It was a Friday that is hard to forget! Cyclone ‘Fani’ with heavy rain and wind speed of 200 kilometres per hour had hit Orissa on May 3rd. Life was disrupted even as over one million people had been moved to safe locations.

Like all workplaces, the Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages (HCCB) factory at Khurda, near Orissa’s capital Bhubaneshwar, had taken all contingency measures. Yet, after the first 24 hours of nature unleashing its fury, work at the factory was not possible.

A crack team, that visited the factory a day after the cyclone, assessed the damage. Power supply had been snapped, connectivity lost, factory premises submerged in the incessant rain, infrastructure damaged and turbo ventilator blown away. Without connectivity, scheduling, production, quality shipping and logistics, teams could not work.

For the community in the areas surrounding the factory, drinking water and basic amenities were in short supply.

Sitting at his apartment at Khandgiri, some 15 kilometres away from the Khurda factory, Rabi Narayan Kar had mixed feelings. His family was safe but he knew that the factory was in trouble and so were the people in the local community. The factory had to run if it was to provide drinking water to people nearby. The factory in turn, could only operate, if water receded, urgent repairs were undertaken and internet connectivity restored. 

Rabi Kar – a part of the sales team at HCCB, wanted to get things going. By a stroke of luck, the connectivity at his apartment seemed to work.

He had a quick chat with his wife. Next, he was dialling phone numbers. Rabi told his bosses that they should consider working out of his apartment- in fact convert it into a makeshift office! It sounded like a useful idea that no one had thought of.

The IT team was the first to visit his apartment. They managed to set up the systems for basic connectivity. Soon, the emails and other systems were accessible to the 10-15 people working from Kar family’s home.

“What we have in the house, is because of Hindustan Coca-Cola. So, it was only normal for us to do our bit. We feel proud in doing this for Coca-Cola,” Kar’s wife, Monalisha, told senior managers at HCCB.

Makeshift office for all teams

Nearly 24 hours after the factory had been shut down completely, the operations were resumed with the RGB (returnable glass bottles) and sparkling lines being the first off the block. It was a mammoth task, assessing the damage, cleaning the place, arranging things back in order, organising for shipping and logistics and several other steps, big and small.

While one team tried to address the challenge of connectivity, another was trying to make sure water was available to the community in the vicinity. The line at the Khurda factory had produced water, which had not yet been shipped to the market. Soon, water was ferried to local communities in the areas of capital Bhubaneshwar and Puri.

“We had to assess the situation and complete the work urgently since water was the first need for the local community,” Factory Manager Joydeep Roy said.  

Two days after the cyclone, the communication systems were barely working at the factory. That made it impossible for the team to connect to its ERP systems. Without reliable connectivity to these systems, coordinating between various departments- some of which work from other cities, was nearly impossible

After Kar and the other team members worked their phones, his 16th floor apartment welcomed a small team to work from there. Since their home had optic fibre connectivity, it ensured a stable connection to the ERP systems. Even in the grim situation, everyone had smiles on their faces.

From May 6, for the next 72 hours, the apartment had people from different teams at their makeshift ‘desks.’ The place may not have been perfect but the attitude was – none of the people working, ever complained. It did not matter whether someone was perched on the chair or managed to find a place in any corner. They took turns to work from Kars’ home till they could move to a temporary office at a nearby hotel.

“It was complete teamwork by all of us together. In the hour of crisis, we were helped by the Kar family and then everyone chipped in to do their bit,” Mohan Singh, Vice President Supply Chain North & East, HCCB said.

The factory meanwhile, is being spruced up to get back into running condition after minor repairs. Factory Manager Roy says every person working within the premises was treated like a Coca-Cola employee and taken full care of during the period. “It is with everyone’s help that we could get the lines working again after a 24-hour shutdown,” he points out.

The local communities’ most urgent needs were attended to with water. While the Kars opened their doors and their hearts, everyone put their heart and soul into getting the factory in running condition again.