Shiraz Khan, the Founder Director of Spicetree Design Agency (SDA) Pvt. Ltd, and an ingenious professional with a rich blend of experience and expertise. Shiraz formed the venture in 2004; prior to this, he was the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at a software developing company. Under his able leadership, SDA has effectively broadened its horizons from graphic designing to the realm of digital marketing — with the philosophy of complementing creatives with science intact to date. Shiraz harbours a mindset that is result-driven, he considers every day as an opportunity to scale the heights of success even further.
We have seen how several companies have managed to grow strongly, spend more on their marketing and market expansion. Such strong performances and growth display is contrary to the widespread economic downturn. As we know, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a global health challenge, but, if we analyse it carefully, the impact has been even stronger on the global economies and societies. There is almost no business anywhere that hasn’t been impacted by the effects of the contagion. There is a double whammy of reduced demand as well as disruption of supply chains in most areas. The measures such as lockdown, social distancing, international travel bans and other such pandemic risk mitigation factors have reduced capacity to produce goods and services and to sell them at par with the pre-pandemic levels.
Consumers have become more conservative in terms of buying any products that are discretionary or considered expensive. There is a decline in the purchase ability of most consumers as well. Activities such as travel, eating out, shopping and celebrations have been curtailed and there is a rise on expenditure on healthcare as well as preventive healthcare products. According to some estimates, the global economy is witnessing its worst recession since the World War II.
In such a scenario, it is quite impressive to realize that there is a community of champions, those who have turned out to be star performers in the face of the storm. These businesses don’t rely on magic, but, on certain very dynamic, prudent and practical steps. Let’s take a look at these mantras which can work for any business in overcoming challenges and thriving under pressure.
See the big picture – Successful entrepreneurs who have built unicorns and mega brands have always focused on the big picture. Set backs or challenges only stimulate people like Elon Musk, or Jeff Bezos. In fact, the Amazon founder had said, “What we need to do is always lean into the future; when the world changes around you and when it changes against you – what used to be a tail wind is now a head wind – you have to lean into that and figure out what to do because complaining is not a strategy.”
In situations like the current pandemic, it is sometimes necessary to take stock of the changes, and identify things that are working fine and those that need to be changed. You have to focus on spotting opportunities instead of getting overwhelmed by adversities. When tourism got abandoned, many hotels turned themselves into COVID-19 isolation facilities, and a number of companies pivoted to operate as delivery providers for essential items such as groceries and medicines, etc. Thus, it is important to adapt to the circumstances and keep going. It is better to pivot and grow then to get stuck and risk a business shutdown.
Ensure access to working capital – The most common reason why small businesses to fail is the inability to have access to working capital especially in prolonged crisis situations. The best practice is to be cash wise even when in normal times and ensure that you have at least 8-12 months of working capital in hand. That will help the business tide over any financial challenges posed by a business disruption. Opening a line of credit with your bank to ensure liquidity in scenarios of short-term cash-flow challenges is a good back up strategy. You can invest in stock holdings, and savings during normal course and liquidate them or even take loans to ensure access to working capital in tough times.
Small business owners should have other potential sources of capital lined up as well. This might include tapping into savings, liquidating stock holdings, or borrowing from family members. A small business owner must have access to capital or have a creative way to obtain funds to make it through lean times.
Adopt technology – Transformation of business processes to support digital operations has been a critical need for all businesses to some extent or the other. While the IT-driven companies, digital marketing firms and creative agencies have built capacity for 100% online operations when needed, even other sectors need to have a framework and technology in place to ensure business continuity. Doorstep deliveries, e-commerce retail platforms and cashless payments are some of the best options for not only enterprise level firms, but also for the SMEs and startups.
Be disciplined in consumer engagement – COVID-19 has brought about a critical social, economic, experiential, and environmental impact on the consumers. A lot of consumer preferences have changed in the wake of the pandemic as consumers are rethinking about what products and services they value and what all they take for granted. That’s why it is crucial for brands to constantly engage the consumers, listen to them and analyse the insights to drive your consumer engagement strategies. Social media listening is a key to assessing consumer sentiment, digital lead generation, categorizing the customers and nurturing each category.
Agility of marketing and communications – In recent times, a number of companies had made changes to their operations. Fashion brands made face masks, car companies made ventilators and a lot of others started making hand sanitizers. The reason for such changes wasn’t due to monetary concerns, but empathy and market goodwill. As per a survey 62% consumers stated that they were willing to buy from a socially responsible brand. Thus, it is important for brands to take the cue and adopt practices and communication that makes their audiences remain loyal to them.
Focus on digital journeys and new ways of customer engagement and experience – The pandemic has brought about a digital first transformation across industries and there is a need for business leaders to undertake such digitization of their organizations. This will help in improving customer engagement and experience. A great starting point would be to analyse customer data and identify the pain points for your customers in their digital journey. This knowledge can lead to better services and customer delight.
No compromises on quality – The pandemic has caused supply chain disruptions and operational costs have gone up. In many industries, input cost has increased and that makes manufacturing costlier. When brands are not able to raise prices, they sometimes tend to compromise on quality and quantity. However, this could be a disastrous approach. Just imagine how would you react if your favourite pizza brand reduced the quality and quantity of toppings and the pizza starts tasting bad. Crux of the matter is that even if you need to cut costs, don’t do so at the cost of product quality or experience.
What truly helps a business survive and thrive in crisis is its resiliency, and ability to focus on the big picture. Adverse situations and risks are part and parcel of the entrepreneurial journey for all businesses irrespective of their size or scale of operations. The separator between a successful and a failed business is the response to the crisis and that’s where the above things need consistent focus.