Perspectives from ISB

The pandemic is a worldwide crisis of a magnitude that is scary, to say the least. Yet, it has brought opportunities with it. Look closely, the glass is always half full.

In his first book “Unlimited Power”, Tony Robbins quotes former US President John F. Kennedy, “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” This thought has stayed with me ever since I read it in 1992.  My husband Krishnan recently used it while conducting a workshop for the employees of a hotel chain. Very often, when a crisis hits us, we lose confidence and immediately start worrying about the future. This quote helps us to refocus and look at the hidden opportunity that every crisis brings with it.

Our resilience is what makes us (humans) survive and flourish. If history teaches us something, it is that every problem brings a new solution with it. Patience, determination & hard work pays off sooner than later. During WWII, atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, bringing the entire country to its knees. It was a crisis for Japan. They had been defeated and the economy was in tatters. Within two years, Japan re-energised its economy with the Priority Production System, where recovery of a few key industries would have a positive spillover effect on the entire economy. They did bounce back. Within 20 years Japan was the second-largest economy in the world.

The current pandemic is a worldwide crisis of a magnitude that is scary, to say the least. Challenging it may be, yet the predicament has brought opportunities with it. In India, we went from being a net importer of PPE kits to becoming the world’s second-largest producer within a span of months. Similarly, the production of masks, inexpensive testing kits, sanitisers, ventilators, etc ramped up significantly. Every major sector is on the way to a speedy recovery. If the stock market is the indicator of how the Indian Markets are performing, there has never been a better time.

In our personal lives, the biggest crisis we faced was our bankruptcy in 1996. The times were hard, but little do we know, the opportunity of setting up ShikshaDaan was hidden in that crisis. Several known and unknown people came forward & helped us get back on our feet. We promised ourselves back then, we would give back to the community in some way once we were financially stable again.  ShikshaDaan was set up in 2012 has been actively working since 2015. In the last 6 years, we have sponsored 11,500+ students for their higher education & disbursed scholarships worth Rs. 12.5 crores.

The pandemic has thrown up a whole host of opportunities. One such interesting opportunity has become a full-fledged business. As work from home became the norm forcibly and much sooner than people expected, it became a challenge to identify good candidates using their CVs. The Netherlands-based HR tech startup Test Gorilla came up with the idea of hiring people using skill-based tests, rather than recruiting from CVs. The idea has paid off as the startup has 1500 clients in a short period of nine months. They have Sony, PepsiCo, Bain & Co amongst their clients !!

The above examples are just reiterations of the fact that every crisis brings the gift of an opportunity. All that we need to do is refocus ourselves and look for that opportunity. Look closely, the glass is half full!

 -Bindu Krishnan, Co-Founder, ShikshaDaan Foundation, PGPMAX 2013