Sunny Verghese gets balance between business and humanitarian issues right
Olam International is facing big shocks to its business. Although most of its business is in staple foods, which remain largely unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is facing difficulties such as in producing food and getting it to consumers.
Besides talking about his business, CEO Sunny Verghese made it a point to talk about how the pandemic could be causing a humanitarian crisis of lost jobs, hunger, food insecurity, and child labour in African nations where Olam operates.
As always I am impressed with the way he handled the interview.
Read on for my assessment below.
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Here are the five top points about the interview
Verghese came prepared with persuasive statistics. He started off by saying Olam employs 89,000 people over 67 countries, and 85% of their business is in food and feed ingredients, an industry which is recession-proof. Throughout the interview, Sunny brought up numbers to give weight to his points.
When asked about how the pandemic is affecting his business, Verghese outlined that he would talk about the "four shocks" to the business from the pandemic: the health shock, a reduction in demand for some food while a rise in demand for others, difficulties in supplying food, and financial market shocks.
Verghese gave an example of how lost jobs in this crisis in Africa can lead to consequences where families have less to eat, or have to eat less nutritious foods, with some children even having to go and work. Verghese combines this with further statistics, mentioning that 150 million people have lost jobs in Africa in this crisis, and 60%-80% of their consumption expenditure is on food.
Verghese gave a vivid account of what it's like on the ground. He said schools are locked down, people cannot work, child labour and other issues might come up during this time. He also said unlike the developed world where there are job protection schemes, people in developing nations who don’t work won’t get to eat that day, which means the pandemic is creating a hunger crisis.
Verghese came off as honest and sincere, partly due to the strength of the humanitarian messaging. We were moved by his stories and examples, and we felt there was an emotional weight to this interview.
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