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An e-rickshaw puller garnered the highest praise possible from Mahindra Group chairman Anand Mahindra for his innovative way of practicing social distancing while travelling
An e-rickshaw puller garnered the highest praise possible from Mahindra Group chairman Anand Mahindra for his innovative way of practicing social distancing while travelling

The era of the big reboot is now here

Every firm must come to grips with post-covid realities, accept that it may need to change everything it knew about its business, and then pivot itself to a future that won’t be a linear extension of the past

Survival calls for adaptation. This sounds Darwinian, but the “fittest" businesses that survive the impact of covid-19 will have no time for trial and error down the generations—or cycles of production, in this case. It would require transformations made at warp speed, based on forecasts that look uncertain and driven by decisions that would test every leader’s mettle.

The first reality we must acknowledge is the power of this pandemic to reshape the business environment as we know it. The lockdown is not a mere pause in our economic participation, it is an inflection point. There will be no return to normalcy, just a facsimile of it. The paralytic effects of corona anxiety may persist. Even if a vaccine emerges by year-end, the virus will be able to resist eradication for longer than firms can stay solvent. So every assumption of what makes a business tick, from the basic question of why it exists to the nitty-gritty of how it generates value, should be up for a rethink. This will spell strategic changes that sweep aside old ways of doing things. Going digital is the first imperative. Without adopting tools of technology that make geography history and minimize physical contact, no organization can function properly.

Input supply chains will have to be reset to contain the risk of disruption rather than crush the cost of inventory, and other ways found to push efficiency.

Products and services themselves may have to be reformulated, even as distribution and delivery systems adapt to unpredictable patterns of demand. Customer relationships might have to be re-crafted in response to new sensitivities.

Brands will be under renewed pressure to win and sustain buyers’ trust. What people value and what they are ready to forgo may have got altered, and resources would have to be re-allotted. Likewise, investments will need to go by revised projections. Confidence levels in these bets would be lower than before, with risk-pricing now a tricky exercise, but the boldness and accuracy of tough calls taken in rough times can separate winners from losers. Fortune will favour those with foresight.

Success may become a closer function of innovation. Under the prevailing constraints on human interaction, however, the capacity for it could vary from one firm to another. Information and imagination combine to yield novel ideas, but an over-emphasis on robotic operations ordained by data at the cost of free association among staff could dampen new thoughts. Online interactivity is observed to be sub-optimal for this, and so firms that overcome a loss in spontaneity as they rewire work processes will probably find themselves more innovative. Of course, thinking afresh is crucial in almost every sphere. For this, every firm must come to grips with post-covid realities, accept that it may need to change everything it knew about its business, and then pivot itself to a future that won’t be a linear extension of the past.

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