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Vol 3, Issue 03, Aug 2021
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Human Resource Management
This case study “The World’s Factory: Can China sustain its Status amid the COVID-19 Turmoil?”discusses the journey of China as the World’s manufacturing superpower, the factors responsible for the growth of its manufacturing industry, and the various challenges it faced due to factors like the trade dispute with the US and the impact of COVID-19 on its manufacturing sector. The case begins with a brief note on China and its journey as the world’s manufacturing hub. China had emerged as the central player in global supply chains over the two decades from 2000 to 2020 as Western companies set up major operations in the country to minimize costs and to cater to the world's most populated country. The case then highlights the factors responsible for the growth of China’s manufacturing sector. There were many factors such as cheap labor, a robust supply chain, huge population size, business ecosystem, huge foreign direct investment, low taxes and duties, and competitive currency practices and deployment of smart technology and many more factors that contributed to making China ‘The World’s Factory’. Next, the case focuses on the challenges China’s manufacturing industry was grappling with. Problems slowly started emerging for the country due to rising labor costs and the emergence of low-cost centers like Vietnam. Besides, China had to cope with a trade war with the US which had a severe impact on its manufacturing industry. Adding to the problem was the sudden outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic which prompted many companies to shift their manufacturing bases to other countries to reduce their reliance on China. Japan had already earmarked $ 2.2 billion to help its manufacturers shift out of China. However, some experts believed that picking a new country, or countries, would not be easy. No country had the kind of logistic set-up that China had. Few big countries had the tax rates that China had. It was not clear whether China would be in a position to overcome the emerging challenges and continue its dominance in the global supply chain in the coming decade.

‘The World’s Factory’: Can China Sustain its Status Amid the COVID-19 Turmoil?
The case is about widening of the trade deficit in India as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic The outbreak of the pandemic disrupted normal economic activity and life in India. The travel and transport curbs imposed in the wake of a nationwide lockdown had an adverse impact on the country’s economic growth. Indian trade was severely impacted as businesses became highly vulnerable to the unfolding economic crisis. For the fiscal year 2020, India reported a decline in exports and imports, with the trade deficit narrowing down to US$152.88 billion as against US$184 billion in the previous financial year. In the first quarter of 2020-21, the country reported merchandise trade surplus, which was attributed to the pandemic-induced contraction in the economy, especially with the low demand and import of goods due to the lockdown. For the period April-September 2020, India’s trade deficit came down due to a massive fall in local and global demand amid the pandemic-induced lockdown. From October 2020 India again started experiencing an increase in the volume of trade deficit. In February 2021, trade deficit widened as exports grew marginally by 0.67% year-on-year to US$27.93 billion while imports increased 6.96% year-on-year to US$40.54 billion, leading to a trade deficit of US$12.62 billion. While analysts were expecting exports to strengthen once the uncertainty over COVID-19 came to an end, exporters and business houses were waiting for a new Foreign Trade Policy to be announced.

Indian Foreign Trade Deficit during COVID-19
The case describes the various factors that led to the outbreak of violence at the iPhone manufacturing facility of Wistron Infocomm Manufacturing (India) Pvt. Ltd (Wistron) at Narasapura in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. The case first touches upon Wistron’s operations in India beginning 2018 with a facility in the Peenya industrial estate in Bengaluru that assembled iPhone SE and 6s models, followed by the Narasapura plant that began operations in 2020 to manufacture Apple’s smartphones including the new iPhone SE (2020). The case then focuses on the details of violent unrest on December 12, 2020, when thousands of contract workers and some outsiders vandalized Wistron’s Narasapura facility alleging their salaries had been reduced and that payments had been delayed for over six months. The case details the preliminary enquiries initiated by the Karnataka State Labor Department, The Department of Factories, Boilers and Industrial Safety, and Apple which found several violations by Wistron and its contractors. The violations related to, among other things, the Minimum Wages Act, 1948; Factories Act, 1948; Contract Labor (Regulation and Abolition) Act 1970; and Apple’s Supplier Code of Conduct. The case ends with the corrective measures taken by Wistron and the possible direct impact of this event on the company’s future and its supplier relationship with Apple.

