A ‘Phygital’ Future For Work

The panels offered unique perspectives on the growth of digital tools, agility enabled by technology, increase in sustainable & safe mobility, and envisioned a future of multilocational satellite offices

The panel on ‘Remote working and its impact on organizational culture and operations’ comprised of Barnik Chitran Maitra- Managing Partner & CEO for India & South Asia at Arthur D Little India, Abhinav Jain- CoFounder & CEO of Almond Virtex, Amit Gupta- CoFounder & CEO of Yulu Bikes, Harsh Pokharna- the Co-Founder & CEO of OkCredit and Anshuman Panwar- the Co-Founder of Creditas Solutions. The panel was moderated by Dr. Annurag Batra, Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, BW Businessworld & exchange4media Group.

Deliberating on the impact of remote offices across sectors like Fintech, logistics, virtual events, and management consultancies, the panel began in agreement that while operations were impacted by remote working, not all were impacted detrimentally. Some have seen a pandemic-induced upturn and profitability. 

Anshuman Panwar who heads a technological solution provider for debt recovery and delinquency management felt the pandemic improved profits and also jumpstarted the plans for the future. He added that though financially sound and profitable, culturally the effects have been unfair on some more than others. “The recruits are the most affected, to them, the water cooler conversations and actively coming to office, is an important way of building a social life that is beyond their work. The senior members can catch up on zoom but it is not the same for the younger recruits.”

Harsh who runs a digital ledger app for small business owners stated that initially, the company didn’t see the financial upswing but we worked towards making office interactions more engaging. “Our activity dropped significantly (due to the pandemic). In times of uncertainty, credit-giving behavior is rare and collections have suffered. But our team rose to challenge. Although many communication channels are available, it is the trust you build that is more important. Not only through slack or email but also be with them (employees) informally. And something as simple as video-on only meetings can help culture and team building”

Barnik Maitra of Arthur D Little India had a more critical take on remote working. “With the technology adoption surging, we now know traveling to locations will be on a discretionary basis, and off-sights, leadership meets, and retreats will be limited. But the more disturbing effects are how it (remote working) has a detrimental effect on mental health. And how women will suffer most. We already are seeing their labor participation rates have dropped. So having a physical office as a safe space to work and collaborate is not a bad thing,” he said.

Abhinav Jain, whose company offers virtual product and event platform felt that while the longing to go back to physical spaces remains, it will at best be a ‘Phygital’ as the different parts of the world can now come together more easily. He advises that simplicity of use, engagement for all attendees, and ensuring the security of their digital footprint will be more important in the future. “No one is looking for 3D sets anymore, people want a simplified experience, something similar to physical- a ‘Phygital’ experience and to provide that for scale, we can use technology”.

Talking on roads that are not taken anymore, quite literally, Amit Gupta of Yulu Bikes pointed out how there is scope for sustainable and safe mobility in the pandemic. “We know now that 30-40% people won’t come back to workspaces. This will reduce the scope of companies in the mobility space and the movement of people too. However, gains can be made on Group mobility v/s individual mobility. Safety and sustainability has been fast-tracked and we can catch up on the share that autos and cabs and other group travel means hold”

 The panel then discussed trends they can expect going forward and entertained the possibility of ‘Satellite Offices’- small office units in multiple cities and agreed that though workspaces have been altered irreversibly, workspaces could become more connected, collaborative, and productive.

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