The last time The CEO Magazine spoke with KONE Elevator India Managing Director Amit Gossain in 2019, he shared how the company faced challenges when the real estate industry was hit by the demonetisation of the INR500 and INR1,000 bills in November 2016. However, he was enthusiastic for the future, saying, “The coming years look optimistic. A revival has started. This year, I can say, is the year of revival and growth.”
Little did he know that 2020 would bring a global pandemic, turning the world – and the real estate market, upon which the company is reliant – on end just when things were starting to look up again. “We launched South Asia’s largest elevator factory in Chennai in November 2019. Then, in 2020, we were hit by COVID-19,” Amit shares.
“The real estate industry did not fare very well, but then in the last quarter, as things began opening up, there was a pent-up demand, and things began picking up once again.”
Admittedly, KONE fared much better than most in India. As part of a global brand – the Finland-headquartered company is one of the leading manufacturers of elevators and escalators in the world – it had a leg up in its response to the initial onset of the pandemic.
“We received a lot of feedback from the global teams that the pandemic, which was spreading across the world, might hit us soon. They said we should prepare to work from home,” Amit recalls.
“That head start really helped us. We were prepared when many companies in India were not.” Believing that businesses do well when their people are happy, not stressed, Amit shares that not only was there an increase in communication throughout KONE, but it was also delivered differently.
“The communication was a lot more motivational,” he says. “With more than 5,500 employees in India, one of the most important things was keeping them all motivated and working nicely. So we involved the teams early on because working from home was new and difficult for some. We had games and also involved their families, inviting their children to enter drawing competitions. And we had a good process of working from home and physically where required.”
However, many, especially at the onset of the pandemic, were afraid to step foot outside, making elevator servicing a challenge. “The major thing was that our elevators still had to be serviced. At the same time, our technicians were afraid of contracting COVID-19,” Amit admits.
“But we ensured that all our service technicians, who had to go out on emergency duties, were equipped with personal protective equipment. We monitored their health status regularly.
They were continuously trained on all safety guidelines by our Safety team and that gave them the required confidence. “In a lot of these places, people started coming out on their balconies, clapping for our technicians and wanting to take pictures of them. It was really motivating, as they willingly attended service calls and kept the society running. Our technicians became like the superheroes of the company.”
As the pandemic accelerated rapid change in industries across the globe, KONE gladly accepted the challenge. Known as a leader in innovation with technology centres around the world, including a research and development centre in Chennai that supports the latest technology and development of future solutions, the company quickly got to work making and launching Health and Wellbeing Solutions.
“We developed a touchless elevator call feature that allows users to call an elevator using their phones, removing the need to touch possibly contaminated buttons or displays,” Amit says. “We also launched UV sanitisers for escalators that self-sanitise the handrails immediately. These solutions have done quite well. The people demanded them.”
At the same time, KONE never lost focus on keeping its solutions aesthetically pleasing. In the beginning of the year, the company launched iREFRESH and DX Elevators.
“These were two major projects. The iREFRESH offers 35 new designs inspired by the five natural elements for the car, which is what we call the inside of the elevator,” he tells. “And, in March, we released our KONE DX Class Elevators, which are the first digitally connected elevators in the world.”
KONE is no stranger to being the first. A pioneer in the space, the company has been recognised by Forbes as one of the most innovative companies in the world eight times. “We innovate to give peace of mind to the customer while offering great-quality products with a different kind of aesthetic. To us, this is very important,” Amit points out.
Our technicians became like the superheroes of the company.
“We lead the way in innovation. If you look at gearless elevators, we were the first. With the launch of our first ever digitally connected elevators, the KONE DX Class, I’m sure other players will soon follow suit.” The company also leads the charge in service.
“Apart from our products, it’s our service and ability to install that differentiates us. Our customer loyalty score is a testament to this,” Amit explains. “You can have a great product, but in an industry like elevators, you need to have the best service, and that’s where we don’t compromise at all.”
Similarly, KONE is also unwilling to compromise in the safety department. Millions of people use its elevators around the globe, and it’s important that they’re protected. “We’ve brought a lot of safety features into our elevators,” Amit shares.
Amit’s top 3 pandemic learnings
1.Your business model needs to be very flexible. “The world is a place where things can change very quickly. We always thought the business would continuously grow in emerging countries, particularly in India. But the pandemic has taught us that things can change rapidly and there could be a complete pause, so one thing I learned is to make a very flexible business model.”
2.Care must be a priority. “Care is very important to us. We care for our customers, care for our employees and care for everybody to move along together. Essential to that is collaboration.”
3.Virtual is the new way forward. “We used to believe we needed travel for the smallest things. Now we see that much can be accomplished virtually. The whole world has learned that we need to collaborate virtually for the betterment of the environment. Sustainability has become very important.”
“From KONE’s perspective, we have the safest elevator. All of our designs are based on safety and quality. That’s what’s driving our way forward.” Safety isn’t always a priority in India’s elevator industry, so KONE is working to change that.
“We are urging the government to institute a lift act, which would require a minimum safety standard specification on elevators so there are no safety issues,” he stresses.
“It’s time that we have uniform guidelines across the country for the safety norms to be followed by all the elevator and escalator manufacturers. At KONE, we have global policies, processes and guidelines in place to enable our business activities, including subcontractor operations, are organised and conducted in a structured and globally harmonised way.
Therefore, safety and quality are of prime importance for KONE and are being followed stringently.” KONE takes safety to a soaring new level of protection. Its elevators now come equipped with preventive maintenance features, thanks to new connective capabilities.
“The machine will alert us if there is going to be a problem, and we send our service engineer before the problem even happens,” Amit says. “We’ve rolled out this 24/7 service across India, and even though it’s a paid-for service, we’re finding more and more people are taking to it because of the pandemic.”
Like any relationship, Amit understands strategic partnerships must be nurtured and valued for them to prosper. “Loyalty is important,” he asserts. “Most of our supplier base is located in and around our factory, and they stick with us. They know that since KONE is a large company, they will get to grow with us. They trust us.”
KONE Elevator India was recently awarded Best Workplace for Women 2021 by The Economic Times – a point of pride for Amit, who says, “This is an acknowledgement of our pioneering initiatives that help our women colleagues build a successful career and offer them a well chalked-out growth path. We will continue to create an atmosphere of inclusion and gender equality, and we hope that this will encourage more women to join and stay on in our team.”
The company has many partners that contribute to its success. From the manufacturing base that supplies necessary components and parts to the suppliers who market and install KONE products, they’re all essential.
“When they come to our supplier fraternity, it’s because they have similar processes to us in terms of the quality that we need and the safety guidelines we need them to follow. Big or small, we want to innovate with them,” Amit confirms.
“We innovate for our customers. We are working with our suppliers and our teams to ensure that there is safety and peace of mind for our customers. To the best of our ability, we work to give them the best service so their elevators never stop, and everybody gets home safe everywhere.”
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