Rohit Manglik, an alumnus of NIT Surathkal, is the CEO of EduGorilla. His articles have been published in leading newspapers like Tribune, Statesman, Pioneer, and EduGorilla has been featured in the Times of India, Your story, Inc42 and the like. He has been the keynote speaker at Indian School Awards organized by Times Group. He was among the speakers at World Education Summit organized by Elets Technomedia group at Dubai, NewsCorp VC Circle’s Education Investment Summit 2017 and 2018 held at Gurgaon, Marketing Summit and BW Growth and Leadership Conclave held in 2018.
Markets and businesses are constantly evolving. The COVID-19 pandemic, regarded as the most unprecedented crisis since World War II, has proved to be an inflexion point for the economy. It has prompted businesses to go back to the drawing board and rethink their business strategies. Companies with disruptive business models embodying innovation did not only manage to stay afloat but thrived and maintained an edge over their peers.
When the pandemic struck with global health and economic ramifications, the priority was to develop an appropriate response. This came in the form of lockdown by several countries to curb the spread of COVID-19, which obviously impacted businesses. Many of them were forced to shut down, with others resorting to lay-offs or pay cuts. As per a report by the Centre for Economic Data and Analysis (CEDA) based on the ILOSTAT database of the International Labour Organisation, the rate of unemployment in India rose sharply from 5.27% in 2019 to 7.11% in 2020, which was India’s worst unemployment rate in 29 years. The response was an immediate action that took place in a limited and short time window. The lockdown also heralded a paradigm shift towards work from home model. The other quick response was to keep people safe and ensure that the lockdown does not affect the essential functions of businesses.
The immediate-term strategy of businesses consisted of drawing up a plan to return to a scalable state by consolidating resources, reassessing operational structure, among others. Technology emerged as a panacea to sustain the momentum. Face-to-face interactions gave way to Zoom and Skype calls; hiring went online with AI-based screening of resumes and emerging technologies such as Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality simulated in-store retail experiences.
A formidable challenge before businesses was to reconfigure existing operations and processes to achieve sustainability. Another challenge was to retain the existing customers and stay connected with them amid these times. Keeping the workforce motivated and ensuring their wellness also became a key priority for organisations.
Lessons learnt from the pandemic
COVID-19 has underscored the significance of agility and flexibility to survive and navigate complexities. It has hastened the digital transformation of businesses. Technology has become an enabler to improving efficiency and boosting customer experience. The pandemic has pivoted the focus on the HR function that has now assumed an overarching role in organisations. Companies are leaving no stone unturned to maximise employee satisfaction by ensuring their well-being and keeping them motivated. As workplaces reopen, the onus is now on the HR function to facilitate a smooth transition into the post-COVID world.
Firms with disruptive business models have reinvented themselves during these times and successfully hedged against risks. From now on, firms that adopt innovation and core values such as transparency, customer centricity and standard quality benchmarks into their DNA will inevitably stand out over others.
Way Forward- Building a sustainable ecosystem
With the approaching winters, the apprehensions of a third wave have set in. The key is to have an extensive crisis preparedness plan and crisis communication strategy in place. As offices look forward to reopening after a hiatus of almost one year and a half, adhering to standard hygiene and safety practices and ensuring a smooth transition will be the key. The two waves of coronavirus have already imparted resilience to businesses, and they are comparatively better prepared to tackle the third wave. Nevertheless, one should not let the guard down. The top leadership should coalesce to identify the key priorities for businesses and conduct a SWOT analysis. Strategic planning should become a continual activity to ensure a swift response to changing business contexts. Similarly, communication and collaboration will be the lifelines for organisations worldwide. The open-door communication policy will foster transparency, accountability and build credibility, whereas collaboration will enable entities to explore synergies for the foreseeable future.
Sustainability has gained currency. As organisations reassess the impact of their business activities on their stakeholders, environment and communities, giving back to society and empowering local communities will be more critical than ever before.
The pandemic has unlocked the potential of the business ecosystem. The key here is to sustain the momentum and incorporate these learnings to re-innovate continuously to achieve tangible business outcomes.