According to Mckinsey – “COVID-19 has created a massive humanitarian challenge: millions ill and hundreds of thousands of lives lost; soaring unemployment rates in the world’s most robust economies; food banks stretched beyond capacity; governments straining to deliver critical services. The pandemic is also a challenge for businesses—and their CEOs—unlike any they have ever faced, forcing an abrupt dislocation of how employees work, how customers behave, how supply chains function, and even what ultimately constitutes business performance”.
However, all is certainly not lost. According to Ramesh Shanmuganathan, Group CIO of John Keells Holdings (JKH) and CEO of John Keells IT (JKIT), “When we talk of this new normal, it’s not going to be just about the products you sell. It will also be how you sell the product. Companies should focus on core areas to add massive value while collaborating with others to fulfil the end-to-end proposition.”
In order to confront this unique situation, organizational leaders need to start thinking of new ways to stay relevant. The necessity may have arisen as a result of circumstance, but organizations that habitually pivot & evolve, have greater chances of far exceeding the required ability to deliver on market demands in these post-pandemic times.
While its parent company JKH has a rich history dating back over a century, JKIT is relatively new to the former’s umbrella of businesses. However, the company doesn’t lack ambition. JKIT engages with many business leaders regularly, assisting them in identifying innovative uses of technology. Harnessing its power as a transformative element to build and operate businesses.
“We have noticed a lack of depth in thinking by leaders on how to effectively utilize and deploy technology, as well as how often available technology is under-utilized for innovation purposes in organizations. This may be as a result of various factors. We are at a definite advantage in being able to service the JKH group as a key account. Through this arrangement, JKIT gains exposure to the most up-to-date innovations and technologies out there,” Ramesh added.
The vision of JKIT CXO Disrupt
Recognizing this challenge, “JKIT CXO Disrupt” emerged as an effort to introduce the technology adoption methodology used by JKIT towards helping organizations they serve. Through this initiative, the transformation of businesses through innovation was emphasized, which would ultimately lead to improved performance potential and positive outcomes in relationships to critical constituents. The methodology itself, consists of 4 key phases.
The rationale is that organizations need to move sequentially from the first to the fourth phase in order to achieve a level of innovation — causing a shift that triggers system and process transformations that under normal circumstances might have taken years. But through the adoption of this methodology, organizations are able to realize desired impacts in mere days or weeks.
Through JKIT CXO Disrupt, the company hopes to ignite a conversation on how to practically build this level of dynamism within organizations, towards achieving said outcomes. In doing so, reimagining operating models by fully embracing stakeholder capitalism, and harnessing the full power of their leadership peer networks. JKIT aims to conduct a minimum of 10 sessions per year with a very select panel; handpicked following meticulous evaluation as relevant for each topic in discussion.
Recalling the ideas from the 1st session of JKIT CXO Disrupt
The very first session of JKIT CXO Disrupt, named “Reimagine Retail” was held on 28th May 2020. The panel consisted of Ramesh Shanmuganathan; Kasturi Chellaraja, Group CEO of Hemas Holdings PLC; Charitha Subasinghe, President-Retail at John Keells Holding PLC, and was moderated by Rohan Jayaweera, CMO at John Keells Information Technology (Pvt) Ltd.
When mapping the consumer’s journey, it is expected that there will be points of friction. In most instances, customers accept this friction as a given occurrence. However, COVID-19 has challenged several basic assumptions in this regard. “Today digital adoption is closing the gaps between the traditional competitive advantages organizations enjoyed. The value proposition needs to be re-imagined and realized with the concept of the new customer journeys. The customer experience is fast becoming the most critical aspect. We see superior customer experience is another way to define the priority of businesses to reduce/remove friction. During COVID-19 customers did and are willing to tolerate friction as the alternatives are far less. However, it is not a long-term viable option to stay competitive and grow,” explained Ramesh Shanmuganathan.
A similar point was echoed by Kasturi Chellaraja, “The pharmaceutical industry is tightly regulated, which made it too costly to adopt ecommerce and other digital platforms. Further, customers were comfortable with physical stores. But the pandemic has relaxed regulatory barriers and has made consumers rethink how they can obtain their medication. With 60-70% of the population afflicted with non-communicable diseases like diabetes, this was a critical issue once the curfew came into effect.”
Reflecting on how Keells Super had to adapt to the lockdown-imposed curfew, Charitha Subasinghe shared that COVID-19 has only accelerated existing trends. “It is forcing organizations to tweak their business models, with digital and eCommerce playing bigger roles.” Looking at it optimistically, Charitha Subasinghe also stated, “I believe this is an opportunity, which we as business leaders must not waste. It is important that we listen to our consumers.” Due to the crisis, health and safety factors are at the forefront of the responses adopted by corporates, where a digital presence helps consumers and essential workers function through limited contact.
The utilization of existing technology has given corporations fresh opportunities to shift from physical retail to an online platform. Adding to this, Ramesh Shanmuganathan shared “The technologies needed for a supermarket chain like Keells Super to operate online existed many years ago. What has finally changed is our collective mindset and willingness borne out of necessity, to try these platforms in reacting to the sudden landscape shift in the market. Before the crisis, the Keells Super website got only a handful of orders. The technology had always been there. But thanks to a circumstance and mindset change, we now have to operate like a startup, reconfiguring things, and executing ideas at scale in fulfilling the needs of our consumers.”
Adapting to the new normal
COVID-19 has further redefined how businesses are approaching their purpose and value chains to put the needs of the consumers first. Technology has more or less levelled the playing field in overcoming the dependency on physical stores. Disrupting conventional methods of retail across the board, the discussion also brought to light that the true potential of businesses exists in the power to reconfigure their models in caring for the communities around them in a time of crisis. The pandemic we are currently living through is providing corporates an opportunity to think differently, to link value chains, and most importantly, redefine and reimagine the possibilities of their value ecosystems.
The next session of JKIT CXO Disrupt is planned to be held in August and will focus on the future with the very aptly titled theme “Reimagine your future”. It is anticipated to showcase a very international panel in appealing to a much broader and global audience. JKIT aims to invite everyone to experience this session and thereafter, share their feedback on how we could make JKIT CXO Disrupt even better.