INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
How to beat a pandemic, with Yogesh Gangotia of SimplePlan Media
Yogesh Gangotia of SimplePlan Media tells us about the things they craft which are stellar, sleek & simple because the best things in life are just that.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Yogesh Gangotia: We are doing fine, thank you for asking! I think we have been very fortunate to be located in a big city (New Delhi, India) where there was no shortage of medical or other supplies even during the peak pandemic. This made sure that my family, our entire SimplePlan team, and I were safe during these tough times. We pray and hope that other parts of the world will also get better as we are approaching the middle of 2021.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded SimplePlan Media.
Yogesh Gangotia: I started my digital career around 10 years ago, during which I worked with several freelance teams, organizations, and agencies in many different positions. From management roles such as project management and business development to execution roles such as content writing and digital marketing, I have been very lucky to have been exposed to several different layers of an agency thanks to some amazing organizations and people that I worked with in the past.
This helped me understand the ins and outs of how the digital landscape works, which is when I realized that most of the models that I worked on were focused on one thing and one thing only – “get the money released from a client.”
Somewhere along the way, I think the industry lost the desire and will to deliver what was actually the best end-product for a client; instead, they focused on delivering whatever is needed to get the next billing done. That is when SimplePlan was born. Rather than focusing on what clients “want to hear,” we focus on what clients “need to hear” to ensure they get the best possible result.
How does SimplePlan Media innovate?
Yogesh Gangotia: At the very core of it, our mission is pretty simple – we help businesses grow.
We do this, keeping one core thing intact – keeping things simple. SimplePlan Media is all about doing great things in the simplest way possible. When we say simple, we don’t mean easy – anyone who has ever tried running a marathon knows what we mean. It sounds simple in theory, but to complete it, you need a lot of core training – from lower body strength to stamina, and most importantly, the desire and focus on completing it no matter what.
And this is where the innovation happens – by simplifying the technological and creative jargon out for our clients, we help them come up with solutions that are essential for their end consumers. This way, our clients can focus on what they know the best – “their business,” and we can focus on everything that we know best – “all things digital.”
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Yogesh Gangotia: Since the pandemic affected the entire world economy, it is no surprise that it has been a big roadblock for our financial goals as well. With that said, I think we did cope up with it better than most industries or organizations. We did see a very moderate 20% growth in the team size during the pandemic, although we had originally anticipated a 50% growth before the pandemic hit. So yes, in all honesty, we did grow, but overall it was a very heavy roadblock in our growth. But then again, we were already pretty digitally equipped to start with.
Additionally, to prioritize the health of our employees, we decided that we need to switch on to a different style that was heavily focused on working from remote locations. All this a couple of weeks before the nationwide lockdowns were rolled out by the State. So I would say we were ready and proactive to adapt very fast, and I think this was one of the primary reasons we were able to cope well with the pandemic.
We even wrote a detailed blog on how agencies can fight with COVID-19. You can get more details on The Four C’s to Combat Covid-19 there.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Yogesh Gangotia: At the very core of it, we are a people-first organization. As I pointed above, we care a lot for our clients and everyone who works with us. While the priority was that everyone at SimplePlan makes it through the pandemic, I would be lying if I said that it was all smooth and fully functional at all times.
Since we did read the Covid-19 situation pretty well in advance, while everything was still escalating in Italy, it was only normal that not everyone on our end could not fully understand it before it actually happens in India. There were a lot of things that we realized in the first week of our trial WoFroH (work-from-home) run, including that it was difficult for some people to work effectively from home.
This resulted in us trying to make everyone fully aware of what was at stake, but there was still a small percentage that probably did not take it so seriously. Eventually, we did have to enforce a few human resource-related processes and let an even smaller percentage of people go. During this period, the major lesson that we learned was that hiring skilled people is important, but hiring people who share the same values as you is more important for any organization culturally. A culturally fit person can better understand your vision and be more honest with their allocated responsibility even in a tricky WoFroH situation.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Yogesh Gangotia: Since we have always been a digitally aware agency from Day-1, this was probably not a hard transition for us. Most of our client relationship management takes place online anyways using Skype, Zoom, and Google Meets, so it was not something that we had to try hard for it came to us naturally. We also adopted more online tools during this period, so a quick shoutout to – Milanote, Trello, everything in G-suite, and Slack (thank-god for Slack).
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Yogesh Gangotia: Since we were doing okay and did not have to let even a single person go during the pandemic for monetary reasons, we did not request or receive any government grants. I always felt that they would be more helpful for organizations in need of them. So we never tried to take that opportunity away from others out there.
Your final thoughts?
Yogesh Gangotia: We like to be an agency that likes to be thoroughly prepared for things (most times to the point of over-preparation). But we would any day choose to be over-prepared than under-prepared for things.
As soon as the situation worsened in other parts of the world, I spent the first week understanding how we can work from home. I talked to our Creative lead to discuss if this was even feasible. Quickly we realized, it was more about something that HAD to be done even if the governments do not take quick action on it. I went on to discuss the situation with our Development lead and our HR, and we quickly took a decision on how this seemingly difficult task of working from home can be implemented with 2 days’ notice. Almost 2-3 weeks later, cases started rising in India, and the government finally decided to implement a lockdown.
Murphy summed it all up in a simple statement, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” I think leaders across the globe should always be better prepared for disruptive situations like Covid-19. If a young leader like myself can do it with my limited resources and capacity, I think world leaders can sure be over-prepared for things with their bigger teams and better resources. Even if there is a 1% chance of something like this happening again, I would still be prepared like this.
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