31 Dec 2020, 09:30 — 7 min read
There is probably no word to describe this year. It has been a life changing experience both personally and professionally for many of us and one that has turned the world on its head. With the announcement of a lockdown, businesses from the kirana store to the largest multi-nationals had to scramble and come up with a plan to stay afloat. Many small and most large businesses these days have robust contingency management plans in place - including multiple supply chain pipelines, alternate business continuity work sites, multiple market presence and such to keep the business operational. All of those plans were no match for the magnitude of the problem at a global scale – problems that affected every organisation’s most important asset - its human resources! Not a single market was spared, and it was not a single supply chain problem, for it impacted every aspect of every department. Few of these businesses have quickly adapted while others continued to struggle or close down. The global economy took an immense hit.
Also read: What Covid-19 has taught us
Learning from how humans have adapted over the centuries, 2020 was yet another example of how good we are in acclimatizing and reinventing ourselves. It is a true testament to human perseverance. As business owners and companies fought to stay afloat, they also had to simultaneously retool themselves. Employees had to reskill and learn new methodologies quickly. All this had to be done without any lead time and many a times with no training. Many companies (especially IT/ITES) in emerging markets that had initially discouraged remote working found themselves with no choice but to allow their employees to work from home. Many of the other businesses had to shutter their operations for extended periods of time – something that was never done before and something unforeseen. Several small companies relied on manned security with minimal or no automation, still have a passive fire prevention system and no insurance for the infrastructure. These are few of the areas where businesses will plan to invest creating opportunities that did not exist earlier.
The pandemic served as an important reminder – things can change drastically in the blink of an eye.
Also read: New paradigm for people and business
Despite the downturn in global economies, there are businesses that have adapted fairly quickly, and new business opportunities are being tapped. Pharma businesses were able to raise up to the occasion at this critical time of need, medical and hospital services managed well, while being short-staffed and having more than normal footfall. Most white-collar jobs switched to remote working.
Many of the things which we are able to continue doing is due to the fact that everything has gone digital. We have been able to order food or commodities online, but 2020 is helping shape this segment and come up with a robust framework and getting other areas of retail – like apparel or medicine online.
The biggest change yet has been the education sector - The face of education has changed in a good way. Teachers and students are leveraging interactive technologies at a scale never seen before. The ability to pursue foundation level education – sans a physical classroom is a remarkable achievement when even the thought of children missing out on a year of schooling only having to relearn after the pandemic is heartbreaking. Despite the positives, there are still several shortcomings – including the lack of social and emotional connections, catching up with friends and so on.
People may be far apart but collectively we have all come closer together as human beings. Though, there is no right time for this pandemic, we are in a way lucky that we are dealing with this in the year 2020, than say 20 years ago. We have cheaper, faster, reliable networks, voice and video collaboration technologies that’s accessible to the common man, not just businesses. Online media entertainment streaming services, food delivery services, online doctor consultations, groceries and day to day sundries and more is available at the touch of a button. We are able to continue an almost normal life without stepping out.
Moving forward, businesses should have a good contingency plan or improve based on what they have learnt; disaster recovery/ business continuity, which is usually somewhere down in the list when it comes to budgeting is likely to bump up. There is likely to be a push from every sector and more investment in web and communication technologies – businesses need to refine the online presence especially the retail sector where the balance sheets start to tip towards online business. Information Technology sectors that are likely to grow include - Payment Processing, Data Security and Privacy, Networking, Cloud Computing, Automation, AI. Business segments like retail, delivery services will invest creating newer opportunities.
The world slowed down, climates changed, air became cleaner. Pets were happier to have their owners with them all day. Families connected over meals - like how it used to be.
I believe, 2020 serves as a reminder and lesson in adaptability and has taught us to handle another pandemic if it ever occurs. Humans are resilient. We have gone through major pandemics in the past. Perhaps we made mistakes, but we learned from them too.
Let’s move forward to a more positive and healthier New Year 2021.
“From the moment the invaders arrived, they were undone, destroyed by the tiniest creatures that God in his wisdom put upon this Earth. By the toll of a billion deaths, man had earned his immunity, his right to survive among this planet's infinite organisms. And that right is ours against all challenges. For neither do men live nor die in vain.” – Morgan Freeman (War of the Worlds)
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