Cable TV

Hathway: Moving towards a professional organisation

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MUMBAI: The cable TV industry has historically been considered as an unorganised sector. Cable networks were predominantly owned by the local cable operators, area wise, until a few years ago when government mandated digitisation of the cable TV homes.

The amendment bill in 2011 for Cable Television Networks (Regulation) mandated the industry to gradually move from unorganised to an organised sector. Hence, the industry dynamics have suddenly introduced a spurt of new opportunities for growth and increased revenue along with a whole new way of working, with newer systems, processes, technology and most of all – talent.

Maybe that’s why multi system operator (MSO) Hathway Cable & Datacom was awarded the HR Excellence Award organised by Genius Consultants in association with Times of India, in the first time itself when the organisation participated in an HR Award category. The MSOs Human Resource VP Sunil Suji bagged the award as “The HR Leader of the Year” in the Large Enterprise category.

However, the process wasn’t easy. Suji recalls that moving towards being organised, introduced challenges of professionalism, towards building a whole new culture of meritocracy, appreciation, communication and transparency within Hathway.

Traditionally, the Human Resource Function at Hathway has been an administrative / personnel function in nature. “We are dealing with an employee base that is maximum at the ground level. We still continue at a corporate literacy rate of only 40 per cent. And 60 per cent of our employee base is still maximum 10th or 12th pass out with many at the ground level, not knowing how to read or write. This further makes it challenging to drive communication at the lowest levels in the organisation. To be able to come closer to our goal, each passing day requires us to be phenomenally dedicated towards building a culture of growth, meritocracy, appreciation and engagement at Hathway,” says Suji.

It is interesting to note that the various initiatives taken by Human Resource towards developing this culture had to go through a struggle between the old culture versus the new culture. It’s a constant struggle between old processes vs. new processes, old systems vs. new systems and most importantly, a continual struggle between the old legacy driven mindset vs. a brand new professional mindset believes Suji who also takes pride in elevating the HR function in such an industry.

The MSO directly and indirectly employs around 4,500 employees and on an average one sticks with the organisation for seven years. And since an organisation is as good as its people, the MSO has the philosophy of rewarding and recognising. For this, Suji puts in place a uniform and standardised policy across locations for identification and recognition of exceptional work done by individuals and teams – beyond their defined job roles in terms of:  initiative, innovation, consistent efforts, team work, quality /cost consciousness and customer /safety focus.

So came into being four categories of awards namely, Silver Recognition, Golden Recognition, Platinum Recognition and Long Service Awards. Each of the award categories is attached to a cash reward as well.

The reward and recognition process goes parallel to the performance management process except for the fact that it measures performance through KRAs while the other measures and rewards efforts / initiatives outside the KRAs / defined job role.

A few more changes were brought in too. For instance, in the history of the organisation, there was no Mediclaim policy for the employees. “As a benefit initiative, we drove an employee benefit policy for all employees. The Hospitalisation Policy provides for reimbursement of hospitalisation expenses incurred in the process of recovery from an ailment. While the employees on the rolls of the company are covered, outsourced companies like Cable Tech and Planman have also been extended with the benefit,” he informs.

Being an unorganised sector, the MSO had about 72 odd designations prevailing in the system. With the help of management inputs, the HR has been instrumental in revising 72 designations into 24 (divided as management and staff cadre designations). This has brought a lot of standardisation into the HR operations and has also cleared various administrative ambiguities prevailing into the system.

Suji says, “The employee policies at Hathway certainly needed revisions to address administrative ambiguities, reduction in cash outflows, and upgradation in terms of benchmarking with industry standards as well as benchmarking with group companies of the Rajan Raheja Group.”

Accordingly, a number of policies were revised; while many were newly introduced. Some examples of the same are: revised leave policy to curb encashment, limit accumulations and incorporate accommodations in ERP system, introduction of code of conduct, whistle blower and harassment policies because though these are softer elements, they impact the organisation in a large fashion. Particularly, in the current context at Hathway, when there is growth anticipated in a large way, amongst other changes.

In particular, Suji is proud of the harassment and whistle blower policy. “We have stringent disciplinary and management processes to enable the effectiveness and awareness of these policies,” he adds.

He takes pride in the fact that amidst the cultural barriers of old legacies, people mindset, resistance by employee groups, a lot of these transitions have been implemented seamlessly across all locations. The next important highlight is that all of the above transformations have been conceptualised, conceived and implemented in the last one year i.e. (July 2013 to July 2014). The HR’s mission is to transform the industry.

Suji is thankful to the company’s MD and CEO Jagdish Kumar for cooperation and the assurance from the board to bring in these phenomenal changes.

On what are the big HR-related issues present in the sector, Suji states that the industry is still in an unorganised phase and hence, has a lot of potential to improve. “Hathway has taken the first leap and it certainly deserves the first mover advantage. In various conferences / seminars, when we meet our counterparts in the cable Industry, Hathway is proud to announce some of the breakthrough practices – towards developing a professional organisation. We have miles to go and these are just the baby steps…”

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