First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ajiet Degaonkar: Thank you for asking. By the grace of God, we are safe and healthy. I hope everyone at your place is safe and healthy. Please take care and stay safe.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Jalopeura
Ajiet Degaonkar: I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology from SIT, Lonavala. I resigned from a number of MNC companies and had a consistent series of failures in small-small ideas and startups which motivated me to launch my startup Jalopeura.The vision was “To make a positive difference in the lives of those around us.” Each lesson learnt from the failures motivated us to keep on trying.
How does Jalopeura innovate?
Ajiet Degaonkar: Open Innovation is the right option for challenging times such as now, and this is what customers need. Our innovation is mainly centred on addressing long-standing challenges and discovering long-term investment. However, the present target market is not huge enough for us, but we want to spin like we previously did in the foreseeable future. Thus, we have redesigned our Business Model Innovation to make sure that we have exactly what customers want to survive during and after the pandemic.
COVID-19 surely reinforced our Digital Transformation that we continually worked through forward-thinking, customer-focus, evolution of products, services and processes, transformational leadership and digitization etc. – for our employees, partners and customers. This has kept us as a digital company.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Ajiet Degaonkar: In this unprecedented situation, business models and strategies rarely survive. As the boxer, Mike Tyson once said to his opponents’ pre-fight strategy: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”. We used this crisis to identify the extraordinary opportunity and initiate changes in our core digital capabilities.
We primarily focus on communicating with our employees in an urgent, transparent, and empathic manner as well as support their mental health in times of crisis. We strengthened their mental well-being through virtual conferencing, where we continually listened to their queries, concerns, and considered their ideas. Working remotely has helped us avoid burnout for we have embraced the flexibility that comes with working from home, thus creating work-life balance. Covid-19 might intensify the pressures to have effective collaboration among the front lines employees and teams
Even in my darkest moments as Founder/CEO, I never chose to reduce the size of the company or lay-offs. Instead, the chiefs analyses our business-model risks and opportunities that are presented during the crisis. We have made tough decisions with the help of disciplined engagement in activities such as hiring top tech talents, prioritizing corporate social responsibility and reinforcing the company’s goals frequently.
All these plans and strategies have kept our company afloat. We are also preparing for permanent remote work post-pandemic.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Ajiet Degaonkar: During the early and mid-stages of the outbreak, we made some challenging choices. We re-examined our strategy, strengthened our teams and repositioned our sales channel mix.
In response to this crisis, we introduced top-down leadership and encouraged our employees to innovate. As we are into both B2B and B2C, we are leaning towards the O2O (online-to-offline) approach to take advantage of new customer behaviours. We have rebalanced our product portfolio, and innovated around new customers’ needs.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Jalopeura in the future?
Ajiet Degaonkar: In times of fear and economic uncertainty, I struggled with critical issues such as severe depression, stress and anxiety. Running a company is stressful, and many things can go wrong, thus sinking the ship. While dealing with myself, I always focus on the road, not the wall. As Founder/CEO, I always try to cope with the stress by being consistent. Further, the difference between fear and courage is a thin line; thus, I always motivate myself not to punk out or quit, and this helps to calm my nerves.
The most important thing we managed in the COVID-19 times is to make our employees’ well-being our top priority. We achieved this by taking swift actions of sharing precise, timely, and unclouded information with the team. Sharing the available resources was the key to dealing with employees’ uneasiness. We enlightened our leaders, managers, and colleagues on how to support employees and keep the organization steady.
Your final thoughts
Ajiet Degaonkar: In the technology business, we take care of people, product, profits and focus on what we need to get right as well as stop worrying about all the things that we did wrong or might do wrong.
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