‘These are the people that have worked for you. These are the people who have served you all their careers. You send them out to live in the rain. Is that your definition of ethics when you treat your labour force that way?’
Tata Group patriarch Ratan Tata on Thursday said layoffs by Indian companies amid the Covid-19 pandemic was a knee-jerk reaction and showed lack of empathy among the top leadership.
“These are the people that have worked for you. These are the people who have served you all their careers. You send them out to live in the rain. Is that your definition of ethics when you treat your labour force that way?” asked Tata in an interview to news website YourStory.
While the Tata Group has not laid off any employee, several Indian companies have retrenched staff due to lack of cash flow after the nationwide lockdown.
The Tata group, however, has cut salaries of its top management by up to 20 per cent. Several Tata Group companies, including its airlines, hotels, financial services, and auto business, are severely hit, but have not laid off employees to date.
“It is impossible to survive as a company if one is not sensitive to its people,” said Tata, adding, “Covid-19 hits you wherever you are. Whatever your reasons may be, you have to change in terms of what you consider fair or good or necessary in order to survive.”
“While everyone chases profits, the question is how ethical the journey has been. Business is not only about making money. One has to do everything right and ethically for customers and stakeholders,” said Tata.
Making mistakes is a part and parcel of business. The important thing is to do the right thing at every turn and not shy away from difficult decisions, he said.
Asked what he missed the most during the pandemic, Tata said he has not ventured out since March when the government announced the nationwide lockdown to stop the spread of the virus.
“It’s not been yachts, manors, and huge estates. It’s been a wonderful experience of interacting with people who stand for the same ideas as you do... That’s something I’ve come to miss,” said Tata.