Business decisions are never made in a vacuum; Changing corporate environment- an opinion from Fiji Coconut Millers PTE Ltd management and staff

FCML Management & Staff

As the global market emerges from COVID-19 pandemic, change is evident in the local business. A lot has changed since the first wave of this pandemic hit Fijians and the business houses. Due to this crisis businesses redesigned their operational strategies in order to function. Manufacturers of Crude Coconut Oil, Virgin Coconut Oil and Coconut Cooking Oil, Fiji Coconut Millers PTE Limited is one of the two largest local manufacturers and suppliers. It was incorporated on 14th October, 1983 under the company’s act. The company does not only sell their products locally but also export 80% of the sales to overseas market. Of the products, copra (dried kernel) is a major source of vegetable oil and cooking oi. Shredded and dried kernel is widely used in the bakery and confectionery trade as desiccated coconut. The current export market of Fiji coconut millers are Malaysia, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand.

Unlike many businesses, Fiji coconut millers also faced various challenges during the first wave and the second wave of COVID-19.the Executive Manager of Fiji coconut millers, Mr. Mukesh Prasad said, “We are not able to access the market where we sell our products and we also face the problem of transportation. Since our raw materials come from the island and we later send it to Savusavu to get the final products and when the travelling restriction came into place, we could not get our products from Savusavu”. Tourism industry being the backbone of Fiji is also affected enormously which led to the decrease in sale of Virgin Coconut Oil which was mainly purchased by niche market. However, the products of Fiji coconut millers are available in all the supermarkets around Fiji Islands. Every business mind has an alternative to help run the company even in the crisis. Adding on Mr. Prasad said, “since our priority is to sell the products in from the customers about the products keeping in mind that we can approach them in person, we opted to virtual means of communication. We contacted them through calls, viber and also zoom meetings to keep the communication and our connection strong”. The outbreak of delta variant in Fiji has led to increase in unemployment but none of the employees of Fiji coconut millers were sent home. Having shown business ethics there has been no impact on the salary of Fiji coconut millers’ staff during this pandemic. Giving importance to the agricultural sector Mr. Prasad said, “agricultural industry cannot be neglected at any time. During COVID people who owned farms of rice, sugar, yaqona did not suffer as much as business houses”. It is a realization that agriculture can also uplift an individual’s status and Fiji coconut millers is a pure example of it since copra falls under agriculture. Business ethics is one of the major factors for a company to be successful. If a business is operating during COVID, is becomes very essential to safeguard the health of employees. Adhering to the COVID measures, Fiji coconut millers strictly did not allow customers to enter the head office in Suva, wearing masks and maintaining distance. Taking these measures, the company was able to protect its staff from getting infected which is something to be proud off.

In the process of taking business to the next level, business minds should be prepared to accept change be it physically, psychologically or virtually. During this pandemic majority of the business houses opted to virtual means of communication. During this time, if you are part of a business, you should also become part of the virtual world. Fiji coconut millers accepted this change and adapted the virtual means of communication. When things were normal, employees actually went out to the market to get orders and had meetings in person. Comparing things to the current situation meetings and orders are done through online zoom meetings which is also proved to be cost effective. Mr. Prasad added, “COVID taught us that operations can be done in a better and safer was which we were hesitant to practice earlier”. If you run a business, you should not stop yourself from exploring new things that surround you. Giving advice to other businesses Mr. Prasad said,” COVID has brought a lot of changes in our lifestyle but all of use came strong and made healthy decisions. It is very important for everyone to have a backup plan for future and have some savings so that survival can be easy in times like this. I strongly believe that agriculture is essential in our life because food is one of our basic needs which comes from the agriculture sector”.

Employees play a vital role in making any business successful. Therefore, it becomes the responsibility of the employers to have an alternative plan that will benefit the staff and the business in times of crisis. Fiji coconut millers sets great example to other businesses on building strong human resource relations.

By Manisha- Editor