present, seek payments in cash from customers.

Many of these retailers, usually the neighbourhood kirana stores, have been accepting digital modes of payments since the sudden withdrawal of high-value currency notes by the government in November 2016. Referred to as demonetisation, the event led to these shops and others joining the digital payment ecosystem.

“In my area in Powai (a Mumbai suburb), several shops do not accept digital payments citing the demand for cash from their suppliers. During the lockdown, getting cash has also become difficult as people do not want to use automated teller machines (ATMs) for want of sanitisation after each use,” said Anand Kumar Bajaj, chief executive of PayNearby, a fintech that provides AePS services, among other digital banking services.

According to Bajaj, since a retailer is selling multiple categories of products and branded/unbranded both, he does not want to get into a behavioural change by accepting digital payments from customers since some of his suppliers ask for cash.

“There are several unbranded goods being sold by kirana stores whose suppliers take only cash, while suppliers of branded goods are willing to take digital payments. Half of his suppliers want cash, the rest want digital and, in this dilemma, the retailer wants only cash from his customers. No one says no to cash,” said Bajaj.

Fintech boom falters as cash becomes king

At the posh Alta Monte building in a Mumbai suburb, where apartments sell for close to 3 crore each, residents have been queuing up for the past few days to withdraw cash using a fingerprint scanner. Aadhaar-based payments, touted so far as the source of quick access to funds for people dependent on government benefits, has now reached gated communities across the country’s financial capital as people stay away from venturing out to use automated teller machines (ATMs).

“Aadhaar-enabled payment system (AePS) was thought to be poor man’s fintech, but covid-19 has blurred that distinction,” said Anand Kumar Bajaj, chief executive of PayNearby, a firm that provides digital banking services.

The micro-ATMs outside gated colonies and the fingerprint scanners point to major upheavals that are currently underway within the world of India’s fintech firms. The immediate trigger: since early-March, as fears of a pandemic took root, Indians began to hoard cash. By mid-April, the amount of currency in circulation had hit a 12-year high. Almost in parallel, transaction volumes via unified payments interface (UPI)—the country’s most popular digital payments platform—began to plummet, from 1.3 billion in December 2019 to 1.25 billion in March.

Coronavirus: Rural India to face cash shortage amidst lockdown, says BCFI

The Business Correspondent Federation of India (BCFI), a body representing fintech companies working towards the delivery of financial services to underbanked and unbanked, on Friday discussed challenges arising in the rural economy after the Indian government announced a national lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

Members of the BCFI also estimate a cash shortage to arise in rural areas of the country as Business Correspondents (also called ‘Bank Mitra’) are restricted from travelling.

The industry body estimated that due to this forced shutdown, only 30 percent of their Business Correspondents are active in rural regions, putting additional operational load on the players.

Post the announcement of the lockdown on Tuesday, the Ministry of Home Affairs came out with a comprehensive list of essential services that will remain operational during the nationwide lockdown.

The addendum to these guidelines included Business Correspondents (in sub-clause B to clause 4) along with IT Vendors for banking operations and cash management agencies as essential services.

Additionally, members also said that owing to the lockdown rural banks were rationing cash  putting more pressure on the liquidity provided to the rural economy.

“There are about two lakh ATMs in the country. Of this, one lakh are on-site, which means that these ATMs are next to bank branches. Of the balance one lakh, 25,000 are ATMs in rural areas which aren’t being serviced, making operations of Business Correspondents even more critical,” explained Sunil Kulkarni, Chief Business Mentor – Oxigen Services India Private Limited and  Board Member, BCFI.

Additionally, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman just yesterday announced Rs 1.7 lakh crore relief package for the economically weaker sections of the society (through Direct Benefit Transfer).

According to BCFI, the inability of BC agents to access this relief cash is a huge concern in ensuring this package reaches the beneficiaries.

The industry body has appealed to the government for financial support as these business correspondents are risking their own lives to rise to the challenge of COVID-19.

While addressing the media, through a digital mode, Anand Kumar Bajaj, MD and CEO of PayNearby and Board Member of BCFI said,

“We urge the government to provide a small remuneration of Rs 5,000 for three months to Business Correspondents to boost their morale and ensure that financial services are catered to in a seamless manner for the rural regions in the country.”

Other members addressing the media were Sasidhar Thumuluri, MD and CEO of Basix Sub-K iTransactions Limited and Chairman of BCFI; Amit Jain, Chief – Business Operations of Fino Payments Bank, and Vijay Pratap Singh Aditya, CEO of Ekgaon Technologies.

