Managing ourselves in the pandemic

I wanted to share some reflections on how our colleagues and communities across the country have worked together to overcome the hurdles we’ve all faced in recent months.

Mental health professionals have been busier than ever, trying to comprehend an accelerating loop of impacts on our psyches as the pandemic unravels families, livelihoods, businesses.

As I think about these assaults on our psyche, I ask how I as a business leader running a large industrial organisation have responded, whether the business I lead has moved with speed and sensitivity to guard our people and ensure they emerge stronger.

And that is why, 16 months after the pandemic hit our shores and our lives, I can make this claim: not only is our business stronger; our people are more tightly bound by shared goals and a view of the future undimmed by what stands behind us.

Safety is our uncontested priority. We enforce both our own rigorous guidelines as well as local and national rules. This meant we could accelerate to full capacity when conditions permitted, just six weeks after the first lockdown. In fact, in November 2020, we achieved our highest ever monthly production.

We directly engage more than 10,000 people across India and beyond. All bar a handful have been vaccinated, including their families. Everyone has been instructed on health protocols, personal healthcare equipment is standardised and enforced, and movement in the plant has been restricted to people with least one dose.

Working from home has become more than a pandemic stopgap. As a manufacturer, there are limits to WFH. Initially, our staff were ingenious in extracting value from remote working (such as organizing remote regulatory approvals for new processes). WFH has merit and we will respond to systemic changes that redefine how we organize ourselves.

If our communities hurt, we hurt. We wasted little time in mobilising the supply of medical grade oxygen, converting nitrogen tankers to transport oxygen, and delivering 260 metric tonnes of medical grade oxygen each day from Hazira to points across Gujarat and other states. Then, over 72 hours, we assembled a 250-bed COVID-19 hospital near Hazira at the request of the PM. This was ramped up to 600 beds. Our technical staff collaborated with the government to provide 7000 units of medical grade oxygen cylinders and 2000 units of flow meters.

Finally, we’ve tracked the economy. Small enterprises bore the brunt of the pandemic’s fallout. We responded by expanding our Hypermart network. This dedicated sales platform for MSMEs has the making of a deeper ecosystem and already provides support services and credit lines to 320 SMSEs.

At the heart of each of these examples is an individual, a team and a community. Their mental well-being ensures the success of our business, community and country, and our preparedness for the next wave.


By Mr. Dilip Oommen,
CEO, ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel India.