Digital Learning: How the Pandemic Became a Catalyst for Change
MD & CEO of Manappuram Finance Ltd.
Companies engaged in the services sector depend a lot on their frontline employees. After all, they deal directly with customers and the image of the company depends entirely on the quality of their interaction with customers. As a leading player in the financial services business, this applies to Manappuram Finance too. And that is why we strongly believe in providing ample training and learning opportunities to our employees. Some time ago, in this magazine’s November 2020 issue, I had written at length about how digital learning had taken off at Manappuram in the aftermath of the pandemic-induced lockdowns (refer the article titled “The new normal at Manappuram”).
As a matter of fact, we had embarked on the digitalisation drive well before the first wave of Covid-19 last year. However, what changed is that after the onset of the pandemic, the speed at which we adopted these transformative changes became almost breath-taking. Within a few days of the lockdown announcement, we succeeded in extending work from home facilities to all our employees. It was a herculean task to remotely connect our 22,000 employees as two-thirds hail from remote locations all over the country. It was, therefore, necessary to provide all required facilities to our employees to enable them to work remotely, and we did this on a war-footing. It could be done only because of all the investments in technology that we have been making over the previous four to five years.
For example, we have been active in the digitalization of our learning and development endeavours, and we had made a good start by implementing a Learning Management System (LMS) in the year 2017. That gave us an early impetus and took us to a point where we were more than ready to embrace the transformative changes happening in the learning and development (L&D) sector today. LMS was the beginning of a paradigm shift in the way our employees were trained. We acquired the ability to make available to our employees the various modules of learning in the form of split micro segments, on a 24X7 basis. It was an achievement to train our employees virtually, without resort to any of the conventional modalities hitherto prevalent in the sector.
By the middle of 2020, we had conceptualised a broader canvas of an ideal digital learning platform that finally came into being with the ideas and efforts of a team of dedicated employees at the Manappuram School of Training. And that was how, in the 21st year of the 21st century, we have now erected another milestone in our history with the implementation of our own in-house Learning Experience Platform called MADU.
The term MADU has a philosophical significance to it. In ancient India it was customary for children to take their first step into the realm of knowledge by tasting a drop of honey that symbolized the fruit of knowledge. ‘Madu’ is the word for honey, and we hope MADU will uplift the learner into the higher dimensions of learning and encourage them to explore the intricacies of the subject and taste the sweet nectar of knowledge. With this platform, we aim to evolve a learning strategy focused on increasing knowledge retention and providing an intuitive user experience.
As a highly customizable and interactive platform, there is potential for MADU to be further extended to the subsidiaries and group companies of Manappuram. The possibility of adoption by other companies, not necessarily part of the Manappuram stable, is also real. Importantly, I believe this will create a profound impact on Manappuram’s employees as they acquire access to a platform that enables continuous learning and self-improvement, much needed in a period of uncertainty such as today.
In life, no matter how difficult the situation we find ourselves in, we should always retain our presence of mind and try to think of a solution to get things done within the constraints, rather than bemoaning over fate. Challenges pave the way for opportunities. Those who are exposed to challenges tend to utilize the best of opportunities. Look at Japan… look at Israel. The people in these regions are always exposed to challenges. They are always alert and innovative. Those countries flattened by the World Wars have made incredible progress since then. Certainly, situations like a pandemic, a war, or other such threats, cause a lot of pain but they also create opportunities. The pandemic, in this sense, acted as a catalyst for the faster adoption of digitalization and virtualization process that made us more resilient during a period of challenge and widespread adversity.
With the use of this digital learning tool, we could successfully revitalize our human resources by training and upgrading their skills and making these resources available to them 24X7. We combined technology and information resources to allow remote access to educational content, breaking down the physical barriers and presenting our employees with an ‘out-of-the-box learning experience’.
We have created a Digital Library combining the concepts of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. The Digital Library comprises a wide selection of books and study material, online video tutorials and interactive sessions. This leads to the concept of ‘Think & Learn’ which enhances the cognitive skills of employees.
With the debut of MADU, the Manappuram Group has begun a journey that will be transformational, and I strongly believe that we shall become a pacesetter in technology enabled education, and in creating a virtual infrastructure to conduct our operations remotely.
MADU, as a fount of knowledge, has already begun to create waves in the L&D sector. It has been recognised with a Certificate of Functional Competency by IIM Indore who carried out a comprehensive scrutiny of its functionalities. MADU has also become the world’s first platform to publish the digital version of a novel by Johan Brown. Over the coming days, this cutting-edge learning solution will continue to improve its usability and keep adding to the depth and breadth of its content. For now, I am happy to announce that with its 1,000+ intuitive features, MADU stands head and shoulders above any other digital learning solutions available in the industry today.
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