In October 2016, when we first learned about GST law, I felt that we, as an organisation, needed to comprehend its impact on our business. We wanted to start understanding the task early as we knew it was not limited to a particular department. Instead, it would affect everyone in the organisation and also our external stakeholders, suppliers, customers, transporters, the government and consultants.
This project required a leader who could guide a cross-functional team efficiently and keep things moving. We immediately thought of Nitin Kingrani to oversee progress with a steering committee.
Start of the project
We started by performing an impact assessment related to tax implications, process changes, and IT changes in the company. Many aspects of the GST law and its implementation date still needed to be clarified. Under such uncertainty, the team had to deliver on time. A single mistake by us and the business could come to a halt.
Our team met with suppliers and transporters in Kaladwas, Solan and Pratpnagar to get a complete idea of how prepared they were for GST. Their nonchalant attitude showed that they didn’t take GST seriously. As far as they were concerned, GST was just another rumour; we had to explain to them that GST was indeed a serious chain of value-added taxes and that their success in implementing GST was critical for our combined victory.
Engaging with them and asking them to run at our speed was critical. That paid off, as we got all our credit on time.
The next step was to assess the readiness of the sales side stakeholders. The team met dealers and customers across branches to clarify their doubts and explain life after GST. The customers had many interesting questions about various aspects of GST. It filled me with pride when one of our dealers commented, “Secure is the only company who is proactively engaging with us on GST and making this effort to make us succeed in the upcoming taxation regime. This is an example of business partnership in its true spirit”. A truly unforgettable moment.
Challenges faced by the team
The team was still determining when the tax would be implemented. There were rumours that it would be effective from 1st July 2017; however, the date could extend up to 1st September 2017. Another issue was understanding the law. The team had to stay alert, identify the risks and keep track of changes proposed by the GST council almost daily. Despite many challenges, the team never lost focus and showed their mettle.
GST affected the company’s entire supply chain, so we needed changes in Oracle ERP. The Oracle team was not prepared. Thus, we entered the most critical and challenging phase of the project. We agreed to do weekly calls with the team. We slowly and patiently progressed with them and made them work according to our requirements. We even spoke to their US Global Head and sought his support. While working with the Oracle team, I learned the term ‘RUP patch’, which means providing an immediate solution to a problem in ERP. I will always remember this term. We had over 50 such patches during the implementation programme.
Consultants who learned from each other
We hired two subject matter experts for the project, Oracle, our implementation partner and a functional knowledge partner. Another proud moment was when they commented that they had never had this kind of experience with a team running a project the way we were doing. They also mentioned how their other clients needed to catch up in their thinking and advised them based on their learning while working with Secure. They went so far as to say to a client, “If Secure has approved this, it must be right,” and advised them to “follow in too.”
The flyers and the call from SJS
In one of the meetings, Ananya suggested sending flyers to the employees to let them know the project’s status. These flyers were my first contact with the whole organisation, and I enjoyed working on them. I remember writing those flyers until midnight. I would childishly ask Nitin and Sunil, “Next flyer kab bhejna hai, chalo, flyer banate hai” (When is the following flyer due? Let’s make another one”.
The employees sent me messages wishing us success and expressing their desire to support the project in any way possible. Knowing everyone in the organisation was rooting for us was a great feeling. One of those days, I remember receiving a call from SJS, who was at the time at Mount Everest’s base camp. I was delighted to hear that he had read my flyers and was happy to receive updates on the project.
Our very own Bhopal branch and Kundan Switchgear – Suket’s favourite
In most of our steering committee and other meetings, Suket always gave the example of the Bhopal branch and Kundan Switchgear. He used to say, “Maan lo Bhopal branch main Kuch ho gaya, maan lo ye baat hame Kundan ko samjhani hai, maan lo ye humhe Bhopal branch main karna hai ” (Suppose something happens in the Bhopal branch, suppose we have to make this understand in Kundan, suppose we have to do this in Bhopal branch….) and so on. We would laugh a lot and say, let’s check this in the Bhopal branch.
The war room, my favourite memory.
You had to be in the room with the team to experience this ‘war’. Positivity at its finest, passion at its highest, energy at its peak, the atmosphere full of enjoyment with a ‘will to win’. Adarsh’s horse running across the screen and how Sunil, Jawalia, Nitin and Jitesh kept the team motivated with their humour 24 by 7 will never leave my memory. This is what I call ‘magic’. The war room reinforced what I already knew – people are your biggest strength.
The D-day – Our first GST purchase and sales invoice
On 5th July 2017, after Radaji’s pooja, we created our first sales invoice and a GRN. The team’s efforts made the process run smoothly.
I remember the night I sat with Nitin, Anil and the team to file the return. We only had one goal in mind: the first GST return had to be accurate the first time. Through various checks and balances, we started filing the return. It was imperative to do it correctly with the available information in the system. We constantly verified all the information and filed our first return using the slowest GSTN network. Team members did an excellent job reconciling the balances.
Our first refund of GST – The lady at the customs
One of the biggest risks we identified was that we might not get our refund of GST on time. This meant that the company’s working capital needs would increase. Pre-GST, we used to receive the return in five months; we believed that during this transition, this would take up to 12 months because of the issue with GSTN and customs integration.
Thankfully, we received the refund in October 2017. With Rajesh and Nitin, I travelled to Ahemdabad customs to solve this problem. We met with a lady at the customs office. She still needed to learn how to process refunds. We sat with her at her computer, worked out how the process ran and explained it to her. She was delighted and thanked us for helping her. We got our refund in 7 days.
The team who created this magic
The thing that comes out of this entire journey is that the people in the organisation make things happen with their efforts. Rather than waiting for things to happen, the team took action. This is the power of teamwork. Throughout my career, I have always believed that growing your people will automatically grow your business. In the whole project, no team member ever lost their cool. Every team member had only one goal: the project’s success. To this day, when I contact other Oracle clients or exporters, they are still far behind us.
There’s no magic to it; only the way we work makes it magical. The team created that magic.
Well done, team Secure!