Nepal Earthquake: How can private businesses provide help?

Ashutosh Tiwari

How can private businesses — which provide jobs and taxes, and goods and services that people need and pay for — provide help?

(Please use these points ONLY as broad suggestions. Obviously, each business has its own context, limited resources, and limited capabilities to do what it can for its employees, customers, investors and stakeholders.]

1. Check to see/confirm whether ALL the staff members, including factory workers, are accounted for and are indeed physically safe. [If not, ask about access to medical care and see if you can arrange it in some way.]
2. Check to see the extent of harm/damages, if any, to physical structures (office buildings, factory spaces, etc).
3. Visit staff members who have lost their loved ones and/or whose dwellings have been destroyed or demolished or have cracks on walls.
4. Offer the victims (i.e. your staff members) immediate relief in the form of cash and/or non-cash materials (i.e. tents, sleeping bags, water purification tablets, water, etc) to the extent you can. Remember, this is a major once-in-a-century type of an emergency that we are facing — so, think a bit creatively as to how you can allay people’s concerns. Check with the affected staff and their families daily or once every two days.
5. If possible, send out regular email updates and/or short SMS updates to the staff and to the broader group of stakeholders (investors, suppliers, vendors, key customers, marketers, etc). A communication tree could be used for this purpose.
6. Keep the tone of all internal and external communications honestly positive and hopeful, embued with a can-do attitude: avoid gloom and doom scenarios. People are already scared: you don’t have to add to that fright.
7. Encourage able staff members to volunteer with (external) relief work in ways they see fit.

SHORT TERM (2-6 months)
1. Inform people when to start showing up for work.
2. Have daily short meetings — use these meetings to give updates, allay fears and reassure everyone.
3. Draw up a quick plan to see how your business can provide its own (relatively small) help to broader communities that have suffered.
4. Get your usual, regular work started and bring the situation to normalcy as soon as you can. Keep your people busy, productive and focused (on the next set of deadlines).
5. Look to see whether people need to work more hours to meet the deadlines and to make up for the lost work days. Temporarily used, overtime hours provide a bump in people’s pay.

MEDIUM TERM (6-36 months)
1. Look for ways to hire more (rural) women, if possible. All other things being equal, a woman’s access to labor market goes to help with her ownership of assets. This sort of ownership reduces her vulnerabilties while building her confidence. Besides, again, all other things being equal, a working woman with access to her own regular paychecks is more likely to have money and authority to pay for nutrition and education of her children, and is less likely to suffer from gender-based violence at her home.
2. Allow people to specialize at work by providing mentorship, apprenticeship, training and education — so that, over time, with specialized knowlege and skills, they can earn higher incomes, which will further reduce their vulnerabilities (i.e. give them a stable income and help them raise productivity) and also reduce their general employment-related shocks.
3. Teach people the basic knowledge of savings, insurance and investment. [Here, I would borrow, adapt and experiment with a number of test cases from behavioural economics and behavioural finance (i.e. nudges, etc) to ensure that willing employees end up saving more for later years; that they invest in assets that grow in value over time, and that they have basic insurance in place to deal with life’s normal ups and downs.]

LONG TERM (36-72 months)
1. Find ways to invest in communities where most of your workers are from: some example are: have people volunteer at the local schools, teach a course, offer eye-checking or other such medical camps . . . do any number of activities that help connect the company and its mission to the communities’ aspirations and its sense of its own future self.
2. Whenever possible, use risk-based thinking to source locally by working with local suppliers. Often, local suppliers need advice, connections, know-how, additional traning and exposure, and instructions on quality. Work with them patiently and help them grow their business. This is another form of investment.
3. Growth: Never forget that having a paying job allows people to absorb/handle most of the risks they face in their lives. As such, find ways to create more jobs at your company by growing your company in terms of numbers (sales, etc) and size (number of employees, locations, etc). (Sustainably and manageably) growing your business is a solid form of insurance you can buy
for your employees and community members.
4. Look into affordable group insurance schemes for your employees so that small shocks in their lives could easily be absorbed.

Please feel free to add more — please use these points only as broad suggestions.





2 responses to “Nepal Earthquake: How can private businesses provide help?”

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