CEO’s Update: The Year That Was
27th January, 2023
2022 was a good year for us. We reopened our India studios and almost half our team is back to working full time from the studio. Our headcount grew by almost 25% to support all the amazing projects that we got a chance to work on. We even opened up a new studio in Bangalore (India) to help us keep pace with our growing talent needs! Our teams in the US and UK grew too.
We are sorry to see the layoffs in our industry and would like to extend our support to all those who are impacted. Lakshya, along with many of our sister studios in the US and the UK, are actively hiring. Here’s more on this: https://bit.ly/kwsroles
We will be at GDC in March and we look forward to meeting our clients and partners to discuss how Lakshya can provide support in these uncertain times. Please reach out to Arjun, Mukund, Rob or me if you would like to meet us. Else, you can find us at the Keywords Studios booth and we can catch up over a drink.
10th August, 2022
Like much of the world, we too are learning to live with Covid and all our India studio facilities are functional now. In July, we were able to restart operations at our Gurgaon studio – having started operations at our Bangalore and Pune studios earlier. With that, we now have about 30% of our team working from the studio. While this is a big step towards returning to normalcy, a large chunk of our team is still working from home and would continue to do so in the foreseeable future. Those of us who are back in the studio though love being able to interact face to face with our co-workers.
Also in July, Lakshya was fortunate to host a senior management team from Keywords Studios. This included Keywords CEO Bertrand Bodson, CFO Jon Hauck, Chief Culture Officer Joe Binnion and Chief Shared Service Officer Nicolas Liorzou. Lakshya has ambitious growth plans over the next 3 years, and this was an opportunity for us to share with the management team our goals and plans. During this visit. Lakshya signed an MOU with the Government of India under which Lakshya will partner with the government to set up and run premier training institutes across India for Game Art and Game Development programmes. We are super excited at this opportunity to play a leading role in the large-scale creation of key talent for game development in India.
We look forward to being at XDS and TGS next month; and would love to connect with you in case you too are attending. In case we don’t manage to set a meeting up with you beforehand, you can find us at the Keywords stall.
15th April, 2022
After working from home for two years, we are now in the process of returning to studio for in-person working. So much has happened during these 24 months!
When India went into a sudden lock-down in the last week of March in 2020 to combat the spread of Covid, we had thought that we would probably need to work from home for some weeks, a couple of months at best. Not for a moment did we think that the months would turn into years and working-from-home would, for many, become a comfortable and practical alternative. Neither did we think that a significant number of us would get Covid ourselves, and some among our friends, family members and acquaintances would succumb to the disease. It’s been quite a rollercoaster ride.
Through all this, what has been extremely gratifying to see is how the Lakshya team has consistently gone above and beyond to overcome the challenges that working-from-home brought. As a result, after some struggles during the first few weeks, we were able to provide a high level of service to our clients consistently through this period.
Lakshya’s employees are now returning to our studios in small batches. Keeping in mind the safety of our employees as well as government directives and mandates, we plan to, for now, have only some of our employees work from the studio. The remaining employees will continue to work-from-home using the secure processes and systems that we put in place. We will continue to monitor the situation over the coming months and make gradual further changes
We realize that the pandemic is not over, and newer more dangerous variants could emerge in the future. For now, though, we are just grateful that in many ways we are able to return to a life that is close to how life was pre-pandemic.
10th November, 2021
It’s a matter of great pride for me that Lakshya was awarded the “Medal of Honour” last month by the Board of Keywords Studios for the exemplary work that has been done by the Lakshya team to help employees through the Covid Pandemic.
Like many other companies, Lakshya strived to enable employees to stay not only safe but also productive through the pandemic. It was important to me that Lakshya provides its employees a safe and secure work-from-home setup that provided both a sense of security and continuity. To do so we knew we had to create an environment as close to “normal business” as possible. From a continuity point of view, we wanted our employees to feel confident through the pandemic, and to enable this, our teams went out of their way to not only ship machines across the four corners of India, but also rolled out a secure VPN network in record time and created a pan-India network of dedicated hardware support teams that employees could reach out to.
