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We're helping organisations strengthen their vaccination rollouts: SOS India MD

We foresee that vaccination will play a major role for building organisation resilience and return to office in the near future

Neeraj Balani, Managing Director, International SOS India
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Neeraj Balani, Managing Director, International SOS India

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International SOS Group of Companies, one of world's leading health and security services group that delivers customized health, security risk management and well-being solutions to fuel growth and productivity for clients around the world. Neeraj Balani, Managing Director, International SOS India, in an exclusive conversation with BIZZ BUZZ shares how his company is helping organisations protect their employee's lives, improve their health and wellbeing, and strengthen organization's resilience by providing medical expertise

Our workforce resilience program includes everything organisations need to safely manage their global teams while they work around the world. Our service prepares employees for layered threat environments, helps them to feel supported and productive, and provides them with assistance whenever they have a question, concern or crisis

With Capgemini, we are running one of the largest vaccination initiatives funded by a corporate in India. Capgemini has announced to vaccinate its employees and their dependents in the country. This is a great gesture by a corporate in helping our country reach its vaccination goal in the coming months

Can you tell us a little bit more about your India operations? How does it tie-in with the work you do globally?

International SOS started its operations in the year 2000 in India. International SOS helps organisations protect their employee's lives, improve employee health and wellbeing, and strengthen its organisation's resilience.

Our workforce resilience program includes everything organisations need to safely manage their global teams, while they work around the world. Our service prepares employees for layered threat environments, helps them feel supported and productive, and provides them with assistance whenever they have a question, concern or crisis.

Our services in India include:

1) Medical / security intelligence advisory experts wherein our experts help the leaders and their teams build and audit business continuity plans. CEO's bank on our medical advisory for key insights on return to office, how to prepare for the third wave, vaccination program for employees and dependents in the long run.

2) Under our workforce resilience package, we assist many organisations from India and large global organisations with operations in India. Our medical and security assistance program which is available 24X7 provides employees access to medical advice, tele-consultation, on-ground services such as covid-19 test arrangement, ambulance referrals and hospitalization. All this services are available at a click of a button on the International SOS app.

3) We also manage several onsite/remote and online/virtual medical clinics and health and wellness centers for our customers in India. These clinics provide the right medical advice, tele-consultation and health and wellness program to employees and even their dependents and help organisations build the right platform of engagement. We thus help our customers create a safe and healthy workplace. All this is delivered with a solid return on investment which is driven by higher employee productivity.

Since many of our global customers have large operations in India, we deliver most of the above services to their employees based out of India via our India unit.

Leading companies such as Capgemini and others have announced that they are rolling out their vaccination program for employees and dependents in association with you. Can you give me some kind of indication on the numbers you are planning to vaccinate through the program?

We are helping many organisations firm their vaccination policies and vaccination rollouts. With Capgemini, we are running one of the largest vaccination initiatives funded by a corporate in India. Capgemini has announced to vaccinate its employees and their dependents in the country. This is a great gesture by a corporate in helping our country reach its vaccination goal in the coming months.

How many corporates have you tied up with International SOS across India? How are you implementing it on ground?

Our vaccination program delivery is designed to give our customers project governance on the medical front. Vaccination of employees and dependents is a corporate responsibility which involves the management to take key decisions which require guidance on the medical front.

Our vaccination project delivery includes:

l Medical advisory for management (medico-legal liability, vaccination policy, vaccination and return to office etc)

l Vaccination helpline for employees for questions and queries on vaccines and vaccination

l Hospital and network tie ups to project manage the onsite and offsite vaccination camps and ensure compliance as per the guidelines issued by the government and local bodies.

l Contract and financial management

There have been a lot of conversations around Covaxin not being approved internationally. Given that you work with a lot of MNCs and Indian corporates, is it currently being offered as a vaccination option?

Our advice to all organisations is the best vaccine is the one which is available. In our vaccination drives we offer vaccines which are available as per the hospitals and their locations.

Are you seeing an increased traction amongst corporates looking to vaccinate their employees?

Vaccination is the only possible way we as a country will overcome Covid19. In line, we are seeing most of our customers encourage their employees and dependents for vaccination. International SOS India encourages its employees to get vaccinated. We foresee that vaccination will play a major role for building organization resilience and return to office in the near future.

From an employee point of view, are you seeing any hesitancy in taking the vaccines? What are you doing to help them overcome their apprehensions?

Vaccination hesitancy is a reality. It is a hindrance in any organisations sustainability plans and return to office plans.

We see hesitancy in employees due to several reasons:

l Lack of credible medical guidance

l Genuine concern on side effects of vaccines and vaccination and inability to get an expert advice on these questions especially, for aged people and those with comorbidities.

l Belief in non-credible information about vaccines

l Awaiting a better vaccine option

Our medical advisory platform and vaccine helpline solution helps employees to access our medical experts. The right information and medical guidance is provided on a proactive as well as a reactive platform which drives in lowering hesitancy.

Are you deploying any best international markets practices/learning in India?

International SOS is a global organization. We have several learnings from international markets which we have deployed in India to help our customers. For example, we did medical evacuations during the last few months from what we learnt in our global operations on how to manage covid-19 air ambulance cases. Similarly, we have had several learning from our India operations, especially on how we managed our operations during the second wave which we are now taking to the other markets.

Digital vaccine passports are increasingly being adopted the world over. You launched the AOK pass in association with International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and SGS Group a while ago. How has the traction been on that initiative? Are you seeing interest for a similar program in India?

As India moves towards its vaccination milestones, the need to grant access/permissions to people who have been tested negative/fully vaccinated will grow. Imagine a mall which can claim that it provides entry to only full vaccinated shoppers! It will be the preferred mall, but to physically check vaccine certificates of everyone entering the mall will be a logistical nightmare. This is where digital solutions such as AOK pass come handy wherein shoppers who have the pass can upload their vaccination certificates which will be verified and stored securely by the AOK pass app. This check can be read by a device placed at the entry of the mall which the shopper can show the AOK code and enter without any human intervention. In line, in the next few months all major organisations will need a secure way to allow their 'safe' employees and customers into their premises.

Vincent Fernandes
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