Giridhar Pai, director of PECOPP Pest Control Services in India, has published “My Life in a Pandemic,” his personal recollections of the year 2020. In addition to revisiting many of the business challenges brought about by COVID-19, Pai recalled how he heard the world’s loudest insect in his community for the first time when the lockdown stopped all activity and one could easily hear nature. His book documents many such wondrous natural phenomena apparent during reduced human activity outdoors. It can be ordered from Amazon at https://amzn.to/3vOVLLc. PCT caught up with Pai for the following Q&A.
PCT: Why did you write the book?
Gridhar Pai: In early 2020, I foresaw all of us going through a very unique period of our lives during that year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I wanted to record it for posterity. I maintained a daily journal for 100 days between July and October 2020. Using those contents and other personal notes, I published “My Life in a Pandemic” in February 2021.
PCT: How have you and your company fared during the pandemic?
Pai: I had started working at my new job at PECOPP, which I joined just before the pandemic surfaced in India. I managed to continue writing my two weekly newsletters Times of Urbania and PCO Mentor through 2020 and beyond. I also kept fit by walking and would have clocked more than 2,000 kilometers in 2020. Professionally, I benefited by attending webinars and online training conducted by PCT, Veseris and Pest Management University. At PECOPP, we revamped our company website and introduced a new service line, the Plant Doctor, a plant care service, which went live in October 2020. Work from home is not common in the Indian pest control industry and we had to adapt. We had to send technicians to customers’ premises, so those employees had to work in the field amidst movement restrictions. The shutdown of the Mumbai train system affected our employees’ ability to commute in that city. Our technicians used motorbikes, with a rider helping others by picking them or dropping them (at accounts). We also faced challenges of paperwork and accelerated our company’s digitalization, and adopted an ERP and technician app to become paperless in 2021.
PCT: What are few personal memories from this past year?
Pai: I used to attend American pest control industry webinars and some of those would start at midnight (Indian standard time). During one of the webinars, Dr. Faith Oi, from Pest Management University, remarked that I had to be very committed to be awake at 1:30 a.m. to attend a professional webinar! After 2020, I am now a regular at American webinars. Just in April 2021, I have attended two pest control industry webinars. I shall, henceforth, be participating in U.S. pest control webinars to keep up-to-date with industry developments. In my search for online pest management resources, I discovered the Pest Posse YouTube channel and wrote about it in PCO Mentor. After I shared my article with Pest Posse’s Foster Brusca and Culley Christensen, Foster interviewed me on a video call for the 155th episode of their YouTube channel, which they titled “Performing Pest Control in India.” One of my 2020 memories is making friends with many American PMPs and professionally benefiting from such associations. I have shared some tips on mistakes professionals making while working from home and how to more effectively use video calls, information I think will be of interest to PCT’s readers.
PCT: How do you think COVID- 19 will change the way you do business in the future?
Pai: One key trend from the pandemic for the Indian pest control industry is the acceleration of digitalization. PCOs will be far more digital in their business processes and be able to remotely manage their businesses. The second (trend) is the need to have business contingency planning (BCP), something other sectors like IT do routinely. PCOs are unfamiliar with risk management and BCP and have to adopt those practices to survive unforeseen events like the COVID-19 pandemic. The third trend is that the international pest control industry is inter-connected in ways we never previously thought. Though distance separates PMPs across countries, webinars help us interact with each other. We also have to work unitedly to get our industry recognized as an essential service. Networking and benefiting from experiences of PMPs from other countries is a trend that 2020 has started for the global pest control industry.
PCT: Could you give our readers an idea of how COVID recovery is going in India?
Pai: India has seen a resurgence of COVID-19 since March 2021, with the number of infections likely to peak (as of this writing). During the resurgence or second wave of the pandemic, India faced challenges of oxygen supplies which the Central and state governments are working on resolving. India is receiving international help including from the United States to provide emergency medical assistance to the Indian citizens severely impacted by COVID-19. India began its vaccination program in January 2021 and is now allowing all adults to avail the two doses of locally manufactured vaccines, COVISHIELD and COVAXIN. India is also allowing foreign vaccines under emergency approval for maximizing the number of people getting vaccinations in 2021. As of May 5, 2021, India had vaccinated more 162.42 million people of which each person would have received at least one of two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. — Brad Harbison