Business correspondents ask banks to provide easy cash facility

The Business Correspondent Federation of India (BCFI) on Friday appealed to banks and local authorities to help its agents have safe and easy access to cash to provide essential services in semi-urban and rural areas. BCFI is a body representing fintech companies working towards the delivery of financial services to underbanked and unbanked.

The industry body said due to the 21-day nationwide lockdown on account of COVID-19, the situation is worse in rural India with limited access to primary banking services such as – cash withdrawal, money transfer.

On Thursday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharam announced a relief package of Rs 1.7 lakh crore for the economically weaker sections of the society.

In order to ensure that the cash reaches to the beneficiaries, BCFI has made an appeal to banks and other stakeholders in the ecosystem to help agents have safe and easy access to cash from their local banks, so that they can continue unhindered providing essential services to the common man.

“In these seriously challenging times, to ensure that that the relief package reaches the intended, and beneficiaries are able to access the cash, along with the banking systems, our business correspondents are the frontline warriors, providing access to this relief cash,” BCFI member and CEO of PayNearby Anand Kumar Bajaj said.

BCFI also requested the government for a relief package of Rs 5,000 for business correspondents for the next three months, which is less than 0.5% of the Rs 1.75 lakh crore package announced by the government.

This will motivate these correspondents to offer uninterrupted services and ensure the benefits of the relief package reach the intended and they can access the cash.

Business correspondents provide access to basic banking services such as cash deposit or cash withdrawal in remote areas. PTI HV MR MR

Challenges over cash shortage, restricted movements for government’s DBT agents

Thousands of Business Correspondents (BCs) across the country are facing shortages in cash supply and restrictions in their movements even as the responsibility to ensure the last mile transfer of government relief fund for poor affected by Covid-19 lockdown have fallen upon these banking agents.

These agents also known as Bank Mitras are last mile banking access points for millions of Jhan Dhan account holders in rural areas and are central to government’s direct benefit transfer (DBT) architecture in ensuring funds transferred to bank accounts are made available to beneficiaries in the form of cash.

However, despite being included as an essential service by the Ministry of Home Affairs, these agents are reportedly not being allowed free movement by local authorities in districts across the country, the industry representative body of these 10 lakh odd BCs – Business Correspondent Federation of India (BCFI) told journalists over a videoconference on Friday.

“Due to restrictions our BCs are not able to travel from home to banks and from banks to their banking points,” said Seema Prem, CEO,

FIA Technologoy Services and a board member of BCFI. “As a result, a sizeable number of these banking points essential for financial services are now not open.”

Furthermore, fintech companies facilitating operations between BCs and banks also said that cash shortage in banks and retail outlets is also a challenge in these times when most economic activities have come to a standstill due to the 21 day lockdown and rural citizens are depended on cash proceeds from the Rs.1.75 lakh crore worth relief package announced by Finance Minister on Thursday.

“Several branches are shut down and the movement of cash from currency chests to branches are also not happening in some places,” said Anand Kumar Bajaj, CEO, PayNearby and a board member of BCFI. “Due to the lockdown several kirana stores are also shut which generally provided cash supply for BCs.”

With dismal rural ATM penetration, the BCFI warned that several essential cash dependent supply chains such as movement of food stock from rural to urban may take a hit if the situation persisted.

Additionally, these companies also sought insurance support from government in line with those announced for medical workers for BCs operating during the lockdown to “boost morale amidst working in challenging conditions.”

Making digital payments? Know if you should you sanitize credit card, debit card, smartphones

Making digital transactions, instead of cash, is being seen as one of the many ways with which the spread of Covid-19 disease can be slowed down. According to National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI), the use of digital payments can reduce social contact and reduce the chance of transmission of novel coronavirus. Digital transactions can be made using smartphones. However, some people may have no option but to use credit card and debit card for making payments or cash withdrawals from ATMs. As we know that the novel coronavirus spreads through surfaces. Hence, is it important to sanitize debit card, credit card or smartphones as well? FE Online talked to some experts in the fintech sector on this. Here’s what they said:

“It is important to thoroughly sanitise mobile phones at regular intervals to reduce the risk of contamination since it comes in contact with our faces and hands,” said Anand Kumar Bajaj, MD & CEO, PayNearby. He also advised sanitising debit, credit and ATM cards, especially if used by someone other than the owner, since it could be swiped at crowded POS terminals or ATM machines.

