In this quick five Q&A with People Matters, she shared her key focus areas for the company, what keeps her awake and why Oxigen opted out from the wallet arena.
Meher Sarid began her career as a banquet sales, public relations and communications personnel at the ITC Maurya Sheraton New Delhi, in the year 1991. She has now carved a niche in her with Human resources being her core area. Currently, she is the Group President at Oxigen Services. In the last twelve years at Oxigen, Sarid has looked after various vertices in the organization- corporate affairs, marketing, retail communications, human resources, and talent development. But the creative segment is the one she is most passionate about.
She mentioned that in all the divisions’ people are the most significant part and they drive the business. In an interaction with People Matters, she shared her journey with Oxigen, overcoming core challenges faced by the company and how the brand is launching different services.
On her journey
Sarid says that most of her earnings have come from her experience in the hospitality industry, in which she started her career. She reiterates her point saying, “I come from a hospitality background and everyone in the uniform is disciplined. Public relations, human resources, marketing is an entire gambit of work.”
She does not hoId an MBA degree in Human Resources from any fancy institute, but her first hand work experience while on the path has Ied her to succeed. “My exposure to public relations and marketing has helped me in managing people, but out of all the portfolios I‘ve handed, I love my creative piece the most and I am good at it.”
Being a small company, people resources are most important according to Sarid and she finds the right people to connect with in all her portfolios she manages.
It was her idea to get Sachin Tendulkar on board as the brand ambassador because he was the only one who suits the value of Oxigen. “He has an unblemished career without any controversies and which defines us, our core vaIues,” she said.
On Major Challenges
Oxigen has a fragmented kind of human resource allocation across the country. On the one hand, it’s a sales-driven company while on the other hand technology drives them. The entire business works on technology, but their sales force is out at retail shops across the country to get new customers on board.
“Oxigen is a mostly rural focus, and to reach out to rural India is a challenge as to keep these fragmented resources intact that are living in villages and tier IV or V cities. It’s an HR challenge to make them feel the same kind of culture, to make them draw into the same thread, and also to make sure that we speak the same language and represent the brand in the way we act at the local level.”
The second major challenge for the company is to retain these people and avoid a churn. Sales jobs have a major churn and their shelf Life at a junior level is 1.5 years to 3 years. The majority of their sales force keeps churning every one year and two years, therefore retaining them, and maintaining the attrition rate in the sales team is a challenge for the HR department.
She said, “People at junior levels and rural areas tend to jump off for the lower margin of raise.” According to her, an HR has done the job well if the employees stay for more than three years.
Reaching out to the sales force and making sure that they are connected and organizing interaction programs for them on a regular basis is a costly and lengthy affair. “If your pockets are really deep you can organize a monthly sales meet in every region. But we are only able to collect our sales team twice a year dividing the country into two regions,” said Sarid.
On engaging workforce
The company is trying innovative means of connecting with people. Till last year, it was hiring a workforce at a local level and keeping them at that. But now it has changed its strategy, “We felt it’s not working and decided to bring the salesperson in the head office to teach them about the functionality of the company, our vision, mission, and future plans,” said Sarid.
It is now experiencing a positive change in the workforce post this program and expecting a good retaining ratio once the results are put next year.
Oxigen’s offering in ‘Corporate Expense Management’
The company started its wallet journey in 2007 as a B2B player and later on entered into the B2C segment.
Post demonetization, the brand decided to stay out of the wallet business because they believed that government would not let the payment business lie in the hand of private operators.
Oxigen came up with an idea to link the card to the wallet. Sarid feels that it’s a fresh idea because others have prepaid cards and it can be used independently and also with the wallet. The brand calls it Oxigen’s ‘Expense Management System.’
This card is designed to ease the problems of the HR department. It’ll help the company struggling with tax benefits, making payments like travel advances, and travel reimbursements, especially for blue-collar workers. “It’s difficult to pay these workers in cash because the government is pushing for digital and an HR personnel has a hard time collecting vouchers and going through the lengthy process of collection and uploading, “said Sarid.
Oxigen has got at least thirty companies on board and some companies are doing a daily disbursement of Rs 20 lakhs and smaller companies are doing up to 3 lakhs. Oxigen will get a certain amount in return every time the card gets transacted.
On Key Focus Areas
The HR veteran believes in taking one step at a time and her core focus area for the next year is to maintain stability. She concluded by saying, “My core focus is on the stability within the organization and the business.”