I went blank when we lost 80% staff in the first two days of the Covid-19 lockdown: BigBasket’s CEO Hari Menon

Written by Debashish Pachal | New Delhi |

Updated: November 27, 2020 10:13:57 AM

Hari Menon, CEO of BigBasket, speaks at the 9th edition of Isha Insight. (Source: Isha Foundation)

Speaking of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on businesses around the world, Hari Menon, CEO of BigBasket, one of India’s famous online grocery platforms, said his company lost 80 percent of its workforce when the lockdown was imposed on March 25, even after orders kept piling up.

Speaking to BS Nagesh, non-executive chairman of Shoppers Stop at the 9th edition of Isha Insight, Menon said he was “blank for a few days” from the lockdown. “After losing 80 percent of the workforce in two days, we were amazed when orders poured in and we hired 12,300 people in 16 days. This has demonstrated the power of resilience, ”says Menon.

Isha Foundation’s three-day virtual business leaders event kicked off earlier today with a keynote speech from founder Sadhguru.

Speaking during the conversation, Menon said BigBasket’s goal in early January this year was to become the top-three supermarket platform by the end of the year, highlighting how he took inspiration from his father-in-law E Sreedharan when it came down to managing large projects and deliver them on time.

BS Nagesh, Non-Executive Chairman of Shoppers Stop and Hari Menon, CEO of BigBasket talk at the 9th edition of Isha Insight. (Image source: Isha Foundation)

“He has come up with a reverse clock cycle that will get all his work done on time, which is something I tried to learn from him,” Menon said.

He also spoke about the challenges and failures he faced when he started his journey with BigBasket and the importance of having people who are willing to always learn.

“It’s important to set up a learning organization and the first thing we did at BigBasket was to set up a training and innovation function. It is very important to keep your eyes open and to learn… We had a lot of senior people who had worked in the brick and mortar stores. It took us 6 to 8 months to realize and take off our blinders, we had to lose our past baggage to understand the online business, ”said Menon.

“Learning cultural elements and managing people is more important than being a technocrat and understanding technology, as that can be outsourced as long as you know where your organization is going,” he added.

Menon said his business rose significantly during the lockdown, so much so that they reached their year-long goals by July itself. During this period his relationship with companies in fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) also grew. “We interacted with them three times a day in April-May, otherwise only once every 15 days.”

He also put an emphasis on communication and transparency in a company. “You have to talk to your customers. During the lockdown, we messaged customers and let them know about the challenges we were facing and apologized. Likewise, it is equally important to communicate with your employees. I spoke with my delivery and surgery team regularly. “

Earlier in the day, Sadhguru started the virtual event by addressing attendees at the Isha Institute in Tennessee, USA. He said people need to realize that we can only get through this pandemic with conscious and responsible action.

“As a leader you need insight. You can get all the people who know the subject and do the business. Insight will happen when you see something that isn’t necessarily in the logical perspective of the data in your head. For this you have to bring Clarity of Perception, ”he said.

He asked the participants to continue to transcend the challenges during the pandemic and the economic consequences. “You have to be behind the wheel, put your shoulder on the wheel, so that it moves forward and creates opportunities. If you’re on the other side of the wheel, you’re going to be crushed, ”he said.

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