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How Ugam Stood Behind Its Employees to Fight COVID-19 Second Wave

How Ugam Stood Behind Its Employees to Fight COVID-19 Second Wave

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit organisations hard, forcing them to adopt agile analytical methods to navigate the new normal. Now more than ever, analytics firms play a pivotal role in driving business outcomes for their clients.

One such company leading the data science, analytics and technology services space is Ugam, a Merkle company. Ugam provides a customer-centric approach that delivers impactful business results for large corporations by leveraging data, technology, and expertise. 

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To know more about the current crisis and how Ugam consistently delivers superior results while fighting the second wave, Analytics India Magazine got in touch with Sunil Mirani, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Ugam.

Fighting the second wave

With more than 2700 people spread across locations worldwide, the leading analytics and technology services company deployed various services to create success stories across industries like Retail & Consumer Brands, High Tech, BFSI, Distribution, and Market Research & Consulting.

For a long time, Ugam has been working with its clients remotely, considering the global reach. Thus, unlike other organisations, which were forced to shift into remote working scenarios due to the pandemic, Ugam didn’t face much trouble. The company has continually been working towards ensuring customer-centricity. 

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Mirani said, “From a business continuity point, we just enhanced the work-from-home measure that we have taken last time. We ensured that all our colleagues are fully equipped to WFAE (Work from Anywhere, Everywhere). From a client’s standpoint, we made a lot of investments in technology, particularly in cybersecurity, to have a safe and secured remote working environment.”  

Ugam has launched various initiatives to address the second wave, including augmenting Ugam Assist, a facilitator of COVID-19 recovery services: 

  • Financial support: Provision of a two-month salary advance in hospitalisation cases of an Ugamite or their immediate family member, if admitted to the Mediclaim non-network hospital. In cases of home quarantine, the Ugamites can avail of INR 10,000 for their needs.
  • Verified information: Creating location-specific WhatsApp groups with Ugam volunteers to provide credible information on the availability of beds, ICUs, doctors etc.
  • Service facilitation: Helping Ugamites with doctor/hospital appointments, delivery of medicines, groceries, and cooked meals with the help of location-specific WhatsApp groups.
  • Availability of critical materials: Connecting with several vendors to procure medicines, oxygen cylinders, concentrators, and respirators to stock at offices and supply to Ugamites as and when required.
  • Vaccination program: Partnering with COVID vaccination centres to facilitate vaccinations at their centres and/or at Ugam offices, if possible.
  • Quarantine facilities: Exploring the idea of converting the vacant Ugam offices into temporary quarantine facilities for the colleagues.

Key COVID measures

Last year, when the pandemic hit, the Data Science company created CV-19 Response Structure Teams. The teams were organised across five focus areas: employee engagement, customer engagement, solutions and services, business continuity and business risk evaluation & management. Across these five focus areas, there were 19 different workstreams.

Talking about the first wave, Mirani said, “From an employee perspective, we did several things, such as zero layoffs, no salary reduction, 100% variable pay for the last fiscal year. We also provided various other measures, such as work from home allowance, setting up internet connections at employee’s homes, enhanced the Mediclaim policy, increased the insurance amount, extra leaves for COVID diagnosed staffs etc.,” added Mirani. 

Last year, the company had rolled out a series of financial and non-financial measures that continue to function with support teams working 24*7 to help the employees.

Wellbeing & Safety

  • Fourteen days paid leave if tested positive or for taking care of a family member with COVID.
  • Launched Ugam Assist to support team members looking after COVID-positive family members. They have augmented Ugam Assist this year to combat the second wave.
  • Mediclaim Super-Top: All Ugamites who opted for the top-up policy would get twice their chosen sum insured at the cost of just one top-up premium.
  • In addition, to uplift spirits and promote positivity and an attitude of gratitude, Ugam conducted several CSR initiatives. They partnered with GiveIndia in 2020 to donate ration kits for migrant workers and again in 2021 to raise funds for critical healthcare supplies. They also continued with their annual Joy of Giving program in December, which attracted an even better response than previous years. 

Infrastructure

  • Employees were given a choice to take office chairs to their homes, a one-time allowance to set up their workspace at home and a monthly allowance to manage internet connectivity from home.
  • Home delivery of laptops for all new joiners, replacement of old laptops (as and when needed), collection of laptops and other equipment from ex-employees.
  • Consistent and widespread adoption of digital collaboration tools for asynchronous collaboration
  • Digitisation for paperless office (Adobe Sign, Online Purchase Order, Invoicing) 
  • Online IT Ticketing 
  • IT support for hardware issues at employee’s home. 
  • Extensive use of the cloud for various systems to facilitate easy WFAE (Work from Anywhere, Everywhere)

Employee Engagement

  • Organised sessions like Fitness (Yoga – Mind, Body & Soul), Nutrition, Mental Wellness, Disease prevention, Cooking and Childcare. 
  • Planned and organised virtual games/events like UGT – Ugam’s Got Talent, UPL – Ugam’s Premier League, Chess, Tambola, Pictionary, etc.  
  • Organised theme-based meetings and festivities to liven up daily or weekly discussions. 
  • Reconfigured teams to adjust to the demand fluctuations and new needs. People were allocated by the client, followed knowledge transfer best practices, and attended reskilling programs.
  • Celebrated work anniversaries, birthdays, and achievements. 

Communication

  • Monthly connects with the Leadership team and Town Halls to ensure transparency and address questions.
  • Monthly newsletter with company updates and links to various interesting books, movies, and web series recommendations.
  • A dedicated Life at Ugam page on the company intranet, Unite, for people to share personal updates, hobbies, facilitate corridor conversations and share appreciation. 

Hiring at Ugam

The pandemic has increased the demand for advanced analytics, cloud engineering, data engineering, tech architect roles etc. Currently, the data science company has 2700+ employees, and one-third of its employees have been hired amid pandemic. Hiring and onboarding programs have been adapted for a virtual experience. Since October 2020, the company has successfully onboarded 800 people.

Ugam has seen tremendous growth in the past few years. This year, the company plans to hire around 1,300 employees in the first half of the financial year. “Along the way, true to our own business, we make sure that we measure the candidate’s experience through the whole lifecycle so that we can constantly improve,” said the co-founder. With a focus on mass hiring, the data science company is also invigorating its employee referral program. 

Mirani said the company is currently looking for analysts, DevOps, software engineers, technical architects, and technical leads. Candidates with experience in AWS, Adobe, Google, and Salesforce platforms are preferred.  

Lessons as a CEO

While asking Mirani, as a CEO, what are the key lessons that he has learned in the COVID era and how he perceived the outcomes of the pandemic, the CEO mentioned the following points-

  1. We can never choose our circumstances, but we can always choose our response. I am super proud of the way Ugamites have responded to this crisis – with resolve and resilience, empathy and compassion. Acceptance of the circumstances is important to get beyond the shock and try to find solutions.
  2. Never take anything/anyone for granted- As last year’s sudden outbreak showed, and again this year too, our best-laid plans can go for a toss. So, it is critical to be nimble and be able to react when the situation demands it.
  3. When things are bad, they are never as bad as they seem, and when things are good, they are never as good as they seem. The past 15 months have seen incredible highs and lows, and it is important to treat them with equanimity and to think with a clear head.
  4. Leadership matters most during this time. I take my role seriously. It was important to react quickly and be there when it mattered most, and I tried to play my role to the best of my ability by keeping the following in mind- gratitude, stay fit, learning mindset, etc.
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