From homework in childhood to work from home in adulthood

The next months will be a very strange test of our white-collar future. After the invention of the personal computer, people predicted that our jobs would eventually be emancipated from the office, and home would be the thrilling future of work. And yet, engrained work mindsets, bureaucracy, and wavering internet connections have prevented this from becoming a sweeping reality.

However, with COVID-19, all we could schedule was a screeching halt. We have rather been arm-twisted into catalyzing an anxious trial run for remote working at a grand scale— which might not be such a terrible idea for a few of us.

Nonetheless, this has taken a toll on many since change is hardly something mankind has an affinity for People are itching to get back to work; reveling in sharing their coronavirus stories over water cooler and cappuccino conversations.

Which brings us to another adage, “never let a good crisis go to waste.” This Corona wave has brought forward a much-awaited opportunity called work from home. While most of us have greeted this with a gentle smile when urgent domestic matters or work-life balance summoned it, the challenge is to turn it into the new norm—with or without a once-in-a-century public-health crisis.

So, how do we do this without losing our sanity? While in office a span of 9-10 hours made sure we took care of everything from meetings, con-calls, lunch, coffee breaks, water cooler gossips to bio-breaks, and so forth. But, in the current scenario work seems to have expanded over the time available.

Some suggestions have been echoed by all quarters:

  1. Create dedicated workspace
  2. Get dressed
  3. Stick to office timing
  4. Follow a schedule

 

While all these are good suggestions, and I would happily endorse them to aim at productivity levels seen during the office days. But, what about studies claiming higher productivity if we subscribed to work from home?

One of the leading reasons was employees won’t just work from 9 am to 5 pm—instead, they will cherry-pick their most-productive hours. Be it working in front of a television set, or while sipping a cup of coffee. Each one of us will discover our sweet spots when it comes to productivity. And make no mistake, they will tend to fluctuate with time, but higher productivity was promised all the way.

To delve a little further, it seems like a mix of flexibility alongside trust are the key ingredients for higher productivity. Most of us don’t indulge in an extended lunch because we are mindful of our deliverables which keeps productivity intact. Our mind is like a parachute; it works when it’s open. Hence, an open ticket to perform brings out a higher level of performance. Responsible behavior drives this performance once KPIs and performance expectations are clearly articulated and communicated. While we should not rule out governance calls completely, but at the same time, we should be wary of being overbearing. Over-governance is often interpreted as a lack of trust which drives lower productivity amongst teams. Hence, I shall make a case for letting people work at peace and to simply monitor their deliverables.

In the US, where 30% of the working population are gig workers haven’t seen any loss of productivity. In fact, they bear the same level of commitment to deliverables as full-time employees. Hence, it’s a fallacy that efficiency demands office presence. With affordable high-speed internet and video conferencing at our disposable work from home doesn’t seem far-fetched anymore. In fact, it seems to be loaded with benefits for both employers and employees. And, it’s not limited to the service sector alone, even manufacturing set-ups where certain roles are well-suited for work from home do not merit physical presence on the shop floor.

But, at the same time, we can’t turn a blind eye towards a certain set of challenges. The ones like inter-departmental work, how does one collaborate on cross-functional projects? How will the very important grapevine be kept alive? How will the instant recognition work? And, various elements of group dynamics will simply seize to exist.

And it’s for reasons like these that a complete work from home is not desirable. Instead, a rhythmic pattern of work from home will be the building blocks to mature and resilient organizations.

On the brighter side, power centres and politics will have to take a back seat. People would be more concerned with maintaining work-life balance as opposed to perceptions, and as a result, focus on performance. And the so-called bell curve will solely apply to performance outcomes as opposed to perceptions. Thereby providing a more balanced and fair assessment which will lead to better acceptance of performance ratings. Not to conclude that perception will be irrelevant, but it will certainly be far less popular.

To sum it all up, I would like to pose a few questions. Is there a silver lining to the COVID-19 crisis? Will it provide opportunities for companies to save on infrastructure costs? Can organizations work with frugal workspaces, reduced electricity bills, lower conveyance claims, and so forth? How would employees react to this new working arrangement where they must commute only for important client meetings, board meetings, review meetings? Can companies compensate for personal infrastructure built by employees for office use in the form of bonuses and increments?

Now that we have some time on us, these are a few pertinent questions worth pondering over. And if you are one of those who still don’t seem to have the time, well, these are definitely a few questions worth pondering over.