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Never waste a crisis - what opportunities Covid-19 offers us to transform our business

Covid-19 has created an unprecedented threat to public health and the economy. The Economy is facing both demand and supply-side shocks driven by lockdowns, closure of international and state borders, disruptions in the supply chain, bankruptcies, job losses and a huge drop in customer confidence. Although governments and central banks are creating relief packages, those are never enough to bring the economy to normalcy. Although this health-crisis driven recession (which is believed to be a depression) impacts different industries and countries differently (e.g. Travel is more impacted than FMCG, SMB is more impacted than Large cash-rich companies) even the best-prepared businesses have nothing like Covid-19 written in their Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plans. Everyone is trying to figure out how to survive in this new normal (tactical response) and then strengthen its market leadership (strategic response).

Crisis opens opportunities as the collective mindset is reset and everything is perceived possible. What takes years or even decades is done in weeks (think FDA approvals, ubiquitous work-from-home); massive industries customizing their factories to produce unrelated products that are in demand (GM or Mahindra making ventilators instead of cars) and countries fighting in normal times helping each other. The crisis also opens new threats beyond the main threat -for example, we see a huge compromise in privacy and cyber risks through monitoring programs.

How business should respond to disruptions like Covid-19?

There is no single solution which applies to all industries, but businesses should follow a framework while formulating their response:

Survive (Tactical) - First they need to assess what is an absolute must that needs to be immediately changed to survive the crisis. This can be changed in operation processes, budget allocations and even pivoting business segments.

Flourish (Strategic) - While brainstorming for tactical solutions leadership should keep an open mind for checking if those tactical moves can be made permanent to flourish in the long term. History rhymes - crises like Covid-19 will come again and again in different threat forms. Businesses should explore all weak linkages and take bold steps to survive all known unknowns and even plan enough contingencies for unknown unknowns.

 

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How we see the post-Covid-19 world:

As providing generic solutions for various businesses are not possible, we share some key trends post Covid-19 world, from which business leaders can take cue while formulating their Covid-19 response:

1.     Digital becomes a native choice- Successful businesses are all becoming digital natives - we see this adoption growing like never. Work from home (WFH) and video conferences are changing long travels and huge office setups. They are also helping avoid locational skill scarcity challenges (now Silicon Valley can retain the best programmers who want to live someplace else). Covid-19 has proved that WFH setups can improve worker productivity and reduce costs in most industries. We are seeing museums and movie halls opened up for display through internet live-streaming, football fans cheering up for their teams in live matches from home. Some of these measures may be temporary but there is no doubt surviving without a digital presence is becoming difficult.

2.      Faster Digital Payments and Liquidity management systems are finding true value- During a crisis, cash becomes the king and Covid-19 has proven this one more time. Although many governments are declaring relief packages in a universal basic income model, many individuals are struggling to get those cash on-time as they have not subscribed for any digital(mobile) faster payments and still relying on checks to come through the post. Governments are also finding it difficult to reduce the leakage and fraud and target only the truly vulnerable communities (as they are not having updated datasets and proper data analysis systems to identify and deliver those stimulus packages fast and securely). A crisis like this is very difficult for companies without a cash & liquidity management system. They now appreciate that proper planning on budget allocations need to complement with mature cash & liquidity management systems.         

3.      Becoming extremely agile is the only way to survive- All sizes of businesses need to become extremely agile as they need to pivot their business plan in days and not in weeks or months or years. We will see more prominence to the gig and the on-demand economy as companies will invest very selectively in programs and will try to reduce fixed costs. At the same time, we're seeing a lot of cooperation between clients and their trusted service providers in jointly addressing the crisis through co-innovation models.

4.      Business continuity, and disaster recovery units will get its due respect from corner office - CEOs are appreciating the importance of simulating stress tests, strengthening their balance sheet for a crisis, improving the capacity of their digital infrastructure, and supply chains. Any business is as strong as its weakest link - CEOs are appreciating this truth and planning to collaboratively investigate and strengthen those gaps.

5.      Fraud and Operational Risk Management- Fraudsters and fake propaganda machinery are having their golden moments during this Covid-19 crisis. The fear and anxiety of the unknown world are helping trap the victims very easily. Privacy issues and cyber-attacks are becoming more commonplace. Governments, Businesses, and Individuals all need to aggressively fight this demon. Companies need to ensure that their cyber and other operational risk-management systems and processes are in place and they are constantly connecting with all stakeholders(through social media and other easy-to-reach channels) informing partners about any rumors or fraud attempts(like links through SMS for some social benefits or firing news from the company etc.).

6.     Build the trust- During such uncertainty and crisis, we appreciate the value of a human touch more - customers, investors, employees, partners - all stakeholders are looking at each other for their responses - so building trust is becoming extremely important. Businesses should look at their customers and go extra miles to help during the crisis; employers should ensure that they do everything possible to avoid job-cuts; governments should do everything possible to help their citizens and other governments. Everyone should appreciate the fact that people can recognize when someone is truly helping, and when somebody is trying to market through Facebook photoshoots. True trust (which helps in the long term) comes from helping without promoting for own short-term gains.

7.     Read the megatrends and aggressively innovate products and services useful for the new economy-  Poor people in towns and villages are desperately looking for credits, they are even ready to pay very high interests and historical credit analysis shows small ticket microloans don't have higher credit risks than big-ticket industrial loans given to crony capitalists. Where big corporate banks have failed, some of the microfinance companies are performing very well even in times like these. We are seeing innovative ways to survive the crisis - restaurants are selling gift cards through well-wishers for future visits - this way they are addressing immediate cash shortages as well as ensuring future businesses from loyal customers. These are just a few examples to show that companies should think beyond conventional wisdom and constantly build new business models to address new segments. We think that the frequency  of such crises will only increase and businesses without constantly changing with market needs will disappear if not during covid-19 but during the next one. 

 

 

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