How COVID-19 may change us and our way of doing business

Impact Pandemic

The COVID-19 virus outbreak has not been as trivial as the world once thought back in January. Today, as matters escalate to combat this deadly virus, many of us find ourselves confined within our homes. Many around the world describe this as a war like situation.

Donald Trump has labeled himself as a “wartime president” to fight the “enemy”. All this may sound surreal, but this is around us, as many cities and countries are going in to a near or full lock down state.

This may be temporary, but is forcing us to adapt to new ways of moving forward. As we do so, it may lead us to take a step back and rethink. When this is over, we may possibly be walking back in to a new world.

Why do I say that? Here are something’s that may change when life is back to normal.

The Global Supply Chain

With the onset of the virus outbreak in China, the world may look back to consider if we have invested all our eggs in one basket. The extent of the reliance on China to produce, manufacture and supply consumable and raw materials are not just limited to retail and technology, but even medicine and several other industries. Consider this, China is said to supply 90% of the US antibiotics, and some studies suggest that up to 80% of the basic ingredients in US drugs. China is also the second largest exporter of biologics and the prime source of medical devices according to the FDA.

The shutdown in China has sent ripple effects across the world where tech giants like Apple and Samsung are declaring possible shortages in supply and even delays on their new product launches. We have clearly started to experience the impact with the sliding financial markets across the globe.

To minimize the supply disruptions, companies are now exploring alternative supply markets. They may not be able to beat Chinese prices but work for the time being. Could this be the launch platform for the new markets? Will companies now rethink their supply chain model? Will new supply markets emerge as they get an opportunity to prove themselves, while enabling diversity for the buyers?

Boost to the Digital Economy

Everyday more and more cities are moving into a lockdown. I don’t believe anyone would have imagined this in their wildest dreams. So what are you doing while practicing social distancing at home? My guess is more “Social” media? So much for the “screen time” rules! It would be interesting to view my iPhone screen time log at the end of the week. I am sure many of us are trying out new activities to keep ourselves occupied. But let’s face it, it is tough to avoid technology.

While many companies around the world are cutting jobs or forcing unpaid leave. Amazon, food delivery and other digital platform like e-learning, remote work access, cellular service providers and streaming providers are pumping in more marketing dollars and adding more headcount. So what can change?

Retail Landscape

Today, it is probably safer and more convenient to order our groceries and shop for other retail products online. Many are trying this out for the first time, while some of us may be leveraging this more frequently than usual. What do you think will happen if we practice this for a month?

As we get comfortable with the idea of shopping online, I am almost certain that this will induce new behaviors. Over the years we have already seen the decline in the retail industry with the likes of Macy’s, Sears, Toys R Us and several others shutting their doors. COVID-19 may have just given this a push. Retailers may find having big box stores even less relevant in the future.

Retailers use a metric called sales per square foot. If there is no one shopping in-store, then the new metric to be looked at is online traffic and conversion. The world today has proven that we can pretty much shift everyone online in a matter of days. So one thing is for sure, retailers who are not yet part of the digital world need to rethink their business model and act fast!

Food and Delivery

Food delivery companies have found themselves beefing up their fleets to meet demand. This really works out well for them, but the outlets would be suffering with eroding margins as they pay more commission with their mix of customers shifting to home delivery. At the same time, as online delivery gains traction, it becomes increasingly challenging to offer the dining-in hot and fresh, same great tasting experience. I personally would not like to have a soggy gourmet burger arrive at my doorstep.

So, are we in for more food engineering? Restaurants may need to figure out how their food could be delivered with the intended quality as this could become a deterrent for some customers. Food companies must find new ways to ensure freshness lasts longer, while pressing the delivery service providers to move a notch up on their services.

I am not sure if our current state of home confinement will change on how we consume restaurant food, but for me, nothing beats my munchies, couch and Netflix!

How We Experience Movies

Over the last few years, we have seen a boost in online streaming services and their original content. The home experience with these service providers has been fueled by the relatively cheaper large screen TVs and sound systems now available in the market, allowing a cinematic experience in the comfort of our homes. Though movie theaters over the years have denied an impact caused by these providers, I am sure there is an impact.

