Major tipping point for digital transformation of workplace: Ram Iyer, Vayana

Source: DataQuest

Vayana Network was started with a vision to democratize the access to trade finance to the smallest of enterprises. It designs tailor-made, affordable, closed-loop programs to meet the financing demands of businesses and their supply chain partners with simplicity and speed.  Here, Ram Iyer, founder and CEO, Vayana Network, tells us about the future of work. Excerpts from an interview:

DQ: How are you dealing with the Covid-19 situation? What plans have you put in place? 

Ram Iyer: The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted lives, livelihoods, communities and businesses worldwide. We are witnessing how everyone around the world is coming together to find out innovative ways to minimize the impact of COVID19.

We are an employee first company and keeping the current situation in mind, no job is more important than taking care of the well-being of the entire team. We, at Vayana, have a wide network, which further helps us in staying connected with all our stakeholders during this unprecedented period, no matter where we are sitting out of.  The bright spot for us has been to witness the energy and teamwork and to see how everyone around is pitching in to help the colleagues and communities. We are very confident that this phase shall pass too and we will emerge from this challenge in a strong manner.

The following are some initiatives by the Vayana Network Team:·
* Proactive steps have been taken by the team to ensure that employees and their families stay safe during this crisis·
* We are constantly in touch with our customers stranded in the city to check if we can offer our support and help them in any manner required
* We have established employee wellbeing programs and policies that support a safe working environment
*  Additionally, we are offering cross functional/ domain training to our employees
*  We have put forward a strong business continuity plan in place and are revisiting cost centres, investment priorities, focussed hiring, to further invest in L&D, as training the employees with the desired skill sets (cross-functional training).

DQ: Are you giving employees more control over their schedules?

Ram Iyer: We are an employee-first company. Our teams in Pune, Bangalore, Jaipur, Vadodara , Mumbai, Delhi, US and Singapore started working remotely much before the lockdown was announced. We have surely given our employees more control over their schedules as all our employees are completely aware of their roles and responsibilities. We are open to virtual meetings, to check if they require any guidance. We believe that giving control helps the employees take ownership of the work that they do, which further results in great outcomes.

DQ: How are you assessing learnings from enforced experiments around WFH?

Ram Iyer: We have embraced a steeper learning curve by offering cross functional/ domain training to our employees. The learnings we, as an organisation, are getting of our resilience and capabilities to continue to deliver value, while working remotely and keeping everyone safe. We are also having a weekly virtual happy hour with the teams, where we have chai pe charcha and Vayana got talent. We think it’s a cool way to keep everyone connected and light up spirits while we work from home.

DQ: This is a challenging time for managers. What advice would you give them?

Ram Iyer: According to us it is not a challenging time. We believe that it’s a great time for leaders as they can be a little more hands-off, regarding planning and scheduling. They have an opportunity to learn, i.e., by figuring out how the employees are doing on a daily basis. We have always had an entrepreneurship culture, wherein everyone is a CEO of their own roles, responsibilities and functions.

DQ: How does work/life balance work in a crisis like this?

Ram Iyer: The lines are blurred when it comes to working from home and having a work life balance. There are certain things that require strict discipline especially when you are working from home such as follow routine and meeting deadlines. We still have lunch breaks at specific timelines and make sure that no meetings are scheduled during lunch hours. This further helps us build a consistent schedule. We have always encouraged our employees when offices were operational to log in at a specific time and log out at a specific time. We make sure there are no stretched hours, until dire requirements.

DQ: What are the policy responses you would give to the MSMEs and SMEs?

Ram Iyer: Some policy responses that can be specifically in the supply chain can be corporate driven models. The major role is for the corporates to support and take care of the MSMEs in their supply chain. This can be done by introducing them to financiers for access to capital, offering Dealers an extension of credit period or early payment to Suppliers. Encourage all the enterprises higher in the supply chain to take care of the ones below in the supply chain.


DQ: How are you now facilitating digital work?

Ram Iyer: Vayana Network is a fintech company, which is a digital technology trade financing platform. We were digital before the pandemic as well, and we are currently facilitating work with our vendors on our digital platform itself.

DQ: How are the latest technologies going to redefine the workplace?

Ram Iyer: There are going to be various technological advancements due to the pandemic. There will be a shift in behaviour because of the latest technologies. There will be more and more people relying on the internet to get their work done. Workplaces will become technologically advanced in terms of health of the employees, connectivity with other offices and diversification of businesses.

DQ: How do you plan for a future of ‘decent digiwork’?

Ram Iyer: Covid-19 may prove to be a major tipping point for digital transformation of the workplace. At Vayana Network, since it is a digital trade financing platform, we are already used to working digitally even before the pandemic. For employees and customers, we are already witnessing a lot of virtual sales meetings taking place. This itself is a huge transformational change when it comes to closure of deals, saves on travel time.

We are well prepared for a future of digiwork because that is our motive – to turn every MSME digital without any adoption, to change management and bring them on to the platform.