Last week, Chennai-based FMCG major and pioneers of the Indian Sachet revolution, CavinKare, announced that it would no longer have a corporate office.
Last week, Chennai-based FMCG major and pioneers of the Indian Sachet revolution, CavinKare, announced that it would no longer have a corporate office. The company decided to ask 300 of its employees to work from home, "permanently".
Nearly 40,000 square feet of prime office space owned by the company on Chennai's up-market Cenotaph Road is up for rent, following the company’s chairman and managing director, CK Ranganathan inviting bids for it in the open market. The decision, he says, was born out of sheer will and conviction — and some number-crunching.
"COVID-19 taught us that bringing people together under one roof was not good, which meant that 'work from home' (WFH) was a decision that we were forced to take," says Ranganathan in a chat with CNBC-TV18.com, "Over the course of the last three months, however, we have seen productivity go up and travel time saved. In all, this totals to an employee putting in an extra 55 days per-year."
Product Launch Timelines "Crushed"
At first glance, the benefits (as was the case with every other company running a WFH model) were for all to see: operating costs and travel time was saved. But Ranganthan soon discovered hidden advantages.
"We realised that we could hire talent from anywhere across the state and let them work from their small towns, which contributed to better economic dispersion since this talent would not have to come to Chennai, and to a physical office space," he says, "Our meeting efficiency also saw major improvement given that our executives ended up speaking to the point on virtual meetings."
The results were for all to see. The last three months, Ranganathan claims, saw CavinKare halve the time taken for product launches as launch timelines have been "crushed". He added, "Our employees get to spend more time with their families, and working from home has turned out to be a huge boon for female employees since women tend to play multiple roles when compared to men."
'Competitors Lack Resolve, Won’t Follow Example’
For a few years now, even before the COVID-19 pandmic, working from home was largely seen as the domain of IT companies whose work culture and nature of the job allowed for remote working.
Until the pandemic, manufacturing or FMCG companies allowing employees to work remotely was quite simply unheard of. But even as India crawls back to normalcy in the 'Unlock’ phase of the COVID-19 crisis, the CavinKare boss does not expect his competitors to follow his example.
"Implementing a blanket WFH plan requires a great deal of resolve and conviction," says Ranganathan, "I don’t see that presently among FMCG companies. Most of these brands are scoring self-goals by talking about how you can’t replace working from an office. That is not true, if you have conviction."
Monthly Meet-Ups To Bridge Gap In Social Interactions
Coincidentally, JLL's Sandeep Sethi wrote this piece on CNBC-TV18.com last week reporting that nearly 82 percent of Indian employees want to get back to the office for lack of social interactions while working from home.
However, Ranganathan has an answer: "We hope to organise meet-ups at hotels every month so that employees won’t miss out on person-to-person interactions." The CavinKare boss is also quick to clarify that his permanent WFH decision wasn’t forced owing to cost-saving: "It was all about increasing productivity."
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic saw CavinKare make headlines for the launch of its one-rupee hand-sanitiser sachets under its 'CHIK' brand. While the company’s hygiene products have done well in the midst of a healthcare crisis, sales of its packaged cool drinks under the brand ‘Cavin’s’ have been impacted as have its Green Trends salons, which have seen a drop in walk-in customers.
First Published: IST