The coronavirus pandemic has created unforeseen challenges for businesses across industries. It’s safe to conclude that COVID19 has put world business on a standstill. A return to normal entails a vaccine or an anti-viral, and both are at least a year away from being released. So as of today, the only effective strategy we have is social distancing and hygienic practices, such as wearing masks and using hand sanitizers.
Out of 2.1 million positive cases globally, 145,000 patients have died. The only reason these numbers aren’t higher is due to Government-enforced lockdowns. While these lockdowns are reducing infection spread, they’ve had a severe toll on businesses. Mass unemployment has ensued, with the US alone reporting 22 million displaced workers. Companies in the Tourism and Hospitality industries have seen revenues drop down to 0, with no light at the end of the tunnel. Well, not yet at least.
Kristalina Georgieva, the head of the IMF announced that the recession the global economy is currently in could be worse than the major crash of 2008. Millennial and Gen Z business owners may not remember how bad things got during the last financial crisis. But, entrepreneurs who were operating at the time can testify to the severity of the struggle. Companies today have chosen to re-group and re-strategize to make it through these unprecedented times.
I’ve compiled the following pointers that my company is keeping in mind to navigate around these uncertain times:
A change in the online landscape
The demand for essential commodities is at an all-time high despite the lockdowns across countries. People are also spending more time than usual on their devices. This is changing the online landscape significantly and allowing for all companies – big or small, to capture the online marketplace.
Canada and the United States experienced a 56% rise in online orders (between 22nd March and 4th April 2020). Amazon’s sales have increased significantly ever since the lockdown, and their first quarterly figures are poised to be 22% higher than that of last year.
In Indonesia, ride-hailing companies Gojek and Grab are offering “ready-to-cook” features on their respective apps, allowing consumers to get frozen meal-kits delivered to their homes in order to break their fast.
Bengaluru’s civic corporation body, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, or BBMP has managed to assemble, on Whatsapp, merchants, hyperlocal logistics companies, and even on-demand service providers, to cater to the public’s needs.
Money transfer companies are providing secure and user-friendly online platforms for remittances. This is an important step for them to recover from the instant elimination of their offline stores.
Late-night shows in the United States have already begun hosting on social media platforms. Across industries, companies are making the best use of the online medium to deliver to their existing customers, but more importantly, to build new ones.
Perhaps there’s an opportunity here for your business as well.
Globalism under threat
While member countries of the European Union are generally in sync with the body’s one Europe view, they acted independently to tackle COVID 19. Due to the outbreak, pre-existing sentiments of populism and xenophobia will amplify. The case for a world without borders will seem unrealistic. Governments will pass stricter legislations surrounding foreign travel and immigration.
As a result, companies that rely on other nations to complete their supply chains will have to explore alternatives to accomplish the same from their home countries. COVID19 has exhibited how the world’s heavy dependency on China has today stunted their economies and hurt business. Businesses might have to learn how to survive without significant foreign outsourcing.
Low/no contact solutions
Times are hard for all high-touch, close contact businesses. This is especially true for those businesses in the Hospitality, Manufacturing, and Healthcare industries, as they cannot operate online. Since there is a general trust deficit across customers, here is a list of possibilities that could help your business cope:
- Advanced online payment options will become the norm, while cash transactions will reduce
- Food and grocery delivery services will become more popular
- Several healthcare companies have introduced chatbots where patients can key in their symptoms. This can help doctors arrive at a quick diagnosis, in a remote manner
- Contactless dining options will be introduced in most restaurants – with the food aggregator companies leading the way
- Manufacturers could introduce remote-controlled manufacturing processes, thereby reducing the number of workers in close proximity to each other
If low contact solutions prove that they can effectively tackle infection spread, they could then lay the foundation for bringing back the most affected industries – Hospitality and Tourism.
Blurred lines between formal and online education
COVID19 has thrust several educational institutions to shift online. With many reputed institutions making a quick transition, it is more or less established that education does not require a physical classroom or a campus for that matter. But are they able to continue to engage their students? That remains a looming question.
Post COVID19, any business in the education industry will have to think beyond the traditional notions of learning. Professionals are opting for online courses to further excel in their careers. This signals a massive opportunity for traditional schools and universities to reinvent learning. Learning that meets the needs of a new economy.
Accordingly, recruitment criteria may change, by focusing more on provable skills and less on expensive degrees.
Tech companies, in particular, will find this highly applicable.
Plan for today, prepare for tomorrow
Although the coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the business landscape, tomorrow’s environment will be different, but no less rich in possibilities for those who are prepared.
It’s pertinent for businesses to understand that everything we know ceases to operate in the same manner. COVID19 has shown that it’s time to steer the world business according to a “new normal” and build based on that premise.