Re-imagining business after COVID-19 ~ Manali Debroy

The current situation that we are in seems no worse than a vicious ploy by a sci-fi supervillain. I mean it seems like somehow the reel life story of the movie Outbreak transcended into 2020’s epic reality. And, I strongly feel that very soon we might be living in the Star Wars world, where humans co-exist with droids. How cool will be that? You can tell your kids or grandkids that you have seen the world of humanoids (well, I am coining a term for the future world where humans and robots will have equal existence, how cool!) evolve with your own eyes, in which they are proudly living in now. Having said all these, are you able to imagine what I am trying to tell here? My whole point in bringing the sci-fi movie plots to oil the motor of your imagination is only to make you realize that the world would not be the same after COVID-19.

The pandemic has already started changing the ways of working and it is not wrong to say that many businesses will undergo operating model changes with long-term impacts. We are already witnessing a major work-from-home drive by most of the companies globally, at a scale that has never been tested before. Clearly, technology has taken us ahead of times for us to sustain unexpected situations. Businesses are forced to challenge their traditional ways of working and to work towards designing a better and sustainable business operating model weathering these situations as well. The winners will be those who use this crisis as an opportunity to reposition themselves and their portfolio, transform their business models challenging their traditional operating process to innovate and quickly adapt to changes. Companies or businesses that refuse to undergo these changes will either fall prey to aggressive activism or inevitably atrophy.

From the mud of adversity grows the lotus of joy…

In this moment of rethinking for many businesses and companies, some are reaping the benefits of their business model that accidentally or non-accidentally now works best in this situation. Businesses that are much needed in this ‘self-isolation’ economy are mostly the Saas (Software as a service) business models. For example, the online food delivery systems (like Grab in Singapore, Deliveroo in Europe, Just Eat in the UK), cloud computing services like AWS (Amazon Web Services), videoconferencing companies like Zoom, Skype, Hangout meets have significantly benefitted from the current circumstances. Needless to say, the e-commerce surge for retail shopping has increased, and sooner it is going to increase multi-folds than shopping physically at the retail outlets. Technology is going to be the main driver of any business model from now on. This has to be accepted by everyone and implement in their strategies going forward. Period. I bet in a few years, the manual labor operations like manufacturing or call center jobs or certain financial institutions back-office jobs will change holistically and look different from what they were in December 2019.

Change is constant and winners take the pie

Industry landscape will change and evolve eventually when the COVID-19 situation dwindles. I believe the rise of FinTech globally will then be quicker, more promising and sustainable than visualized as before. It will also be far more encouraged now given the contactless situation that we are living now, and which might prevail longer-than-usual. Sectors like Oil and gas which already has been suffering fundamentally before COVID-19 will likely be in trouble for quite some years. Nonetheless, in any disruptive situations the scope for consolidation increases, especially in the less performing sectors. Those are the definite winners who will take advantage of these opportunities. Rather than just box-checking routine, it would be more meaningful to emerge as a winner if you have your crisis management process fully functional coupled with understanding of your company processes (including department interdependencies geographically) and a fairly flexible ecosystem to innovate and learn together.

Having said these, businesses (especially the SMEs which are the growth pillars of the economy) will still be continuously shaped by the major stakeholders like – government, regulation and investors – and much more dependencies will arise on these stakeholders to keep them afloat in this pandemic. But resilience in supply-chain management and balance sheet strength will win the battle.

May the force be with you!