Opinion

What business can learn from the coronavirus crisis

Pritam Mahure | Updated on March 27, 2020

We live in such an inter-connected world that a pandemic started miles away has brought our lives to standstill and disrupted business across the globe.

However, there is a silver lining in this situation: we have the time to properly assess the impact of this crisis and plan how to overcome the challenges.

So, lets decode the five things we can learn from this epidemic.

Be ready for surprises: Many business entities were caught unaware by coronavirus However, this isn’t the only crisis business will ever face. The invention of new technologies like AI/ML, RPA, Blockchain, substitute products etc, for instance, throw up challenges as well, and there is no ready-made solution for them.

The only way out is to be one step ahead by predicting the issues and building ‘immunity’ against them. To predict challenges, businesses need to sit back and brainstorm on holistic solutions for all likely disruptions. Then, a step-by-step plan should be put in place. All teams must be involved in the planning process. Further, the plan should be supplemented with real-time tracking of changes.

Its well-known noted that such plans are no more than a piece of paper unless implemented well, and hence it is critical to test-run the ideas with regular mock drills (such as those performed by Army, firefighters, disaster management teams etc).

A simple drill, say for professional service organisations, can be to mandate that every employee ‘work from home’ at least two days a month (subject to certain exceptions). This drill will ensure that both the employees and the technology infrastructure is ready in case of emergencies.

A maze of challenges: Businesses are discovering that whilst opportunities are short-lived, challenges can be never-ending. In the time of Covid-19, the real challenge is to predict when life and business will return to normal.

Whatever may be the current coping strategy, it will have to be re-visited on a real-time basis as multiple factors will evolve. It is said that survival of an organisation does not depend on the threat itself (such as Corona) but how it responds to such threat.

Thus, with no immediate end in sight, businesses will have to devise a strategy on a near ‘real-time’ basis and be ready for both scenarios, ie, the situation returning to normal in the short term (say a month) versus the long term (say after a few quarters).

We need to understand that the real challenge will arise once the lockdown is lifted and business reopens, as in such a scenario, only those who had a vision and plans would bounce back. Learning from how businesses in China and other parts of the globe handled the sudden surge in demand would certainly be of help.

This too shall pass: The coronavirus has brought everything to a halt, and is proving to be even fatal for some businesses.

With the world standing still, it’s time to pause and see where we are lacking and how to strengthen internal processes.

It’s likely that the continuous flow of information will be distracting; however, in such times, ensuring that leaders and their teams remain focussed on business continuity and deliverables will be the key.

Address the clarion call: There will always be choices to make — use the short-term advantage (say increase prices or hoard goods); reduce prices in the larger interest and continue business; or temporarily shut down to save human lives.

Each choice will establish the organisation’s moral values as well as determine which organisation will survive in the long term.

Be better than yesterday: Due to the virus fears, many may lose customers and even jobs. As everyone comes to terms with the possibility of a stalled world, in the days to come ‘surviving’ the coronavirus in itself will be seen as an achievement. This fragility, for an organisation as well as an individual, should remind us to continuously learn and be better than yesterday.

Even after coronavirus scare passes, the world will never be the same again. The tectonic developments will affect almost every business across the world. Given this, businesses need to remain eternally vigilant and start nurturing their core foundation to ensure that when the storm passes, they are standing tall and ready to take on the changes.

The writer is a Pune-based chartered accountant

Published on March 27, 2020

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