By Dr. Somdutta Singh – CEO and Founder – Assiduus Global
Crisis can at times act as a catalyst or can speed up changes that are on the way serving as an accelerant. The current COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the very nature of our existence. The phrase social distancing that had hardly been searched till February is now topping the charts. But the crisis could open several doors and nations such as India have the potential to become a manufacturing hub in the face of leading countries such as Japan considering moving their manufacturing operations from China.
In the face of the pandemic, entrepreneurs have to face a new reality: that it is not only a huge sanitary and health crisis affecting millions, but also an unprecedented downturn on the global economy. Supply chains are being interrupted, events are being cancelled, and millions of people around the globe have lost their jobs. There is no doubt that the virus is causing problems and grave suffering for many. But is there a chance that it may also harbor massive opportunities for businesses?
Businesses must navigate the financial and operational challenges of coronavirus while rapidly addressing the needs of their people, customers and suppliers. It has given great impetus to convergence, collaboration and co-creation. It has given us the idea that many can act as one and – that we can do so with ease and speed. At present, we face a challenging virus that has shaken our way of life. To overcome it we need entrepreneurship at the societal and global scales working in collaboration for a collective purpose.
All entrepreneurs are, at heart, problem solvers. They bring a product or service to the market to meet a need or a gap. In the fight against COVID-19, entrepreneurship has taken a lead role in developing contact tracing apps, repurposing factories to manufacture ventilators and PPE, creating makeshift hospitals, and accelerating the search for a vaccine, to name a few examples. Within the new social distancing norms, people have learnt to work, exercise, study, celebrate weddings, conduct concerts and do much more using collaborative digital platforms.
We can now explore an entrepreneurial way of life where enterprises can help communities across the globe solve socio-economic problems while being true to market forces. Maybe it is time for individual enterprise and collective purpose to work in harmony. Not only the scope of entrepreneurship will rise across the globe, but there will also be a drastic growth of startups. These startups will also help in bridging gaps between countries of the world. The increase of entrepreneurship will thereby create several employment opportunities for people.
Let’s take a look at the crucial industries that showcase massive opportunities as the pandemic progresses.
Ø The Entertainment Industry
We should see opportunities in Online Entertainment (OTTs). Consumers would not be going to cinema halls and concerts for some time. They have more time to watch videos, movies and TV shows at home. I was reading how the engagement time of a lot of OTTs are up from 20 to 50% in India alone during the lockdown period.
Online gaming is also getting a big boost. As kids can no longer play outside, a lot of the physical playtime is shifting to virtual playtime. Usage on some gaming apps has surged 40% during the lockdown. I am more bullish on social games because they are always new and fresh compared to static games. Something makes me feel, this looks like the demonetization moment for the Gaming industry in India.
Ø The Health Industry
Like movie theatres, gyms will be shut for a long time too. There has been a surge in online fitness classes and meditation & therapy apps. Again, how do you make these experiences more social and engaging? I have already written about gym and their customer engagement stratagems in one of previous articles.
In fact, counter-intuitively, even clinics and hospital revenue and utilisation have reduced significantly because elective healthcare has been postponed and people are afraid going to a clinic/hospital where there could be a high chance of viral infection. People would prefer online doctor consultation over going to the clinic/hospital. Accordingly, we are seeing a boost in teleconsultation and telemedicine.
Ø The Education Industry
Consumers have tested the efficacy of learning online during the lockdown and this should continue even post lockdown. Online education should see a huge boost. This holds true both for curricular courses like UPSC, IIT-JEE, CAT etc but also extra-curricular courses like Guitar, Painting, etc.
Unfortunately, a side effect of the economic shutdown would be layoffs. Many skills that made people employable might not be as valuable. There is therefore and urgent need for people to reskill and upskill themselves to find new jobs and a that would lead to a shift in job patterns. Maybe the demand for healthcare workers would increase, and so people need to be skilled for those roles. These might lead to more usage of upskilling platforms for grey/blue-collar jobs.
Lots of schools have come online because you cannot conduct offline classes. Large tech companies have high-quality products for schools. A lot of teachers are using technology to this extent for the first time. We are already seeing a surge in remote work tools and Zoom saw a massive increase in adoption in businesses across the world. Needless to say, once people start working from home more, the difference between a remote worker and at-office worker would not be very high. For industries where it’s doable, we should shift to remote work.
A lot of work conferences will move online. After having attended so many conferences over the past year, I personally think online conferences can be a huge improvement from offline conferences.
Ø The Retail Industry
The most impacted offline sectors in the market are supermarkets, restaurants and traditional retail. For each of these spaces, we could see new opportunities because, for the first time in many years, we will have assets that are unutilised and partners willing to work with tech companies. Many small and large enterprises have been deeply impacted, and new companies could be created to serve these companies or customers of these companies better.
Grocery delivery has seen a big peak in demand during lockdown already, and it should continue because many people would prefer not to go out to supermarkets to buy because of fear and in search of convenience. Kirana stores will be digitised further.
For restaurants, we should see innovative cloud kitchen models, or enabling restaurants to be more scalable by working with virtual kitchens. Restaurants are badly hurt and would continue to be bleeding for some time. We are already seeing their eagerness to come to all delivery platforms to ensure they have as much visibility as possible, but this would not be enough.
For fashion retail, live streaming commerce models which enable retailers to showcase and present their products on a larger commerce destination could be viable now. Amazon Live is getting traction in the US where brands are adopting the channel to engage with customers.
What Is To Come?
Companies that wish to experience rapid growth in the aftermath of this crisis, can do so if they become competent or re-purpose in areas that are relevant to economic and social recovery. They will do well if they can capitalize on the transformed mindsets, attitudes, perceptions and behaviors of customers and consumers. This is what will enable strategic competitive advantage in a post-pandemic economy.
Companies that did things well and with a social conscience during the lockdowns may be able to capitalize on a newly loyal customer base and trust. And crucially, companies that are thinking ahead may reflect more strategically on looming future crises such as further pandemics or climate catastrophe and provide goods and services in a meaningful way to avert further meltdowns. This means rethinking product and process innovations including supply chain resilience, but also thinking about the value added of businesses or start-ups to society and as well as their environmental impact. This will be hard to do when economies are failing so badly, so resilient leadership, solidarity, institutional collaboration and the sheer grit demonstrated during the lockdowns will be required.