Labor Unrestat Wistron’s iPhone Facility in India
The case describes Unilever’s initiative to implement a new AI-powered internal online talent marketplace, ‘FLEX Experiences’. The case focuses on how Unilever followed an entrepreneurial approach in developing FLEX by developing a ‘minimal viable product’ (MVP) and testing it on a small group of employees followed by a phased roll-out across the organization over two years to cover 100,000 employees. The case then touches upon how the AI platform benefited both the company and its employees in various ways. FLEX offered great support to Unilever when business agility became critical for business continuity during COVID-19. During the pandemic, Unilever quickly redeployed about 8,300 employees from businesses and markets that had slowed down to areas where its business was still growing. FLEX reduced internal hiring bias and increased networking that promoted diversity. Unilever employees were able to work on projects for a small or large proportion of time which helped them increase their expertise in a current skill or build new skills and experiences. The company’s overall productivity increased by 41% and there was a 20% increase in internal collaboration time. The case ends with the outlook for Unilever’s future plans to ensure that all employees are reskilled or up-skilled to work within or outside the company or transition to a new model of employment.

Unilever’s AI-powered Internal Talent Marketplace Unlocks Workforce Capacity
The case describes the various initiatives of Aries Group founder and CEO Sohan Roy (Roy) that were instrumental in the Aries Group becoming the leading design/inspection firm in the Middle-East and growing into a consortium of 56 companies in 16 countries by 2020. Roy’s initiatives focused on Model Management Principles and Efficiency Management Systems that helped the management and employees become more committed, valued, responsible, efficient, and productive. The case touches upon Roy’s varied interests in areas like poetry, cinema, theater, and visual media and how he converted his passion in these areas into business opportunities in fields as varied as Maritime, Entertainment, 3D Technology, IT, Media, Multiplexes, Healthcare, and Tourism. It then focuses on the efficiency software system EFFISM, Roy’s latest initiative to improve employee productivity and performance. Developed in-house under Roy’s guidance by Aries International Maritime Research Institute (AIMRI), EFFISM helped employees improve their productivity through proper time management. It also helped the management track and monitor every activity in the Group companies in real-time. EFFISM was also instrumental in bringing down operating costs and effectively managing remote working employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sohan Roy’s Innovative Employee Benefits and Efficiency Improvement Initiatives at Aries Group
The case describes the Training & Development process at Big Bazaar aimed at improving the level of performance of its employees at various levels by overcoming the emerging challenges as a new entrant in the market. It captures the various methods of training and development along with the framework used by Big Bazaar. Big Bazaar realized that customers were not happy with the response they received from employees at the stores. To provide training to the employees, a systematic process was carried out by the Human Resource Department. Identification of training needs was important from both the organizational as well as the individual's point of view. Big Bazaar laid out a detailed process for the training and development of its employees. The programs like Zonal office training and in-store training helped the employees to evolve and had a positive impact on the company's productivity and profitability as a whole through methods like coaching, mentoring and on-the job training.

Training & Development Effectiveness at Big Bazaar
The case talks about the ‘Share the Care’ parental leave policy launched by Procter & Gamble (P&G) India. Under this policy, all new parents including biological parents, domestic partners, adoptive parents, or same-sex couples, would be able to get fully paid leave of eight weeks with an additional six weeks’ recovery leave for birth mothers. The case also touches upon the other employee-centered policies launched by P&G India over the years, the challenges faced by the company, and its future plans.

P&G India's Inclusive HR Policies
The case talks about the feasibility of the four-day work week that was set to be introduced by the Indian Ministry of Labor and Employment as one of the work options in the newly formulated labor codes. In the four-day work week, working hours would be increased to 12 hours per day, with a three-day weekend. The case discusses the possible benefits of the four-day work week and its adoption by several international organizations. The possible pain points of such a proposal are also described. If such a policy is implemented, what the impact will it have on employees and the organization as a whole?

The ‘Four-Day Work Week’ Proposal in India: Will it Work?
The case discusses the initiatives taken by India’s largest Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) company, Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL), to enable its employees to strike the right work-life balance. The case delves into details of HUL’s various Human Resource (HR) policies and explains how each of the policies made the company’s employees execute both work and personal responsibilities better. HUL’s initiatives to cater to the varied needs of its women employees are explained in detail. The measures being taken by the company to keep itself abreast of the changing needs of new-age employees are also mentioned. So, will HUL continue to remain an ‘Employer of Choice’ and a ‘CEO Factory’ in India?

Hindustan Unilever Limited: Providing the Right Work-Life Balance

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