Coronavirus: Progress Through A Lockdown

By Invitation: Head of Audi India tells us how his team is handling the Covid-19 pandemic, and the measures they've currently adopted.

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Audi India boss says Q1 of 2020 was flat for Audi India, but negative for the premium car segment

We find ourselves in unprecedented times - the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing lockdown has changed the way we operate. Commercial activities have ground to a halt and people are working from their homes. While this has given people a chance to reassess what's important and what matters to them the most; we have to be realistic of the challenges in the world that beholds us. It is easy to throw the term 'business as usual', but the fact is, it will take months for normalcy to restore. The automotive industry, which was already facing difficult times for over 18 months now, is further staring at an even more challenging phase. At Audi India, we had anticipated a flat year (2020) in terms of sales growth, however the numbers for the overall luxury car market have declined in quarter one 2020. While it is too early to predict the full impact of Covid-19, the year forward looks rather challenging and we anticipate strong headwinds in next few quarters.

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Balbir at his home office: Like many teams, digital platforms are allowing virtual meetings for team Audi

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Audi Cars

Sustaining a business in a scenario like this does come with its own share of curveballs. Having said that, we at Audi India are working with a focused approach, keeping in mind 'Strategy 2025', while managing the current challenge at hand. While we devise newer ways to execute our business strategy, the current, new normal includes interacting with all stakeholders via digital mediums, managing teams online and making the right business decisions, from the comfort of your home offices. All of these activities and tasks are focussed towards sustaining a business. Business planning is key during such times. Our top priority is to minimise the impact on our customers, partners, and teams. We are actively engaging at all levels so that we can support each other and sail through these challenging times. While we distance ourselves from each other during this lockdown to be safe, we are all in this together and will definitely emerge stronger.

There is a combination of ways to deliver and sustain a business during tough times and in the recovery phase.

People Safety

The first and foremost topic for us is people safety; be it our customers or employees of our partners / our office, or society at large. We are working with our partners to share and implement guidelines and best practices to ensure a disinfected work environment at showrooms and workshops - as and when we open our business.

Boost Employee And Stakeholder Morale

I have always believed that a business is as good as the people associated with it. It is important to keep your teams motivated for such situations and empower them to deal with untravelled waters. Employees are facing a stressful situation and it is a good idea to start the day with a team call - to not only discuss work, but to also check up on each other and boost each other's morale. It is goes a long way!

Connecting Online

Through digital mediums like Skype for business, I personally connect with colleagues, partners and the global HQ - we see each other through video calls and it more-or-less ends up feeling like a regular day at work.

Being Prudent

When a business faces challenging times, it is wise to look inwards and shed the burden that isn't required; expense-wise, not people. Being pragmatic in times like these is the way to be - to clearly distinguish between what a business actually needs versus what a business wants.

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Audi has had a busy start to the year. The last launch was the A8L flagship sedan.

Bolstering The Business Network

In this crucial scenario, a business must maintain a healthy relationship with all its stakeholders - including employees, business partners and suppliers. The entire network is interlinked and it is extremely important to work together, support and reassure each other during this phase.

Productivity: The Need Of The Hour

The traditional way of working has changed in such unforeseen times. Employees are attending to home chores, in addition to their day-to-day tasks. Hence, there is now an overlap of work hours and what were traditionally out of work hours. This requires adapting to newer ways of working and ensuring productivity rather than counting the number of hours you logged in for work. With commercial activities taking a back seat, it is imperative to ensure that financial resources are used as productively as possible.

Keeping An Eye On The Numbers

The end goal of any business is profitability. Challenging times call for a rejig of strategies and exploring newer avenues to expand one's business. It is extremely important to make profits as well as have enough liquid resources. As a brand, we do look at alternate methods of business. This has not only helped us engage our resources more effectively, but has also generated additional revenue for the brand. An effective example for this here is - Audi: Approved Plus - our pre-owned car business. It grew by 11 per cent in 2019.

Digitalisation

In this rather connected world - it is important for businesses to be connected online. While aspects of production do require a plant set-up and manufacturing personnel, a large part of the organisational and managerial work can move to digital. A key pillar of our 'Strategy 2025' - is digitalisation and our continued focus on this topic has helped us stay relevant.

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Audi India's brand ambassador Virat Kohli with Balbir Singh Dhillon, Head of Audi India

Engaging Existing Customers

The customer is at the core of our business and whatever we do, is for our customers. In times like these, engaging existing customers becomes the need of the hour. In line with this strategy, we recently announced an extension on our extended warranty and services plans to relieve customers of any service related burdens. Constant communication is what we believe keeps the relationship alive. As we move forward, we will develop and execute more such channels and initiatives.

Engage Your Audience

Through digital initiatives and activities we are connecting with our audiences. We are creating and executing engagements across digital and social touch points and offering our honest compassion and inherent optimism for our community which is very critical in these uncertain times. Our recently executed global - social campaign #AudiTogether and the #FourRingsChallenge have been very well received in India and has seen the participation of a varied audience. As a brand, it is vital to stay connected with your audiences during times like these.

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While the above methods are some ways to sustain a business, we at Audi India are staying home, safe and are maintaining a good morale and spirit to tackle our everyday work from home lives. While the COVID pandemic continues to pose unprecedented challenges to the human race, I have no doubt that we will win over it. As a global brand and as a community, our priority is to identify opportunities to #flattenthecurve and reinforce our progressive brand attitude. Although, the current measures of remaining under lockdown do test one's patience, the following quote sums up what I'd like to convey: 'Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting' - Joyce Meyer.

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