With continuity covered, in parallel it was of utmost importance to me and my management team that we do whatever we could to help our extended work family through the mentally tough and physically taxing times. So, we extended additional benefits such as reimbursement of internet bills and electricity bills etc. More importantly those who were infected and fell ill, received additional paid time off and financial assistance, wherever required. Where my team shined though, was when they went above and beyond what was expected of them during the devastating Covid 2nd wave in India. From arranging meals for employees during the strict lockdown to arranging for medicines and doctor consultations to finding oxygen cylinders and hospital beds for seriously ill employees (when hospitals were over-flowing and had run out of oxygen and beds), the Lakshya team took care of employees as though they were family. That’s why we have always maintained that Lakshya is more than just a strong team, it is a family where we are there for, and take care of each other.
It was here then, that we also started to put effort into gathering better data on employee satisfaction metrics such as recognition, manager relationships and working hours- all three being of even more importance during pandemic times where work-life balance and mental well-being has become even more important. To enable our artists to be as far away from “crunching” as possible, our production plans allocate reasonable expectations of output from each artist, and most of our projects also have extra (buffer) artists allocated to them to cover for artist vacations, any sickness leaves, etc. Lakshya has also, at its own cost, onboarded an external agency to provide free, on-demand counselling to aid with mental health – be it work stress or personal relationships.
Still, it wouldn’t be correct of me to say that a team has never ended up working extended hours (unfortunately all the more so during WFH, when issues such as power outages and unstable internet connections have exacerbated this problem, because employees sometimes don’t have power back-up and good quality broadband connections at home). So, when employees have worked beyond regular work hours to complete extra work, we compensate them with paid time off (which, if not availed, can be fully encashed at the end of the year). All of which we hope provides balance. And just to be sure, we have also started running workplace surveys more often and with updated questions that address the current times and challenges we live in.
With the Covid 2nd wave subsiding across India, many companies are back to working in-person. We are however holding back on re-opening the studio for now (though it would be more convenient to open the studio and have everyone back together) because we are not certain that it is 100% safe for our teams to do so. We are currently in the midst of the festival season in India and we’re on wait and watch mode, not willing to risk anyone’s health. We are closely watching the situation and hope to be able to go back to the studio early next year.
Lastly, November is National Gratitude Month and to mark the occasions of Diwali and Thanksgiving, I would like to express my gratitude towards each and every employee of Lakshya Digital for going above and beyond to ensure that we continue to meet our goals.
Thank you everyone for your patience – these are important topics to me and I appreciate your attention.
15th July, 2021
We have just closed on a tough quarter. At the start of the quarter, India was in the grip of a devastating 2nd Covid wave, and a significant number of our employees were either themselves infected or had members of their family falling victim to the virus.
Through the quarter, though, things improved, and all our employees are now back at work. I am both glad and grateful – glad first that most employees recovered quickly and didn’t suffer much, and secondly that in most cases where employees fell ill, their project teams rallied around and were able to minimize the impact of their absence on the projects. I am grateful that in cases where there were some delays, our clients were extremely understanding, patient and supportive and this enabled us to quickly bounce back.
To better protect our employees from the ravages of a future Covid wave, we organised vaccination camps at our studios in Gurgaon and Pune. Employees were encouraged to sign themselves and their families up for free doses of Covid vaccine, which were made available by Lakshya. Similar camps will be organized when the second vaccine doses become due for these employees and their families. Some of our employees have moved back to their hometowns during work-from-home, and they were not able to attend the vaccination camps that we organised. For them and their families, we have made arrangements so that they will be able to get vaccinated at company cost at any hospital near their residence.
Also, during the past quarter was E3 and as always, it was great to see the spotlight on so many of our client’s game titles – ones that we are proudly working on. We look forward to a slew of successful game releases in the coming months!
16th April, 2021
It’s now been a little over a year since India went into a sudden and complete lockdown in order to slow the spread of coronavirus. The lockdown had caught everyone in India by surprise – and its is a matter of great pride for me how quickly we, at Lakshya, were able to bounce back. When the lockdown came into effect from March 22nd, 2020, most of the team was completely unequipped to work-from-home (WFH). But in a little over a week, we had about 60% of team back online. Over the next 3 months, the rest of the team also came online working-from-home, some of whom had to overcome significant odds to do so. Much has happened since then. We have had about 8-9 months of “normal” production while continuing with WFH, and we have settled into this “new normal” way of working.
