Techspectations 2020 | Ashok Lalla moots 175-day revival plan for COVID-hit biz

Ashok Lalla
Ashok Lalla was delivering the Lead Talk on Digital Marketing 2021 - The What and How for Brands at Manoramaonline's virtual digital summit Techspectations on Friday.

Independent digital business advisor Ashok Lalla has recommended what he called a “Three A” or 175-day revival strategy for businesses hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

They are: Assess, Action and Accelerate, and they are stages through which the struggling business entity has to move to tide over the crisis.

Lalla was delivering the Lead Talk on Digital Marketing 2021 - The What and How for Brands at Manoramaonline's virtual digital summit Techspectations on Friday. Lalla, who had been the head of the digital for marquee brands like Taj and Infosys, also gave a time frame of each of these three stages.

Don't attempt to outrun Usain Bolt

The 'Assess' stage, he said, should be done in a week or 10 days. “This involves knowing where we are, where we stand,” Lalla said. He also said it was important to do the assessment in the context of competition. Assess the health of your competition, he said. Don't ever try to outrun Usain Bolt.

He gave a jungle saying to sketch his point. “If you and your friend were chased by a lion, you don't have to run faster than the lion. You just have to outrun your friend,” he said. Along with this, Lalla said companies should also assess what he called “digital fitness”. Digital transformation has become inevitable, more so after the pandemic struck.

Don't bite more than you can chew

After the assessment is done, comes the action part. Lalla said five to seven action plans based on the assessment should be drawn up for both remedies and interventions. “Don't bite more than you can chew,” he advised.

Cut waste, he said, but desist from low-cost initiatives. "The important thing is to make the new initiatives at a minimum viable threshold," Lalla said. He also wants “milestone-based” progress to be put in place.

The Action stage, which is a wait and watch period, should take about 75 days.

Make the final dash

Ashok Lalla
A slide presented by Lalla during the talk.

Then, based on the results of the “Action” stage, accelerate. “Analyse the progress over the next 60 days, review the position in a competitive environment, against the goals set and competition,” he said. If the strategies are working fine, scale up. The “acceleration” has to happen in 90 days.

Put together, and if things work according to plan, the revival will happen in 175 day, in less than six months. According to him, a deep insight about consumer needs would perhaps be the most valued asset for a company. "With this, two-thirds of the bridge is crossed," Lalla said.

Strike up with frenemies

He also said that companies should consider "making frenemies". Meaning, find a partner for collaboration from among competitors. "You will be surprised to find how many companies are looking to collaborate to cut costs," Lalla said.

He also said that digital automation was not an end in itself. It is true that digital tools like Zoom have made business more productive, he said. “But don't think of tools as an end. It is only an interface. You have to do your work. Just having a website will not bring customers to your site like rats after Pied Piper,” he said.

Brands that made most of COVID

Lalla also named a few brands that successfully rode the pandemic. Zoom, of course, is one. “It was in the right place at the right time,” he said. “It took a pandemic for Zoom to realise what it could do. It could have been done earlier, but then it would have been a harder sell," he added.

Then he said there were hospitals that turned to home care. Certain big hospitality brands like Taj delivered "specially curated meals" to home.

The surprise, however, was Doordarshan. He said they re-telecast serials from the eighties, lke Ramayana, to revive their soil-scraping TRPs.

Lalla said there were also opportunistic strategies whose benefits would not perhaps outlast the pandemic. Brands like Amul and Dabur, he said, sold immunity products. An outdoor retailer like Wildcraft branched into mask-making. "Now it sells more masks than outdoor gear," Lalla said.