A pandemic of the magnitude of COVID 19, is an event which none of us would even have imagined or thought of till 2019. However, now that it has struck us as a reality, we are coping with living with it. Besides the unfortunate health hazards caused by this deadly disease, there is also a tremendous economic impact caused by it. Due to the government-imposed lockdown, most of the businesses have suffered due to lack of demand, not to forget the debtors delaying and defaulting at their payments and inventories lying unsold in the warehouses.
As India is in Unlock 2 phase presently, the question here is – Whether our businesses are going to come out of this debacle, and will things be the same as they were in the pre-COVID era? Well, the most realistic reply seems that ‘yes,’ our businesses will come out of this, but most likely, things are going to be different from before. Just like we humans will need masks and PPE’s to survive and live with the deadly virus, our businesses will have to learn to thrive in this pandemic. As the theory of evolution propagates “survival of the fittest,” the companies that adapt themselves to reality will be more successful as compared to their counterparts who choose to continue playing their old game.
This write – up discusses some of the broad strategies that businesses have applied successfully to get them sailing in these tough times. Other companies can also opt to use some of these strategies to gain maximum benefits.
Switch from physical to online
Some businesses & professions have beautifully adapted themselves to the pandemic situation. E.g., education is a sector where face-to-face learning was always preferred over online learning. However, the pandemic forced the educational institutions to go under lockdown almost overnight. The educational institutions realized in no time that learning could not stop, and hence they have been quite prompt in taking the learning online. Online learning courses and webinars have gained immense momentum during the pandemic, and they are here to stay.
Most of the professionals have introduced their services online. Right from online Zumba and yoga sessions to medical practitioners giving medical advice virtually, is now a reality and much in fashion. Businesses who have not yet embraced technology in moving forward need to re-access their decision in light of the current situation.
Alter existing products/services to match the new demand
There is no doubt that demand patterns have changed during this pandemic. Hence, altering your businesses to match the current demand can be a win-win situation for companies and their customers. E.g., Food app’s like Zomato and Swiggy were fast in realizing that their customers demand patterns had changed. They introduced new service lines, “Zomato Market” and “Swiggy Genie,” respectively, where they delivered essentials, groceries, etc. during the lockdown.
Make new associations
Collaborating with new partners, to benefit from the synergy is expected to bring the best results in such times as was seen in the case of Book My Show, who collaborated with various partners in the entertainment, gaming, food, fitness, and learning space. This is a sheer example of smart use of horizontal diversification to create more robust business streams in the given scenario.
Go for the alternative “second best” option
These are uncertain times, and no one can predict with certainty when we shall overcome this crisis. Some businesses have realized this and decided that it’s not time to wait for things to settle down, but to go with the second-best option. E.g. In the absence of theatres remaining closed, Bollywood movies are releasing directly on OTT platforms, which is an alternative platform. This move makes complete sense considering that the theatres are not yet permitted to be opened, and customers are moving to OTT platforms to get their dose of entertainment.
Go to your customer’s doorstep
In the business world, if you can’t get the horse to the water, get the water to the horse. This saying implies very well when there are restrictions on customer movements, and businesses need to deliver their products to the doorstep of their customers. Home delivery of goods and services is the practical solution in the current scenario. Right from the local grocery shops to the most established brands, businesses are offering home delivery of their products. Services, too, are coming to the doorsteps of customers. The beauty services industry is seen shifting from traditional salons to home visits. Several parlors and salons are offering deals for home visits, which were not a very popular offering in the pre COVID times due to people’s preference of visiting the salon to experience the luxury with the right ambiance and setup.
Remove the fear, win back your old customers
Many sectors where the personal touch is involved, will go through lack of demand due to customer ‘fear’. Businesses will have to kill this fear and win the trust of its customers all over again to revive the demand. The customer will have to be assured of their safety. The businesses will need to invest in resources like PPE’s, masks, sanitization to ensure that they are maintaining the best possible levels of hygiene and safety to fight the infectious disease. E.g., Cab aggregators like Uber and Ola have realized the importance of safety and sanitation and ensured their vehicles and drivers adhere to the highest safety norms from a COVID perspective too.
Lure customers with discounts and exceptional offers
Businesses don’t need to do different things; they need to do things differently. As customer demand can be highly elastic to price for all non-essential commodities, businesses can attract customers with discounts for signing up deals with longer lock-in’s and on spot payments. This will also help to get the cash flows ringing in.
To conclude, the so-called new normal is not going to be so normal for most of our businesses. However, accepting the reality and responding to it promptly will help the businesses thrive. Innovation and out of the box thinking is going to be the key mantra to success. In short, companies will have to tweak themselves to ensure they create demand for their products/ services or cater to a new range of products/services to meet the changing demand patterns during the pandemic. After all, the show must go on and will go on for the businesses that are innovative, adaptable, and flexible.