In a time of crisis, stay with your core strength: Uday Shankar

Discussing ‘Opportunities Amidst Adversity during COVID-19’ with upGrad founder Ronnie Screwvala, Shankar says the world will emerge stronger after this crisis

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Apr 16, 2020 8:13 AM
Uday Shankar

“We all are worried about what if someone we care about catches the virus. If we move from personal health and safety and start looking out at the outside world, the fears get even more complex,” said Uday Shankar, President of The Walt Disney Company Asia Pacific, and Chairman of Star India and The Walt Disney Company India.

In an online webinar hosted by upGrad, Uday Shankar shed light on how he braved through some of the toughest times of his life and came out successful despite all adversity. Discussing  ‘Opportunities Amidst Adversity during COVID19’ with upGrad founder Ronnie Screwvala, Shankar said in the times of such crisis, the economy does look bad but this is not the end of the world. The world has seen many crises and has come out much stronger than before.

He said that people are worried. Working professionals are worried about their jobs and start-ups, entrepreneurs are worried about what will happen to their businesses.

Shankar added, “The economy does look bad and there is no point in trying to soften the bad news. It's time to get prepared for that. People who were lucky enough to escape the infection now will have to face the other challenges. Some people will have to face a reduction in salary and some may have to lose their jobs. Those who have business may have to struggle with liquidity and cash.” 

He explained that one doesn’t need to be an expert in economics to understand this. "If the entire country is under lockdown (for all the right reasons) it essentially means that the wheels of the economy have come to a halt and that will have its effects. It looks like at least a couple of quarters will totally be lost in terms of economic value. “This is a kind of economic setback that this country has not seen since independence. We had many hiccups and turbulence along the way but this kind of undifferentiated pan-national economic crisis is not something we have seen,” he explained.

Shankar said that this virus has created a crisis which is unprecedented. “The first and foremost lesson we need to take is that this is a crisis and a setback. The world will emerge stronger and find a cure for the virus and will get back our lives. Everyone should stay positive and believe in this.”

Shankar further said that he is a practitioner and not a theoretician. He said that his learning is based on his own experiences and the journey he has led. He shared, “I created a crisis of my own 25 years ago. When I was a well-settled news journalist, by all accounts I was comfortable but I had this massive desire for TV. It was just started in India and I was fascinated about it. One day I just quit my job which was paying me very well and decided to try my luck in television and what followed was a few years of serious hardship. We should not worry about the unknown because it is not in our control.” 

He said we should rather think about how to deal with this situation. He explained four-five points on how everyone should deal with the current crisis. He suggested, “Firstly, we should reduce all the risk that we take. The strategy is all about making choices and what you can avoid right now and what you must do right now. In times of crisis stay with your core strength and invest/build on that strength not on anything new or different for some time. Secondly, reduce your liability whether it is in your business or in personal life. Anything which is not urgent can wait and third, take risks but take calibrated risks because at this time nobody is taking the risk.”

He gave an example of his own company and said, “We voluntarily rolled out a programme for senior executives to take a salary cut. We don't need it but we decided that as an investment in the future and we want to be prepared. I am happy to say that it's been hugely received. To the young executives, I say that this is the time when we invest in the next cycle. In one years time or two years' time can we be twice as strong as we were when the crisis hit us? To do that there must be a plan and we should start working towards that plan.”  

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