India is now in the midst of a Covid 2nd wave which appears to be a lot more virulent than the 1st wave. Some of Lakshya’s artists have been infected as well but luckily, most cases have been mild thus far and those who have been infected have been able to return to working from home in about a week. We are tracking all cases closely and extending assistance to our employees wherever required.
Vaccination is also currently underway in India and much like other countries, the current focus is on vaccinating the front-line workers and older citizens (those over 45 years). Though over 100 million doses of vaccines have already been administered (faster than anywhere else in the world), given India’s large population, it will be a while before a sufficient proportion of the population has been vaccinated and herd immunity can kick in.
Our heartfelt gratitude to all clients for the unstinting support that we continue to receive from them through these difficult times. We could get back on our feet as quickly as we did only because we had your helping hand.
7th January, 2021
Without a shadow of doubt, 2020 can be called the most difficult year that we’ll see in our lifetimes. In the 3rd week of March, the Indian government imposed a sudden country-wide lockdown in a bid to delay the onset of the pandemic and to give authorities and healthcare professionals time to prepare for it. It was one of the largest and strictest lockdowns in human history that caught most people unawares.
As part of our Business Continuity process, we had been gearing up for such an eventuality from a week earlier. We had started reaching out to clients seeking permission for remote working even before the lockdown was announced. And once it was declared, we quickly set up all our workstations for secure remote working that would ensure complete safety of client data. In an overnight, logistical nightmare of an operation, we were able to ship workstations to almost all of our 500 + employees’ homes!
The next few weeks proved to be extremely difficult for many of our employees. Lakshya’s Covid taskforce worked with employees to address a range of work-from-home (WFH) challenges varying from broadband connectivity, electricity supply and in some cases even the availability of meals.
Through all these myriad issues, it was hugely gratifying to see the Lakshya family come together and work as one team in a determined manner. By the start of April, over 60% of the team was successfully working from home and the numbers kept increasing every day. Many of our team members – in India, US, Japan and UK, worked long hours to make up for those who weren’t functional yet. By July end we were back at full capacity and “business as usual”. And from then on, we have just pushed forward relentlessly to ensure we meet client expectations of high-quality content while minimising any disruption of delivery schedules.
As a result of Lakshya’s massive push to not only restore production capacity back to pre-Covid levels but to actually go beyond it, we will end the year having contributed to an incredible 90 games (and the odd non-game assignment as well)!
To our clients – I take this opportunity to extend a heartfelt thank you for believing in us as your trusted partner. Especially during the early, more challenging times in the year, it was extremely heartening to receive encouragement, belief and support from all our clients. This has been a time when the gaming industry has truly shone and leant on each other. With your support, not only did we work on 90+ games, but we broke quite a few internal Lakshya records. We could not have done it without you, and I am grateful. We look forward to growing this relationship in the year ahead, and will continue to expand our offerings and value to support you better. Stay tuned!
Thanks to every team member too who stepped up and helped confront the extraordinarily difficult circumstances that 2020 brought us. Your willingness and ability to meet the challenges and capitalise on opportunities, gives us courage, confidence and hope for the future.
Covid has taken its toll on many of us. Some Lakshya team members have been infected or have seen their family members battle through it. A few have even lost their loved ones. Our prayers and thoughts go out to everyone who has experienced any kind of loss through the year.
In these uncharted times, I would like to reiterate that to protect our staff and the broader community, we are currently working remotely. Be reassured, as a business, we are here to support all our stakeholders.
Happy New Year 2021!
May 21, 2020:
India is now in the 4th phase of lockdown. We have been in lockdown for nearly two months, and it is expected to stay in place till at least the end of May. Even if the lockdown does end anytime soon, we expect significant restrictions to continue for some time to come.
The last two months have been challenging, but it has been heartening to see the support that our clients have given us through it. I would like to thank each of them for showing trust and faith in Lakshya and allowing us to work from home. All our teams in India, Seattle and Tokyo are working from the safety of their homes. It is deeply satisfying to see how they have rallied to face the challenges of working from home, and their enthusiasm to give their best has not seen any hiccups. More employees are beginning to come online as we succeed in providing them access to their systems, that are fully patched and prepared to keep all data secure. We expect that the few team members who earlier were not able to work from home, would be able to do so effectively by May end.
