“Accelerating digital transformation is critical for us in COVID times”

Sameer Agarwal, Group CFO, Manipal Health Enterprises shares his perspectives on business continuity during lockdown...

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Sameer Agarwal, Group CFO, Manipal Health Enterprises highlights that all traditional Business Continuity Planning (BCP) got thrown out of the window due to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. He goes onto give an overview of Manipal Hospitals and says that the myth about the hospitals doing very good business during this phase is not true. The business and finance priorities are interchangeably done. Agarwal adds that his own KRAs are very much aligned with the CEO and the board’s views and the overall hospital’s views.

The first thing for Agarwal and his team was to understand the disruption in the supply that the COVID-19 pandemic would cause. As lot of pharma supplies are from China, Agarwal and his team decided to increase the stock from 30 to 60 days to avoid import restrictions. Agarwal reveals his hospital immediately got PPEs for all the frontline COVID warriors and increased that inventory from 2 to 5-10 days; all this to ensure patient and employee safety.

The second thing Agarwal, as a CFO, did was to look at the Balance Sheet more than the P&L. He reflects on holding the Capital Expenditure to ensure all expenses goes to COVID purposes (PPEs, Ventilators, etc.). He also says there is clear and honest communication with all stakeholders (suppliers, government, etc.).

Agarwal notes that since everyone has been working from home, technology proved to be a big savior, for example, usage of MS Teams, Google Hangouts and Zoom helped to get in touch with all stakeholders and his teams. Taking early decisions and quick action also helped Agarwal and his hospital.

Next challenge for Agarwal was to keep the transactions on. So, setting up remote access, setting up the VPN to ensure data security and availability of laptops were taken care of by Agarwal and his team. He mentions how he and his team got the Wi-Fi access on the laptops, SAP and other accounting functionalities loaded on them at a short notice.

Agarwal also mentions the digital transformation journey of Manipal. He highlights the fact that his team managed to process 20,000 invoices during the lockdown, besides all payments and processing being done smoothly with the help of technology. OCR technology also helps Agarwal and his team get all online approvals done securely.

Agarwal emphasizes the use of telemedicine helped them further as more than 5,000 consultations were done in April 2020. This improved Manipal’s patient-clinical connect. Besides, he is focussing on adding features to the hospital apps, such as ‘Digital Consult’ so that data is easily available, reports can be smoothly loaded and tests can be seen online. So, Agarwal says, “Accelerating digital transformation is critical for us in COVID times.”

Finally, Agarwal notes that team bonding, collaboration and communication has improved due to the current situation.  

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