Home away from home: Building a safer space for migrant workers

Home away from home: Building a safer space for migrant workers

India’s economy has always been a hive of activity. But as the pandemic hit in 2020, businesses were brought to a standstill. As weeks turned to months, the migrant workers in India began to feel the impact, with regular contract work becoming harder to find. In a bid to protect their livelihood and families, tens of thousands of workers boarded rickshaws, lorries and trains bound for safer lives in rural villages.

90% of the workforce in India’s cities come from rural communities. The migrant mass departure could have resulted in the disruption of the supply chain which was supporting the essential commodities that so many depend on. The main focus to keep the flow of trade in India then depended on 2 things- jobs security and safety of the workforce. Prioritising both became our focus.

Extra safety precautions were introduced to minimise the spread of COVID-19 through our workforce and business community. We quickly distributed personal protective equipment (PPE) to every employee and developed a COVID-19 reporting programme that helped track and mitigate infections. Many of our staff are frontline, but where possible, working from home became standard practice. Everyone was given free access to a medical helpline and physiatrists to support their all-round health and wellbeing. Where necessary, we even offered temporary accommodation, food rations and essential care kits to those most in need. This safety-first approach kept jobs active and secure, in turn enabling our operations to continue throughout the pandemic. In a time of great instability, we gave customers and clients a stable flow of trade to rely on.

As we reflect on the past year, we realise that crisis often presents opportunity. The same can be said with the pandemic. Thanks to our personal development programmes, our people were ready to adapt and evolve to take on new roles and responsibilities with ease. Our workforce didn’t suffer any typical market measures, instead, they tested new skills, moved forward, and had the chance to grow within the organisation.

Every person plays a valuable part in the network of trade, so keeping our staff happy and safe was and will always be key to maintaining smooth operations. While many migrants left India’s cities, our migrant worker community stayed, and together we maintained a 24/7 flow of goods and resources across the country throughout 2020. The perseverance of people is at the heart of our organisation, especially when times are hard. Crisis challenges us all; however together, we can keep moving and build a stronger business for communities in India and beyond.

This story is just one of the ways we connected people, markets and nations. Find out more in the annual Smarter Trade report
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