The India Situation Room – Managing it all during COVID

Written by Samson Ponselvan, Senior Director of Regional EHS, and Venkat Pudipeddi, Director of HR in India & China.

As the pandemic broke out globally, emergency response teams sprung up everywhere — and Teva api was no different. The Global Situation Room (GSR) was established in early March 2020 to align and guide all Teva sites globally throughout the duration of the pandemic, and each country set up its own Country Situation Room to deal with requirements at the local level.

In India, a unique challenge faced the leadership due to the country’s sheer size and diversity of Teva’s operations and business units. This blog will discuss the journey of the India Situation Room (ISR), and the measures that were (and are still being) taken to provide employees with a safe and comforting environment during these unique times. It will also describe the actions implemented to ensure the continuous delivery of much-needed medicines around the world.

The India challenge

Being that Teva operates in the ‘essential services’ industry, the team was driven with the objective of providing a working and sustainable solution for employees during these extraordinary times, the India Situation Room was set up to ensure the safety and health of all Teva employees in India, and to maintain business continuity for our India-based operations.

With 11 sites across six Indian states, this operation was certainly no easy feat to get off the ground. The ISR consists of more than 25 people in the leadership team, including all the site leaders and work stream leaders from all our facilities in India. In addition, each site, in each location, established its own Site Situation Room led by the individual site leader.

General COVID-19 guidelines come from Teva’s Global Situation Room, and are then reviewed by the ISR and synced with the Indian Government’s guidelines.

Powering on while keeping safe at Teva India

Essentially, there are two main objectives of the ISR. The first is to safeguard the health and safety of all employees, contingent workers, and contractors. Without the people, nothing can continue.

The second main objective is so ensure Teva’s resilience — business must carry on, come what may, so that patients don’t end up losing out. With these two objectives in mind, the ISR had, and still has, multiple key tasks facing them.

  • Have one consolidated approach of existing and potential threats, opportunities, and mitigations aligned with local India government and Teva corporate guidance.
  • Take care of the health and safety of employees (especially those diagnosed with Coronavirus), the community, and the business.

How we do it

  • Leaders constantly touching base

The India Situation Room had a mandatory meeting each morning to review the situation as the virus was spreading across the country and the lockdown being imposed. The team worked hard to establish a leadership tone that balanced the two main objectives of safety for employees and business continuity. These calls have now become weekly, as we’ve become more familiar with the situation and how to deal with it.

Daily ‘safety moments’ are a core element of these calls. Each leader takes a turn to give a short presentation on a safety-related topic, raising awareness on the constantly changing situation and the proper response to it. These ‘moments’ range from discussing employee health and sanitization methods to product/service safety.

  • Building the medical/health infrastructure

The team stayed ahead by equipping the medical doctors & staff in the Occupational Health Centers in each of the manufacturing sites to respond better in case of an emergency and to ensure a safe environment for employees.

For example, pulse oximeters were procured, as well as temperature guns and other special personal protective equipment.

  • Creating proper protocols

Protocols were created for employees returning to work after having the coronavirus, as well as for cases that are suspected or confirmed. Mock drills were also organized. Throughout this period, and especially during the beginning months, the Occupational Health Center staff worked on building up their emergency response capabilities.

  • Keeping the information flowing globally

It’s been hugely important for us to keep the global team up to date about the situation in India, and in turn, we’ve benefited from a seamless flow of guidance and information – resulting in employee safety and healthy site operations. The global team has aided the India team in providing support to each person suspected of having the virus, or those who actually did contract it. The empathy given also helped employees overcome any stress in these disruptive times.

  • Risk assessing new technologies

With the advent of the pandemic, many new technologies mushroomed in the market. Some of these were not adequately tested for efficacy or safety on employees’ health & safety. The team evaluated each of these for its efficacy before deciding whether to implement it or not.

For example, the team proactively evaluated the sanitization tunnels spraying the disinfectants and decided against the implementation. It was also discontinued by the government and others where it was implemented and thus validating the keen evaluation by the India Situation Room.

The team proactively evaluated this technology and decided against the implementation. It was later discontinued by the government and other companies where it was implemented, thus validating the ISR’s decision.

Inspiring confidence in our employees

The situation in India hasn’t been easy. Different states have been affected differently which has an impact on our operations. Due to the population density in India, COVID-19 has been extremely intense. India was one of the few countries that announced an early and extended lockdown, with an interstate lockdown within the country.

There’s also a huge diversity of population, with a stark contrast between rural and metro India and the levels of awareness on COIVD-19 between the two. All these factors have placed a strain on workers across the board – whether at Teva or elsewhere.

This unified Teva approach in responding to the situation — the leadership tone, transparency and commitment by all during these times helped instill a strong safety culture across the sites. Openness to hear employee’s ideas, suggestions and concerns through various channels such as open houses, one-on-one meetings, and town halls has helped instill this safety culture.

Some ‘smaller’ actions that were implemented included safety-themed posters, in both English and the local language, that were put up everywhere; mock-drills took place to practice for all sorts of COVID-related scenarios; and a ‘Zero Contact’ drive took place to ensure social distancing among employees.
Another extremely impactful initiative that was implemented was introducing insurance programs for all workers (both employees and contractors), that guaranteed them solid cover in the event of contracting the virus. During the lockdown, food and other basic necessities were also provided to those workers who needed it, as well as transportation to get to and from work. We’ve heard from many workers that, without this aid, they simply wouldn’t have managed and/or felt comfortable coming in to work.

This culture of ‘caring’ supported employees and the contingent workforces with appropriate medical support and addressed the basis needs during the lockdown, thus creating a rewarding environment.

Teva during these extraordinary times extended support to the migrant population that was stranded during the lockdown with food, stood by the medical fraternity by providing PPEs and helped the contingent workers with grocery supplies. The outreach programs not only created impact on the society but also helped building awareness and commitment to providing a safer environment for each other.

Looking ahead…

In these unprecedented and challenging times, the India Situation Room has done, and is still doing, a commendable job of coming together and facing whatever daily challenges crop up.

The ISR platform has paved the way for sites, cross-functional teams, and individuals to work together, strengthen our systems, and reduce risk to safety, health and welfare all round.

The sheer magnitude of this cross-business operation, and the subsequent success of it, has prompted India’s leaders to take this working model forum forward. In the last couple of months, a Crisis & Business Continuity Management Team has been established, with the aim of providing business continuity planning guidance to sites and teams across India.


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