COVID-19 and its impact on Business – Raneez Sheriff, Head of Marketing NOLIMIT/Glitz

COVID-19 Pandemic is a global concern having an eminent impression on humans as well as human-driven institutions. The treacherous pandemic has taken over the world creating a huge impact on the global economy. According to a new report from McKinsey & Company, as cited in an article in weforum.org, A muted economic restoration in the US & Eurozone’s could take until 2023 from the impact from the COVID-19 crisis.

What a muted economic recovery means for the world
Image: McKinsey & Company (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/03/economic-impact-covid-19/)

Surprisingly even the advanced countries with the highest technology and the most active leadership have not been able to resist the way the world anticipated to do. It has been challenging for many. Isn’t it something to speculate about? What should be the level of dependency on technology and innovations? How can this understanding impact the approach towards future businesses? Are businesses driven only on the evolving technology and the processors to increase productivity measured by the day? Are we too content to be on what’s trending globally and follow them with Pride?

My take of the learning is that COVID-19 has conferred a distinct dimension to business and how businesses could adopt strategies based on MACRO factors, timely enactment and innovations, setting Human resources more efficiently, discipline and drive forward with the help of technology.

Impact on the Business Strategy

COVID-19 outbreak has not given reservation to continue the businesses in the most contended conventional way. It has made corporates understand that continuous Innovation and building strategic resources internally while watching the speeding Market out there are not an elective anymore, but a critical success factor when formulating ongoing strategies. One cannot cling to a set annual strategy designed at a strategic session. Corporates should be wheeling on an evolving strategy with time. The Strategists in organizations should be open to change strategies and proactively implement with the anticipation of what it takes to do better at the very next time.

According to my viewpoint, a balance of People, processors, technology and an open mindset to evolve with innovation and new strategies while being circumspect about the rapidly changing environment could overpower this challenge.

Change in the way Organizations think

I see senior personalities in many corporate organizations have taken a forceful break from the routine management, probably after 25 to 30 years. COVID-19 has shown how it would be if you take a break right in the middle so that you could have a fresh outlook, learn by yourself and contribute back to your organization better than how you did in the past years.

Embracing the GIG Economy

It is also the time to embrace the GIG economy. Companies are now mastering how they could manage Human resources differently. During this period, I see many are conveniently outsourcing work to individuals and small-timers who are competent to carry out tasks. A paradigm shift in the outsourcing business and working with freelancers, small-time businesses after the restoration from this outbreak can be expected.

Working from Home

Working from Home is another avenue opened up for many organizations both state-owned and private sector. Organizations should look at this concept positively. COVID-19 laid the platform for trial with no alternative left. I think it’s a matter of acceptance from time-based tasks to a task-based working culture.

Productivity

During this period, many are deliberately multi-tasking, avoiding wastage and managing available limited resources very productively. On the other hand, if we glance at the Government Health sector in specific, it is comprehended at very high levels around the globe. Tri forces have been employed productively and they have proved utmost performance in many projects carried out to serve the mission against the COVID-19. The postal sector is accommodating to deliver medicines along with the Health sector. Mobile communication and modern technology have been used very effectively to assure productivity. Can this learning be brought to the light of the corporate world and make things more productive than how it was done?

Appreciating our own

Before COVID-19, we took our very own, homegrown Sri Lankan enterprises, upcoming entrepreneurs for granted. Today we have started appreciating the Baker who comes to the doorstep, the vegetable seller to the small grocery shop whom we did not care much about. Today, we are even ready to accept individuals, small-time entrepreneurs with a basic grocery list without a brand name just to fulfil our needs. How did we build this much confidence on our own? Didn’t they exist? Didn’t we complain the small inefficiencies of these guys earlier?

Majority of us would have always favoured an imported product over one that is locally manufactured. But today our small-time entrepreneurs are producing face masks for the use of the highest risk medical operations and observations. We are accepting ventilator machines, ICU beds at the utmost national levels purely made by Sri Lankans in Sri Lanka. And one of the great corporates in Sri Lanka decides to donate a fully homegrown Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) robot to the Homagama Base Hospital, to aid medical personnel in the remote monitoring and care of patients affected by the Coronavirus. 

Today, COVID-19 is helping us to appreciate our own and accept them with confidence. Having the confidence that we could reach the impossible, Sri Lanka should have less dependency on imports going forward. It’s time that we Sri Lankans continue to appreciate our own, encourage Sri Lankan enterprises, give them a helping hand to build their businesses for the betterment of the nation.

Innovation and Online businesses

One of the biggest Challenges that Online businesses had in the Sri Lankan market is the fact of “Trust”. This includes the uncertainty in timely delivery, online payments, products received vs. what’s displayed…etc. Since the Brick and Mortar business model overpowered online businesses, online business was always an optional business proposition.

COVID-19 has helped consumers to break that barrier and have made a forceful staging to try out and learn to shop online. With this model shift, businesses will have to adapt to the online business and will become a “must-have” platform as a selling channel.

Consumer-centric business approach

I hear a leading bank in Sri Lanka explored high mobility by reaching households to accommodate banking services. Online deliveries are gushing to reach consumers. Medical services have started delivering medicine via WhatsApp communication. Essential services have opened up delivery to your doorstep. Both the State and private sector are becoming more customer-centric and it is not a choice to any businesses but a must adopt factor time to come.

Discipline

I observed much discipline displayed in many areas due to the COVID-19. Queuing up at supermarkets to enter according to the guidelines, helping the needy to behavioural changes in public places, we Sri Lankans have become more disciplined. This could be continued at our workstation too.

All in all, corporate personalities should take these learnings to the workstations back in the office. Strategies should be relooked at, based on new strategic resources and capabilities developed and identified during this period of time. We need to start paying more attention to the dynamic Operational and the MACRO environment. 

COVID-19 is not only a health crisis. it’s also a looming restructuring of the global economy. For businesses, this is not just Change management. This is a 360-degree change in the way we think and look at business. We need to look at our Marketing Mix differently and most importantly Our business strategy. We need to seriously understand what would be our “strategic trade-offs”, compromise certain ongoing business strategies (Sometimes we are overconfident with it) and embrace customer-centric, environmental-centric business processors.

Above all, I believe, this has evoked all of us what Life is, how to balance work and family, to be self-disciplined and most importantly to see the world differently.

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