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Hope in the Time of Corona

By : Razan Alnuzha

“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity” __Sun Tzu

As the coronavirus cases multiply, the world is not only struggling with a global public health crisis while attempting to curb the viral spread of the virus, but also with its proliferating financial and economic consequences. With over 13,000 confirmed cases in Saudi Arabia to date and the large-scale emergency measures laid out by the government to stop the spread of the contagion, businesses from most sectors are experiencing a steep decline in activity, reduced or lost sales and disruptions in supply chains. This has come at a time where small businesses were soaring and the market was inviting.

As reports and predictions of global economic conditions point towards a possible long-term downward impact on business operations, a strong economic comeback will depend on policy responses, government aid and consumer and business behaviour in response to the pandemic.

Just how fast can businesses recover from the pandemic’s consequences is yet unknown, and economists say predictions are uncertain and unreliable at this time as there are too many unknown factors about the current situation while we are currently still in the midst of it. We cannot take lessons from previous crises because this crisis has distinctively influenced both supply and demand.

It would be difficult to assume that after this crisis passes, things will eventually get back to ‘normal’. With such a large-scale change in daily life and social behaviour, one can expect some of these changes to leave a reside behind and it is highly predictable that we are seeing the birth of a new way of living and conducting business that relies more heavily on technology than ever before. Shifts are expected in spending patterns, supply and demand, working and living habits, with emerging customer groups that were not previously served or targeted.

As the shift to working remotely during the crisis has proven to be effective in some jobs, many businesses may keep using this strategy to cut costs well after the virus’s threat has been superseded.

In addition, we should expect a revival in some industries that showed fragility and cracked under the pressure of this crisis. With the huge disruptions in supply chain, we could expect to see an improvement in technology integration and logistics and an increase in local manufacturing, produce and delivery channels. On the other hand, there are some markets whose activity have surged due to the high need for them such as online streaming and education, E-grocer and online delivery services and platforms. As the demand on these industries increases, more businesses will pop up to fill gaps in the market and form an ecosystem around them.

“The best way to predict the future is to create it” __ Peter Drucker

As an entrepreneur, it is important to look past the current circumstances with an entrepreneurial mindset and search for opportunities in the midst of chaos. Many markets are being disrupted and the rules of play do not apply anymore.

With disruption comes the opportunity to create new markets with completely new rules. This is an opportunity to innovate and gain a competitive edge over established businesses. The increased adoption of technology for daily tasks such as shopping, working, learning and leisure shows that there is so much room for improvement and innovation and revolutionary opportunities to be seized.

Brand new opportunities will emerge from these dire circumstances and it is with that in mind that entrepreneurs must look onward and shift their strategy, build trust and loyalty among their customers and increase their market share in order to survive in markets that are shifting rapidly.

We have witnessed how the 2008 Global Financial Crisis provided the necessary disruption that resulted in the emergence of the sharing economy, where customer behavioral patterns shifted to sharing, renting and monetizing their assets. Some of the fastest growing companies such as Uber and Airbnb were born during the crisis.

Similarly, as demand is increasing in the E-grocer market in Saudi Arabia, we are seeing investments being poured into promising ventures such as Sary and Nana, two online platforms serving different customers (B2B and B2C) and solving different pain points within the same supply chain.

For entrepreneurs, this is a time to experiment, learn, innovate and explore new possibilities outside of industry boundaries through envisioning a new way of life and working towards achieving that. Observe the current dynamics, and search for patterns, pain points and unmet needs arising from the old ways of doing things.

Where others see problems, learn to sense the potential. New markets will emerge, new businesses will pop up and only the resilient will endure. Do not lose focus, search for opportunities and differentiate yourself from competitors through value creation. And always remember, in the words of Billy Ocean, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

About the Author :

Razan Reda Alnuzha

Entrepreneur, Lecturer in management & Entrepreneurship at the University of Prince Mugrin.