“Compassion is an irreplaceable dimension and the quiet power that is most required in any organisation that respects and nurtures the value of its human assets,” says Usharani Manne, Founder-Director, Polmon Group, who believes that though tough times call for tough measures, being human beats all other considerations, especially at a time like this.
A year ago, Usha found herself in the seat of the Chairperson of the Hyderabad Chapter of FICCI Ladies Organization—a pan-India body of women entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, and professionals—with 17 Chapters across India. It would have been a moment of unbridled jubilation for this IWEC awardee, Govt. of Telangana’s Woman Achiever Award winner and FAPCCI’s Best Woman Entrepreneur Award winner, if not for one small hitch: Covid-19. Here’s an excerpt of our conversation with her on what kept her going through the vagaries of the year.
Tell us about Polmon Group—its USP and clientele. What would you count as the Company’s significant achievements?
Polmon is a 25-year-old company with 350 employees. Our products and services—more than 1,500 in number—support the unique needs of over 1,300+ clients across India. Our process expertise spans the whole lifecycle of a project from concept to commissioning.
Hyderabad being the pharmaceutical hub of India, we have had the opportunity of working closely and enduringly for all the leading players in the domains of pharmaceuticals, paper, food, delivering solutions in the areas of instrumentation, automation, medical devices, single fluid heat transfer systems and consultancy services.
To name a few, Dr. Reddy’s, Biocon, Aurobindo Pharma, Mylan, Sanofi, Divi’s, Laurus, Zydus Cadila, Sun Pharma, Jubilant Life Sciences, Biological E, Cipla, Novartis, Pfizer, Schneider Electric, Piramal Healthcare, Glenmark etc. Our products have touched the shores of Bangladesh, African countries, Sri Lanka, U.A.E. and we are working on our plans to explore the Europe and USA markets.
What significant difference did it make to your role as a leader, given the need to recast the operational style? And how are you coping with this second, more virulent, wave?
When it all began in March 2020, India saw a mass exodus of workforce to their hometowns. At Polmon too, almost overnight, less than half of our staff reported to work. While we restructured our working style, we also did not hesitate to incur huge, unexpected expenditure on account of interstate permissions, setting up of more robust IT systems and most importantly, physically picking up materials to avoid supply bottlenecks. When imports became impossible, our R&D team came up with design changes to accommodate alternatives developed by local vendors.
Just as we were relieved that things were limping back to normal, March 2021 happened. And this time around, everything is so much closer home. Many of our employees from senior managers to new joinees are contracting the virus. In many cases, entire families are being hit. As a company, we have tied up with well-known hospitals to ensure our people get hospital beds when needed, and online consultations as required. I have personally called caterers to get food delivered at their doorstep. And counsel them over the phone, as most of them have no idea how to address the many issues that surround a positive case.
In a year that was so challenging, how did you go about fulfilling your vision and responsibilities as Chairperson of FICCI FLO Hyderabad Chapter?
My team and I scientifically knitted our individual capabilities together and the result was a cohesive talent pool whose collective strength could move the proverbial mountain. We redesigned our motivational and learning sessions to make them compatible with online platforms. Social media helped us spread the word to a larger audience. The think tank at FLO Hyderabad made sure that every programme catered to a felt need. We also worked extensively, and smartly, on Incubation and Mentorship for our members. We tied up with organisations such as WE Hub, IIT Hyderabad, CIE@IIIT-H, IIMR and organised boot camps, workshops, micro-accelerator programmes, investor pitching sessions to get them business-ready.
Social Outreach was another area we did very well in. We trained close to 120 women farmers in vermicompost and organic pesticide manufacturing. Through Deendayal Upadhyay Grameen Kaushal Yojana, we train and placed over 25 girls in corporates such as Cyient, Jio and others. We launched a mental health awareness campaign under which we hosted several experts. We brought the 16 last practitioners of Telangana’s indigenous art form, Cheriyal, under one brand —Tirumani—and developed a pan-India market and a smarter product line for them. One of our biggest successes was the retention of old members and addition of new ones, in terms of which Hyderabad ranked top amongst all 17 chapters pan-India.
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