How to ensure growth as we hit the refresh button in a post-Covid world5 min read . Updated: 20 Oct 2020, 11:47 AM IST
- A virtual panel discussion titled ‘Hit Refresh: Business Resilience in a post-Covid World’, powered by SAP and Livemint, discusses strategies to bring businesses back to jump-start mode post the pandemic.
From social dynamics to consumer behaviour, the Covid-19 pandemic has turned our world completely upside down. As India went into complete lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, businesses and the economy as a whole were very badly impacted. The silver lining is that this forced time-off accelerated the digital transformation journey across many sectors as top minds were home-bound and innovation became a driver for change.
A virtual panel discussion ‘Hit Refresh: Business Resilience in a post-Covid world’ presented by Livemint and SAP takes stock of the impact of the pandemic across sectors and strategies for business continuity post Unlock 5.0.
The needs and preferences of customers as well as suppliers have changed and businesses are trying to ensure growth in the immediate and long term by putting together a slew of initiatives. And, at the top of this change is digitalisation, a trend that was initiated to ensure survival but seems to be here to stay.
“Covid has hampered many things like raw material, labour and financing, which hit the industry badly. Though the industry got back on its feet after 15-20 days, production was affected. The biggest challenge faced was the labour shortage in the industry," said Anil Kumar Garg, Director, Aroma Agrotech Private Limited.
The Agri industry saw disruptions in the first phase of the lockdown, but was able to bounce back fast. Rural demand, in fact, became a huge factor in the country’s economic revival and was key to keeping demand for agricultural products and services alive.
“The agricultural sector has been the beacon of hope over the last few months and we been able to sustain growth, both in terms of production of agricultural goods as well as in terms of agri-input industries," said Udai Raj Anand, Director, Parijat Industries.
A good monsoon coupled with a massive reverse migration of the workforce from big cities to rural areas has been at the core of this and has boosted rural demand for both this sector and otherwise.
Another key role that agriculture has played in the last few months which may not get captured in macro-economic data but it is important as a holistic economic performance is that of a safety net.
“Agriculture as a last employer of last resort has offered a safety net to a large number of Indians who lost their livelihoods and were able to go back and survive, even if this was at low levels of productivity and earning," Anand added.
Who would have thought that a farmer would transact online “The last few months have seen a lot of activity on the agricultural space of reaching out to farmers for agricultural products through digital. The degree of growth in that segment is surprising," he said.
The retail sector, too, witnessed reduced demands owing to pay cuts and job losses. “There is a higher focus on value buying due to lesser resources at the disposal of the customer. This is a time when people seek more for less. Customers are more mindful of their spending, and therefore want a retailer who they can trust monetarily. There is another dimension to this trust. The customers are also entrusting the health and safety of themselves and their family with the retailer," said Lalit Agarwal, CEO of V-Mart Retail.
Technology has played a critical role in enabling companies to come out of the challenges they faced. So, from digital fitting rooms and cashless payments to e-commerce platforms and use of analytics to drive online sales, the industry is leveraging digital channels to bring back customer demand and spending.
“There is a sharp acceleration in adoption of digital post-Covid by customers as well as businesses. For those who were digital savvy, their consumption pattern is becoming more digitally dependent. And the fence sitters have been compelled to embrace online. We are seeing a sudden expansion in the digital customer base and this is an irreversible or permanent shift for the retail business," he added.
The month of July was the peak of digital business for V-Mart, after which some of the footfalls are back in physical stores in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. But technology remains to be the backbone for India’s supply chain management and logistics.
“Backend processes like supply chain, logistics need to be integrated more closely in real-time to assist customer facing processes. There is also a shift in culture within organisations to embrace digital," Agarwal further said.
Tech as a driver for innovation
With the country in unlock mode, businesses are trying to revive themselves and get the spending back. The best resources were homebound, and they really brought in innovation. From a tech-solutions lens, the past six-months can be viewed in two buckets.
“In the first two months , most of our customers took to technology as a saviour to ensure that they get connected to the marketplaces or network and that the product is available for the customers to buy. Then came the next period when people wanted to look at this as an opportuning. SAP, today, works in 26 industries of which just 3-4 are severely affected," said Mahendranath Talluri, Regional Sales Director – North, SAP India.
Most customers started looking at long-term projects. “When your business is at the peak, you don’t have resources sitting and working on new products or process improvements. They are focussed on the business itself. Now, they have taken some very bold steps. While Covid has brought a lot of negativity, the way companies have come out of it is impressive," he added.
So, which are the sectors that have seen maximum technology adoption? “This was a complete surprise for us. We thought only those who are tech-savvy will come to us. But the last two quarters have shown that every industry, except for the 3-4 which are very badly affected, have come to us looking for options to innovate and do better," Talluri said.
The three basic things need to be in place for any digital transformation are investment, technology and adaptability. The ask of the customer has changed from Capex based IT solutions to cloud-based technology projects.
The tech projects had the risk of resource availability and adoptability of technology, which have been solved by the pandemic as the best brains now have to look into innovations and are not just busy running businesses.
The pandemic has led to a mindset change for adoption of technology, which will lead to a higher success rate in technology projects going forward. “One of the bigger focus areas for the next year is going to be technology, as it impacts productivity, culture and make the business competitive and sustainable for a longer-term," Talluri concluded.