World war 3 is happening. For a change, humans are not fighting against each other. The entire human race is fighting against the novel coronavirus that has spread to more than 175 countries. The world is in a standstill and there is nothing in modern history to compare the situation with. Even though this is an evolving black-swan event, let us have a look at how COVID 19 is changing our lives, and what businesses can do to deal with the situation.
In many countries, people are going through a lockdown period and getting adjusted to a new way of life. Healthcare professionals are risking their lives for the rest of us while a few others are sabotaging the fight by spreading fake news on social media. The initial anxiety was displayed in the empty racks in supermarkets and social media posts.
As the days went by, many started using the unexpected sabbatical to follow some creative pursuits and connecting through video calls. The quiet atmosphere and free time, along with the danger present in the situation is making many contemplate and reassess their lives and priorities.
From an industry perspective, parallels are already drawn with the great depression of the 1930s and the lockdown situation during the second world war. Stock markets have plummeted, businesses are shuttered, millions of job losses are expected. In industries like Aviation, tourism, hospitality, transportation, retail, etc, the revenues have dried up almost completely, compared to the partial declines in the past recessions. The global supply chain is broken at multiple points and the time difference among different countries in the spread of the disease makes it more complex.
Online streaming and educational firms are seeing a boost in their usage. Companies working in healthcare and medical equipment are also seeing a rapid increase in demand for their products. Sectors like IT are holding up with remote working options while some players in the restaurant industry are trying to survive on takeaway business.
If your business is struggling for survival, perform multiple forecasts and have different cost-cutting measures to match the various probable scenarios. It will help you to avoid panic and make data-driven decisions. You can use industry forums to collectively negotiate with the government or vendors for aid, extended payment dates, etc. Even though your business processes are not functioning normally, use social media accounts to be in constant touch with your customers.
If immediate survival is not your concern, this is the time to lay the foundation for the long term strategy and competitiveness of your business. If you are having downtime, focus on skill-building of your team and finishing of the pending tasks. Assign a dedicated team to drive these new projects. Be supportive to your customers in all possible ways and take part in the community efforts to fight the issues that the disease has brought. Develop a consistent and transparent communication strategy with periodic updates for all the stakeholders.
In the future, there can be pent up need for products, although discretionary and luxury spending might take time to rise. The corporate world would give preference to virtual meetings to save time and travel costs. The decision by the learning firm O’Reilly to close its business unit for in-person live conferences can be seen as an indication for the future. Tools and Technologies facilitating remote working will see higher demand in the industry. We can expect emerging technologies to play a major role in the healthcare industry in identifying potential risks and in formulating solutions.
The post corona world will see new customer requirements and expectations. It is an opportunity to be innovative and implement a Blue ocean strategy to gain the first-mover advantage in a new segment.
China is showing signs of recovery, giving hope to the rest of the world that normalcy can be restored in a few months. As we go through these testing times, let us keep a quote in mind from American author David J.Schwartz - "Action cures fear".