Interview With Subir Kumar Verma

Interview With Subir Kumar Verma

The power sector which was already reeling under severe losses owing to non-payment of dues by the Discoms, has been further impacted owing to the lockdown due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. In the wake of such a crisis, what according to you shall be the impact on the jobs in the power sector in the coming days?


The lockdown announced by the government to control the Covid-19 pandemic has adversely impacted electricity demand as it resulted in shutdown of the industrial and commercial establishments leading to reduction in demand by around 40%. This adversely impacted the revenues and cash collections for distribution utilities in the near term, especially given the consumption decline from the high tariff paying industrial and commercial customers. In addition to challenges like meter reading, collection, regular maintenance & operation work also got slower than usual. Most companies adopted to technology and new way of working to respond to these challenges. In my opinion, most of the companies did extremely good job in running their operation to meet customer expectations along with safety and security of all employees without any job loss. I do not see any job loss in discoms as most of the industries and commercial establishment are open now. However, with this experience, all companies are going to take a cautious approach for future hiring and hiring numbers are surely going to see a downwards trend in short to mid-term. 


We may see spike in hiring for specific skills technology, safety, risk etc. Contract workforce is another area which will be relooked at by companies. The allied workforce vendors will give priority to local workforce to meet any similar challenges in future. 

The breadth, depth, and scale of the novel challenges being experienced by HR Managers owing to the COVID-19 Pandemic are indeed astounding. According to you what are the biggest pain points for the power sector? How do the same need to be tackled by a HR Manager?

This being an essential services, the operation has to continue irrespective of pandemic or any other situation. One of the biggest challenge for this sector is to ensure safety of employees working in the field during such challenging times. This is the top most priority not only for safety of the employee but also to ensure uninterrupted power so that medical, critical services can run without any worry. 


Difficult times needs different approach. HR manager needs to think and implement out of the box measures keeping not only employees but their family member’s physical, emotional and physiological wellbeing in mind. Besides regular HR programs, I highly recommend to focus on “Maximum Communication at all level” and “experiment with new initiatives” with measuring real time impact of each initiatives to ensure that objective are met. For example, we took many initiatives for employees and their family members, but three initiatives which all enjoyed with by far highest participation and related the most (contrary to HR team’s believe!) was “My Lockdown Story – Story of employees & their family members”,  “Symphony – Virtual Rockshow by and for employees & their families) and “Muskurati Jindagi – A web series involving employees & their families”  


Empathy and Genuineness in our approach get noticed and I believe these virtues exhibited by HR team in difficult times go a long way in building real trust. Simple gestures makes the deepest impact in hearts of people than any compensation or reward. 


In our organisation, for physical safety of employees we took measures like an early task force / CFT ensure implementation of measures for safety of our employees, implementation of ROTA, Work from Home, sanitisation & availability of safety equipment and medical support. 


Since this was a never before experience situation for all, it is equally important to address fear from the minds and take care of their emotional and psychological wellbeing. Employees enjoyed work from home for few weeks, but after that insecurity, disconnect and disengagement may come in if they are not connected and made to feel involved regularly. Use of communication technology and focus on adopting new practices in HR policies too needs to be looked into. 


The COVID-19 pandemic has been instrumental for the rapid transformation and/or extinction of certain job roles and the emergence of newer job roles in almost every sector. In terms of job roles, what are the changes that you foresee for the power sector in the days to come?
Some major changes that may be seen in not only the power sector but other sectors as well, is the requirement of trained manpower in areas like cyber security, application development, database management and other such IT skills. This pandemic has shown us the huge requirement of automated processes which can enable the employees to work remotely while providing the best customer service through minimal contact between the stakeholders. It is the right time to start developing these niche skills and processes within the organisation as well, if not yet started, to enable the future sustainability and growth.


Professional with soft skills like Emotional Intelligence, Innovation, Creativity, Influencing and inspiring managers at all levels are going to be in demand. 


The roadmap for the power sector announced by the Indian Finance Minister to revise the existing policies must come as some respite for the power sector. How do you advocate HR Managers utilise such a fillip for boosting employee morale?


HR Managers need to align the employees with the overall objective of the organisation. The employees need to be given clear understanding of what is expected from them and how it is leading to organisational’s goal. Their efforts need to be appreciated frequently along with providing them all the support like learning interventions to enable. The Financial package is dependent on the performance of the discoms, so it is essential that roles of the employees are correctly aligned to help them move in the correct direction.

What according to you are the biggest opportunities that the COVID-19 has brought forth for the energy sector? 


I would say, the opportunity for us in this sector are two, to upgrade the infrastructure, system to adopt maximum possible automation and second is to change our mind set of “from conventional way of working to adopt and sustain this new way of working to be more lean, efficient and cost light”.  Those who can adopt will probably be the leaders in the future.  


The time during period has also forced us to introspect and look for new business model and value stream within this segment through intrapreneurship and innovation which has the potential to scale up and be new business for the company.  

With the mass exodus of the migrant workforce who make for a huge contingent of the frontline jobs in the power sector, do you anticipate sweeping changes in the labour laws to ease faster recruitment of skilled labour in the power sector?

Contract workers are significant in number and plays very important role in power sector. I would say that due nature of job in power sector, during this pandemic times also, power sector along with its vendors took care of contract workforce really well and I do not see mass exodus of these workers. While there was mass exodus in other sectors, fortunately power sector was least impact. However, it will surely be there in the minds and opportunity for local workers will increase. While government is working on consolidation and changes in labour laws, I am sure long term sustenance of industry and welfare of workers will be kept in mind. I would prefer to see “collective efforts and solidarity between the government, employers and workers” with ease in hiring & compliance of contract workforce related laws. 


I also feel that it is the time to have an integrated portal of all contract workers in the country with skills, experience, location and demographic data to help industries hire the right local talent and facilitates industries to avoid such mass exodus of the migrant workforce in future. 



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