How Essilor found an opportunity in disruption

The prescription lens company made optimal use of the lull period to train its sales force as well as the staff at its client stores.

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Hardly any business, other than essential goods, remained unaffected by the lockdown. The impact was felt by Essilor India too, which supplies lenses, eyeglasses and spectacles to around 35,000 independent opticians around the country.

With eyewear stores getting closed in the first and second phases of the lockdown, sales took a hit. Consequently, business dropped to almost zero. Even after the lockdown was lifted in some parts and the eyewear stores were allowed to open for a few hours, business picked up at a very slow pace, because these stores had to be closed by evening, which is actually the time for maximum customer footfall.

However, the low business volume failed to deter the Company. It saw an opportunity during the lull period, and optimised it to train its sales force and also the staff at the client stores.

Srees PP, head-HR, Essilor South Asia, says, “When business is as usual and at its peak, there is always a scarcity of time to upskill the workforce. That is why, we declared April and May as learning months, during which we engaged with our people and trained them.”

“As part of our global programme, we undertook product training and rewarded the sales employees handsomely,” reveals Sree.

As mentioned, the training was not restricted only to the internal team, but extended even to the opticians and their staff, who were imparted digital training sessions.

Srees PP

 “When business is as usual and at its peak, there is always a scarcity of time to upskill the workforce. That is why, we declared April and May as learning months, during which we engaged with our people and trained them.”

“The opticians are our local trusted men, and they are in direct contact with the customers. Therefore, we used to the lockdown period to brush up their knowledge on the latest technologies deployed at our manufacturing units,” points out Srees.

Srees also admits that the Company underwent a radical change in HR belief during and post the lockdown. “As a company, we became more outcome focussed,” he declares.

The Company had fully functional teams equipped to work from home. Generally, in the manufacturing space, the concept of remote working does not exist at all and employees are required to be physically present at the workplace.

“We realised that we do not need the entire workforce all the time. There are certain functions that require employees to come in to work once in a week and there are others that do not need them to come in at all unless the job absolutely requires them to,” he explains.

Srees discloses that due to the uncertainty all around, the Company is taking it one month at a time. “We are ensuring that the workforce stays motivated and feels they are equal partners in this journey.”

When asked about the performance appraisal, Srees says that the Company plans to reward the employees for their performance during these challenging times, by the end of this year. “We have kept the criteria as flexible as possible, and it will undergo change,” he reveals.