2020 started with a hard hit to both human lives and the economy by the coronavirus, Covid-19. This pandemic has shown that governments and businesses are not prepared to face such catastrophe and is almost like premonition by Bill Gates in his 2015 TED talk. However, we do see governments, organisations and people that are stepping forward taking the lead in the control of spread and managing the situation, especially during the locked-down. Nevertheless, businesses and people are affected. Let us review what has taken place and how would it shape the future based on these happenings and experience that we are currently going through against this Covid-19 infection.
Firstly, the use of facial mask and hand sanitiser will be a common practice. More and more people will be more sensitive to the germs they exposed to, be it surface or by another individual’s cough or sneeze. As observed post SARs in Hong Kong.
Malaysian’s e-commerce usage was still considered at a nascent stage as shown by the Malaysia National E-commerce Roadmap, with this event it probably has accelerated the behaviour of buying online and also the urgency of businesses going online.
The landscape for food & beverage (F&B) has also shifted. We may have already seen the increase of food deliver motorcycles in the streets before the locked-down, with this, it has given more people the reasons for downloading the app and using it. As one of the success metrics that these apps use, the ‘returning user’ or the ‘next usage’, probably has helped create the behaviour and stickiness towards the app.
Working from home will be more acceptable among companies and bosses. Although maybe a common practice to many multinationals but to many local businesses it is still a taboo. With the mandatory working from home, companies will get to observe and experience the practicality of this idea and also a chance to evaluate the pros and cons.
One of the cons of #wfh, working from home is definitely communication. Even though we have ready advance technologies such ask Skype, Google Hangout, Zoom and many others, the adoption of this technology is still very low. Companies still resort to calling a face to face meeting even for simple short meetings, even the attendees may come from afar. Is like the saying, when there is a crisis, there is an opportunity. It was reported that the net worth of Zoom’s founder has increased by USD2billion due to the increased demand for its software.
Schools were called off. Lessons are also conducted via communication tools mentioned, some specifically for education. But my discussion would like to point to tertiary education. Tertiary education in Malaysia has been facing challenging times in getting students. There are many reasons for this, partly is due to the increasing number of institutions and decreasing of form five leavers and partly is due to the change of perception towards the need for tertiary education. The ROI of tertiary education has been questioned whether does it still worthwhile. Moreover, knowledge is currently freely available in platforms such as Khan Academy and Coursera. One can even take an ivy-league qualification over the internet for a fraction of its original cost by doing online. This locked-down probably has given the opportunity for many people to rethink or even consider online learning.
As for MCs, well depending on how sick you are, it is expected some kind of response from you since the tools and technology is available. And the idea of MCs is no longer exclusively means you are unable to come to work but is ultimately not infecting others with your germs.
Technologies have definitely made the world a smaller place. With this pandemic spreading at this rate worldwide, it reinforces that we are not very different nor very far apart. The wider and faster adoption rate of digital now will further reinforce that we are indeed in a very small world.
Stock markets were in the long term uptrend and overnight market capitalisation and indexes have dropped to almost 30%. A drop that isn’t triggered by an economic collapse, political but a health one. Who could have predicted this, making the black swan’s theory more relevant and relatable? Black swan theory suggests the impractical of predicting or forecasting the future. Is more about now, what are you going to do now based on the current information since a possible future is merely random?
Perception of China will definitely change. The effectiveness and swift response in containing the Covid-19 has once again showcased to the world of China’s capabilities and leadership in handling matters. I reckon the qualities of the Chinese values, methods and leadership to be emulated. Hats off to the Chinese government and people, especially the front liners in this pandemic.
Last but not least, although seems obvious but is definitely worth noting that businesses being idle for one month has a significant impact on the level of risk of closing down and bankruptcy. Safety nets were not in place for emergencies like this. Hence I believe businesses will pay closer attention to their free cashflows and gearing of their business in the future.
We did get hit hard in 2020. And is just the beginning of the year. But this pandemic is also a mark of a new era. This new era is based upon the things that have changed and will change, at least more protocols will be in place if another pandemic would happen again. As black swan theory suggests, no point of predicting the future, but what is clear is that digital utilisation and adoption has been accelerated. E-commerce is no longer the future, it is already an essential now. Businesses being online was never as crucial as before. Hence make use of these learnings and experience of this period to take action, make the necessary changes and decisions that would help turnaround this setback and catapult forward.