For Yamaha, WFH has ‘no connection with distraction’

Murali Gopalan Mumbai | Updated on May 29, 2020

Motofumi Shitara, Chairman, Yamaha Motor India Group

It has been a huge learning for everyone, says two-wheeler giant’s India head Motofumi Shitara

With Covid-19 altering behavioural patterns across the world, Motofumi Shitara believes it has also “redefined new physical boundaries and economic continuity”.

According to the Yamaha Motor India Group Chairman, the work-from-home (WFH) regime over the last two months has clearly shown that being in the midst of an emergency does not necessarily mean that “businesses can be interrupted”. Thanks to investment in technology, work can be done “from remote locations as well”.

In a recent interview, Shitara told BusinessLine that he was particularly impressed with how people within the company took charge of the situation. “The way every human being has responded like a leader of self-health through social distancing and home containment is spectacular,” he said.

It was also his observation during the lockdown that focus on work “has no connection with distraction”. Simply put, it meant that employees managed to strike the balance between handling their families, catering to domestic chores and yet not losing track of their professional priorities.

“It has been an altogether new experience for all of us. Though it is not possible in the manufacturing sector for each and every function to work from home, the support we received from our employees in these challenging times is commendable,” said Shitara.

Upskilling opportunity

During this difficult time, people within Yamaha pulled out all the stops to “upskill themselves in their respective areas” with the support of their superiors. “I believe this is definitely going to benefit the company in the long term,” he added.

More importantly, the Yamaha team continuously tried, in this short span, to apply innovative methods in their job responsibilities and “bring value to the work they are doing”. From the company’s point of view, the top priority was to constantly mentor employees through supervisors and department heads.

The goal was to create a mindset of continuing with the same levels of efficiency online. “Productivity being an outcome of hours of work versus actual work, it is difficult to state whether it increased or reduced,” conceded Shitara.

Yet, the leadership team ensured that major business decisions and outcomes were not impacted during the lockdown. Operations have now gradually begun at the Chennai plant even while the supporting supply chain in the form of suppliers and dealerships is keeping pace.

Headquarters in Japan also played its part in keeping employees at India upbeat and motivated while they were cooped up at home. The President of Yamaha Motor Corporation, Yoshihiro Hidaka, had written to all employees in India “expressing his concern about their safety and wellbeing”.

He also drove home the point that such calamities had hit the “human world several times” and it was, therefore, important that “our fears should not overrule our commitment of safety, professionalism and social responsibilities”.

Pandemic impacts results

Yamaha Motor Corporation declared its first quarter results (January-March) in Japan on Thursday, where it was evident that business had suffered greatly due to the pandemic. According to the company, sales and income from motorcycles fell in emerging markets owing to a host of factors.

These included deterioration of the model mix in Vietnam and decreased demand due to the introduction of new emission regulations in India. The Philippines also saw a fall due to the effects of its volcanic eruption coupled with Covid-19. “The pandemic has spread in Japan and throughout the world, and the prospects for the ending of it are unclear,” cautioned Yamaha in its outlook for the year.

Published on May 29, 2020

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