Drivers of post-crisis growthJuly 2, 2020
Kunal Bhatia, managing director of Allied Oilfields and Industrial Supplies, talks to The Energy Year about how the company has navigated the impact of Covid-19 and opportunities it sees emerging from the crisis. Allied Oilfields and Industrial Supplies is an SME that supplies industrial maintenance, repair and overhaul products in Qatar and is specialised in providing power transmission consumables.
How has Covid-19 impacted the company’s day-to-day activities?
Covid-19 is an unprecedented event impacting countries and businesses across the planet, and Qatar has been impacted too. Due to the prompt and early actions taken by the government, the pockets of the outbreak were identified and locked down.
Unfortunately, our office, showroom and warehouse fell in one of these areas and we were non-operational for most of March, April and parts of May, leading to huge disruptions in sales and supply chain. Finding storage for goods received at port was a big challenge. Apart from that, several of our critical customer supplies were delayed due to lack of access to our inventory. After the Eid holidays, we are slowly coming to some sort of normalcy in day-to-day activities.
What steps is your company taking to mitigate the risks born of Covid-19 and to protect your organisation?
We’ve placed primary importance so far on ensuring the safety of all staff who are working in these trying times. We are reinforcing safe distancing, wearing protective equipment such as masks and gloves, washing hands multiple times a day to try and minimise the chance of catching the infection. Currently our staff are operating at 40% capacity, with others working from home or coming to the office every alternate day.
What opportunities can emerge from the crisis for your company?
From an operational cost point of view, working from home has become a more realistic possibility, something which we hadn’t explored before. Going forward we can consider this when planning required office space for key personnel.
It has also been a good time for us to provide our sales teams with additional technical training, provide webinars to our key customers in collaboration with our principals and streamline business processes. We are trying to completely digitise our invoicing and accounting processes to cut unnecessary time and expenses.
How can you best protect your employees and enable a thriving remote work environment?
We have multiple online meeting sessions to discuss our targets. I usually encourage keeping the sessions light with lots of open discussions on how we can deal with the obstacles presented by this pandemic. Additional training sessions are organised by our HR department if anyone wishes to update their soft skills. So far, we have been able to retain all our staff members despite the steep economic downturn.
What steps can you take to position your company to best serve energy industry customers during the pandemic?
Being a supply partner for MRO products in the Middle East, our primary task is to try and maintain an optimal inventory at all times. This has been challenging during Covid-19 as all our European and Asian suppliers have been impacted, disrupting the supply chain.
With steep budget cuts in most companies, several of our rate contract agreements are being re-evaluated for better pricing. We are partnering with our principals to meet this challenge.
What have been the keys to effective crisis management in your organisation?
I think effective communication, as often as you can with all parties concerned, is a good starting point in crisis management. Once everyone aligns to the common problem, then it is easier to navigate through the hurdles. You cannot fret over aspects that you cannot control, so my focus is always to see if there are ways by which we can reduce our expenses and at the same time try and find avenues of growth. Patience is the key in this environment.
What is your company doing to identify the key drivers of post-crisis growth?
Our focus relies mainly on these four industries in Qatar: metals, cement, oil and gas, and construction. These are the big churners for our P&L. Currently there’s a huge slump in demand for steel and cement and I foresee this trend to continue for the rest of the year.
We will start to see a demand from rig operators once oil prices start improving towards the end of this year so that might be something for us to focus on going forward.
Several of our rate contracts will be up for renewal in the second half of this year so that will be something we think might drive sales.