Business gears up for the bounceback

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    For the global crisis COVID-19 has caused and for how much of life will never be the same, the pandemic has been called, for better or worse, “a catalyst for change in health, tech, and work practices.” The world took a pause, now it’s opening up to innovate, to build resilience. To be back.

    “We’ve had to adjust, to find ways to survive and to move on,” a sari-sari store and restaurant cum carinderia owner said in Filipino in one of Metro Manila’s smaller subdivisions. Words of wisdom from a quintessential home-based entrepreneur of the Pinoy kind.

    Taking note of this mindset, one should not be surprised that into the 10th month of one of the longest lockdowns in the world, the carinderia-sari-sari store has stayed afloat and in some days even rakes it in, so to speak.

    “We’re making home deliveries in the neighborhood. We displayed our cell number in front of the store so our regular customers, even in our sari-sari store, can call to get what they need,” Lina continued in Filipino.

    “My husband bikes around the neighborhood and distributes a list of the day’s menu so people can make their meal order, then have it delivered to them. They can even order their daily needs from our sari-sari store, with a minimum order. So far, we are doing well.

    Even after the pandemic, we’ll probably keep doing the same, delivering what they need. I think some people in the neighborhood like to feel important,” she ended with a chuckle.

    Coming from a small home-based entrepreneur, who knows enough of her neighborhood–her clientele–what they want, what they need during these extraordinary times, this is the spirit that keeps business abuzz despite dire circumstances that could swat it’s life away if one were to let them. Lina together with her husband Teddy has devised a simple yet effective way to make sure no part of their small business wanders away.

    For many local businesses, from micro entities to huge conglomerates, innovation has fired up resilience in these pandemic-induced hard times. Some saw opportunities in changing their business models, others took the lead in hastening transition plans stuck in the pipeline, and still others pivoting to initiatives that have helped ensure that the market remembers and still believes in their brand after the pandemic dust has settled down.

    At this point, businesses big or small, are standing between catastrophe and recovery.

    There is a Darwinian sense to it in that whoever is not up to the challenge– and this is no mean challenge at hand– will have to bid goodbye.

    “Companies that do not innovate are in danger of becoming irrelevant,” said then Ayala Chairman and CEO Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, in June 2019, half a year before the pandemic. “We need to be proactive in finding gaps in our current systems and areas ripe for transformation, and we need to act swiftly, even if it means we have to be the ones disrupting ourselves.”

    For those whose businesses have been impacted by the pandemic, no truer words were ever spoken. And should have been heeded.

    Yet this was said long before the biggest disruption seen in centuries was upon us. Blessed are the ones who see the future and believe in it, so they say.

    Ayala’s “innovation mindset” was focused at the time on the business group’s digital transformation that was already happening in Globe, BPI and their other “technology-driven” service providers like Entrego. So like the rest of the forward-looking businesses, their resilience has been on display throughout the day’s challenges. The responses were far from perfect for sure but they were ready to blaze the trail that needed to be lit.

    Unsurprisingly, e-commerce which has been rearing to swoop down on Asia’s emerging economies is now raging as, according to Nikkei, “established players such as Grab, Gojek and Alibaba-owned Lazada are fighting back with tie-ups and new investments for control of the $100 billion digital economy.” In the local scene, and on a smaller scale perhaps but gaining more believers, e-commerce has become the ‘it’ activity. From home cooked food to the flashiest gadget, online business serves it up.

    Indeed, e-commerce has sprung to new heights that legislation had to be hastened in order to keep a suddenly-eager and needy public from getting caught up in the whirlwind, unprotected from online malefactors.

    The pandemic has spawned home-based businesses with owners who have dug up that hitherto undiscovered or long-suppressed entrepreneurial spirit. Big companies, on the other hand, have pushed long-delayed transformational programs, and turned their sights on underappreciated and unexplored facets of their business. Opportunities have unfolded, the shortsighted and unprepared have fallen by the wayside.

    Banking has changed, retail has changed, transacting with government has changed.

    Meetings have become virtual, so is learning. If you can’t go get the food, the food will come to you. Life has changed. For better or worse. Extraordinary times indeed.

    Above all these, business–in character– is gearing up for the bounceback, if it isn’t doing so already. More investments and resumptions of disrupted programs and projects are underway.

    While total recovery, say the experts, is expected to be about 12 months away, “corporate earnings and spending are seen to rebound this year near pre-coronavirus levels as local firms go back to their ‘capital expediture cycles’.” Expansions–rudely interrupted by the pandemic–will proceed as planned, with some adjustments.

    Phillip Hagedorn, chief investment officer at ATR Asset Management in a recent interview on ANC’s Market Edge “said the positive push from Philippine companies will drive the Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) to reach as high as 8,300 points and help grow the economy by 9 percent for 2021.” Welcome news. Very welcome news, in fact.

    To be sure, there are winners and losers in the time of the pandemic. Some have thrived, some have folded. Some have become stronger because they had foresight, they were resilient. Shortsightedness is foreign to them; bending but never breaking is how they operate.

    In the business world, the ability to see what lies ahead separates sustained success from crushing failure. Not to be denied is the fact that everyone’s learning curve has vastly broadened, perspectives have widened, shining bright lights on blind spots that up to this point had coddled disasters waiting to happen. The pandemic has pulled business up on its toes, to be the best that it can be, at all times. And so it is.