Kaizzen's CEO Vineet Handa shares the firm's lockdown survive and thrive strategy
In March 2020, COVID-19 hit pretty much like a tornado and the PR business was, like the majority of business sectors, thrown into a spin.
Vineet Handa, founder and CEO of Kaizzen admitted that "The first two months of the crisis, I was nervous as unlike the bigger agencies I did not have as much of a buffer and muscle. It was not a matter of one or two months, but a question of a long term shift, luckily our employees and clients both stood by us."
Handa says that by July 2020, Kaizzen was able to restore all the pay-cuts which were instituted for all salaries over Rs. 35,000 per month, "All our employees are on full salary. Salaries were restored within 2 months of the lockdown. Moreover, on October 5, 2020, Kaizzen has initiated the appraisal process across all offices. The appraisals will be for the period of 2019-20."
Handa says that one big reason they were able to ride the storm was because they were a smaller firm and were able to offer faster innovation and competitive pricing.
While traditional media engagement is either flat or declining and has been even before COVID, its digital engagement that has grown massively.
We caught up with Vineet Handa for a freewheeling conversation on the COVID experience with Kaizzen:
PRmoment India: What was your guiding principle throughout this tough time
Vineet Handa: These are indeed tough times and our guiding principle during this period has been one of empathy to ‘Stand by our people, no matter what’. We have stood by our employees and our clients during this phase and practicing empathy has really worked well for us, with 100 percent employee and client retention. We have made a sincere effort to recognize people's varied perspectives and requirements during this phase. We have also made a conscious attempt to increase engagement with employees, to keep them motivated and support them through these challenging situations.
Kaizzen had 100% employee retention and no layoffs during the past six months. In fact, the Kaizzen family grew by 30% since April, 2020.
We do regular interactions on Friday with all our colleagues to keep the morale high:
PRmoment India: What is your confidence meter going forward about PR business?
Vineet Handa: PR agencies have never enjoyed greater prominence than today because public relations is the most effective communications tool to generate awareness and engage stakeholders. We have helped our clients with innovative campaign strategies to help them remain visible and positively impact their business during these unprecedented times. The need for effective crisis communication is now more relevant than ever before, which is another aspect that we have managed well for our clients.
PRmoment India: How have you managed to not retrench and are even restoring full pay?
Vineet Handa: In the last few months, many companies have resorted to pay cuts and employee layoffs. Via our focus on retaining all clients and aggressive focus on new business, we were able to retain all employees and also revert to regular salaries within two months. As part of our core value to keep employee interest first, our focus was to restore salaries first, despite the impact on the bottom-line.
Our approach and consistent performance has also led us to get 15 new clients on board during the last 6 months. Also, at the same time, we have a strong pipeline of future businesses. We got good business leads in healthcare and education.
PRmoment India: Why do you feel that the PR business has been the big winner post COVID?
Vineet Handa: PR offers the most value to marketers for their marketing spends. In a scenario where businesses and margins are negatively impacted, companies are increasingly viewing PR as the optimal solution to communicate with customers and other stakeholders. The PR industry has also been very nimble in adapting rapidly to the new normal. PR offers clients with the best value, credibility and reach.
PR industry indeed has been a clear winner during COVID-19 and will remain one post-COVID.
PRmoment India: How did you support your clients during this time?
Vineet Handa: Half a dozen clients had not re-started their engagement, or converted to flexi-pay, low pay or no pay.
We increased client engagement via new technologies that do not require physical presence, adapted strategies to suit the new normal, and even waived off our fee for certain months, in order to support our clients. We increased focus on online media and offered integrated solutions to clients.
PRmoment India Leadership Series 2020