Even though cases of infection are continuing to grow in India, I am relieved that all members of the Lakshya team, and their families, are safe. With cases in India not expected to peak for at least another month, I am glad that our entire team is working from the safety of their homes. We are very conscious of the wellbeing of our team and hence it is highly unlikely that we will ask any of our teams to start work from their respective studio, till it is relatively safe to do so.
I hope all of you stay healthy and safe.
April 14, 2020:
As per the announcement made by our Prime Minister today, the lockdown in India has been extended till May 3rd. While India has managed to keep the number of infected cases within reasonable control thus far, the next couple of weeks will be extremely crucial in the fight against the spread of COVID-19.
Across the country, many neighbourhoods, such as the one I live in, are now under curfew-like lockdown as the authorities try to “flatten the curve”.
Meanwhile, our team has settled into a routine in Working-from-Home and I am amazed at how well they have taken up the challenge of working under significantly changed conditions. Though we have a large part of our team working from home, some of the team members have not been able to set themselves up for Work-from-Home logistics due to the strict lockdown implemented by the government.
In order to help our employees in any which way we can during these difficult time, Lakshya has set up dedicated helpdesk for all our studios in India to solve issues that employees are facing ranging from VPN connectivity to food delivery. We have made all attempts to provide them the support structure that they have been used to while working from the studios, and also the issues that have come up due to these unforseen and difficult work requirements.
Stay safe everyone.
March 31, 2020:
We are now into our second week of work-from-home (WFH) and most of the initial issues that we encountered have been resolved. Most of our artists are now online and working from home. Just a hand full left, who also will be online in the next day or so when their broadband connections become active or if we manage to somehow ship their work PCs to them.
About 75% of our team is online now and making an attempt to settle into this “new” way of working. Daily team meetings over Microsoft Teams help the project teams to stay connected. Non-project discussions are done over Teams and Whatsapp. Our Process Team has worked out new processes for alternate work review and tracking methods, making the data management more secure, effective and efficient. Some of the day-to-day challenges are significant but we are slowly working our way through them.
Our Seattle and Japan teams and their families are safe and are all working from home. They are working very closely with the India team to ensure that we are together able to minimise the impact of this new work environment that we have to live with for some time.
We are deeply concerned about our colleagues and partners in the US and in Europe where the pandemic is at its height. Our prayers are with you.
Stay safe everyone!
March 23, 2020:
The COVID 19 pandemic is unlike anything that we have seen before. Across the world, as the number of infected reaches alarming levels, strong measures, the likes of which have not been seen by most of us in our lifetimes, are being put in place by nations to stop the spread of infection.
The Indian government has acted swiftly and implemented a lock down across most of the country even though the number of infected in India is still relatively low, with the intention of preventing a much more serious, long term effect.
Though the lock down – which has been in place since Sunday March 22nd (in Pune from the evening of March 20th) – has come suddenly, Lakshya has been able to react quickly as we started preparing for it early. Consequently, we have been able to extend support for work-from-home (WFH) to a large number of our artists. This hasn’t been an easy endeavor as permissions had to be secured from clients, PCs had to be made secure to protect project/client data, secure VPN connections had to be provided to the production team and then these PCs had to be delivered to employee’s homes. Lakshya’s IT, Office Admin and Production Team seniors rose marvelously to the challenge and over 2 days and 1 night, a large number of production PCs were made ready and dispatched to artists home. Consequently, we expect a significant proportion of our production team to be up and running over the next couple of days.
Our teams in Seattle and Tokyo are also working from home now.
There will be some teething issues as our India team moves to WFH. For one, this is the first time that our team will be working from home, and they’ll need to adopt new work processes. We are now working to identify such issue and explore ways to minimize the impact of these disruptions on production schedules. We will be reaching out to our clients individually to update them on the impact on their projects.
We are hopeful of being back in the studio in about 2 weeks (the current lock down is till March 31st) and will make every effort we can to pull back any overdue schedules. Thank you for bearing with us as we take care of our employees as well as our projects.
Stay safe everyone!