As many cinemas are asked to temporarily shut down across the world, I would be surprised if the streaming giants are not pouncing on the opportunity to steal the market. For the customers, their pockets must be feeling a bit heavier with those savings from the over-priced popcorn and drink combos and the $20 IMAX experience.

I wonder if we get used to this and rethink how we consume our content. Could we see more new releases on these streaming giants? Depending on how long this lockdown lasts, are movie producers going to shift from cinema premiers to online premiers? If so, this could be the major threat to the cinemas.

Home or Office?

Over the years, I have seen some companies reluctant to adapt or fully encourage work from home. Not entirely sure why, but I understand that the measurement of productivity and lack of social interaction can be a challenge. But COVID-19 has forced us all to give it a shot! As a large majority of us move to working from home, this provides a larger sample to gauge the success of the exercise.

If this works, will companies make this permanent moving forward? Financially, it may help with cost reduction, drawing savings by cutting out leased spaces. While on the other hand, employees save some time and money commuting – hopping from the bed to the couch!

Online Learning

E-learning is an interesting one. Post COVID-19, I see parents of young children, 17 years and below excited to get their kids out of the house. I am not quite sure if I am an e-learning fan for younger children. Keeping a 5 year old engaged in front of a screen, teaching math, phonics and science for majority part of the morning, not an easy task! Also, last I checked; I was working to get my son off the screen! So, I am not in favor here to go digital.

For universities however, we may see a dynamic shift. Almost all students are getting to experience distance education. If that really works, it begs the question as to why students would travel halfway around the world, spend a heck load of money to get education overseas? Distance education is not a new idea and is already being practiced, but for a change many students today will get to experience it.

I wonder if this will open up the doors to new ideas, encourage more e-learning, introduce new platforms and I hope free education! The Internet has proven that information should be free, so how is university any different? Perhaps we can establish a global accreditation system where one could attain credits through different universities and earn one global business degree. Just a thought.

Growing use of Virtual Reality

Already, some attractions and malls have taken the opportunity to explore Virtual Reality. Wonderland Amusement Park in Toronto Canada is trying out a virtual roller coaster. Dubai Mall is set to introduce a virtual shopping experiences. What’s next? Sporting events in virtual reality? If I can virtually find myself in a UEFA Champions league final event that would be cool!

Health and Protection

At least for the next few years, there will be a lot of germ fighting- which may or may not be the real solution. Sanitizers will remain in demand, while the sight of people wearing masks may become a regular occurrence. As far as the Health care system and conventional medicine go, there needs to be a major rethink in the strategy on how to deal with these situations and how-to bring people ‘Back to Basics’; real non processed foods to build better and stronger immune systems. Are we in for an organic boom?

Environment

Did you see the picture of the clear skies in Beijing and the water clearing up in the canals of Venice? What about lower pollution due to reduced air travel? Well, do we have a solution? I am not saying that people need to stay home, but this sends a message to the larger communities on how important it is to reduce carbon emissions. Hopefully people realize that it is not one man’s job, and rethink how everyone can contribute. Coming out of this, we must see greater government focus, growth in sustainability and use of greener energy sources.

When this war against the deadly virus is over, I foresee walking into a stronger digital world. What a time to launch 5G! Hopefully there will be new business opportunities, potential for new jobs and possibly new skill sets. So, individuals should take this opportunity to learn new skills while businesses can explore ways to tackle new challenges. #Stayhome and #staysafe !

What is #ImpactPandemic?

The rapid spread of COVID-19 at pandemic proportions has left us in challenging times. However, in the inconveniences that we face today, there are opportunities for us to help one and another. This is the chance for us as individuals to band together and work together to help sustain progress of the human race.

With this in mind, we are calling out to all those of you with Business Skills to make them available to Small Business Owners who need them the most. All we are asking for is for 3 hours of your time, spread across a period of time to consult with Small Businesses in the UAE to help them grow from strength to strength.

This project is a completely voluntary and all we ask is for those who benefit from the Business Skills of others to pay it forward to others in the marketplace. By sharing and spreading our knowledge we can create an #ImpactPandemic across the country and the globe.

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