Rapelang Motsumi

One morning during  early days of lockdown as I was driving through the four way stop on my way to the office, I saw an interesting innovation. A young gentleman who was a beggar at the traffic lights stretching out a long selfie stick to my right window. The selfie stick had a cup tied to its tip to receive cash. I then realized that the fellow wanted to observe social distancing because motorists might not want to give them money at a close range for fear of contracting COVID-19. I looked at this and thought to myself that, actually because the man’s hustle was disrupted he was forced to innovate and do things differently in order to keep generating income.

As we visualize a new reality and prepare for the next normal we are forced into an unprecedented change. We have seen disruption in business models and business continuity threatened by diminishing consumer spending power. As crisis leaves us with new challenges, it also ushers us into new wave of opportunities. Cliché words such as re-align, re-strategize, re-structure, re-model, pivot etc have been loosely thrown around to demonstrate the need for an urgent action for business survival and continuity.

Post crisis growth will require a lot of entrepreneurs. New ways of thinking, new solutions, new products, new services, new methodologies and new ideas will lead us to the birth of new breed of entrepreneurs who will respond with innovation. On the upside new sources of income will be realized through new opportunities.

During lockdown we have seen a lot of business models shifting online especially retail, in order to deliver products to the consumer’s comfort of their homes because of curfew restrictions.

Nick Skillicorn defines Innovation as “Turning an Idea into a solution that adds value from a customer’s perspective.” Coming up with ideas can be relatively easy, fast and cheap; however without execution and making them happen makes an innovation exercise a useless one. This makes more sense when Paul Sloane once said “Creativity is thinking of something new, while Innovation is the implementation of something new.” Innovation has to be flexible and agile, given a new shift in consumer priorities. The effect of this global pandemic has changed relationships with customers, employees and suppliers.

Many experts have said post COVID economy will be an equalizer and further level the playing fields between small and big businesses. Big business being risk averse as they normally are, may find themselves forced to restructure their business strategy altogether. Small businesses are however easily adoptable; with more appetite to taking more risks and explore new opportunities from seemingly favourable market condition.

The following are some few observations I made about where entrepreneurs made easy money during this crisis;

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): the demand for masks, sanitizers, sanitizing booths, etc
  • Accountants: They assisted entrepreneurs with compliance documents to be relief ready for myriad of Covid-19 small business funding and grants.
  • Lawyers: new regulations kept changing, this required advice and interpretation from legal experts.
  • Health and safety Professionals: Were consulting to advise and help companies implement Covid-19 health protocols.
  • Surgeries and pharmacies: consultations and demand for medicines as well as therapeutics rapidly increased.
  • Technology: new innovations like Covid-19 tracing apps, online training platforms, video conferencing platforms, e-commerce, social media influencer trend etc
  • Logistics: pent-up demand for delivery services.
  • Other opportunities: digital marketing services, deep cleaning services on properties etc

Permanent increase of remote working paints a bleak picture for commercial real estate because of rising vacancy rates caused by increased business bankruptcy.

From our earlier anecdote of how a homeless gentleman was forced into innovation in order to survive, an entrepreneur hope of survival will be innovation. Are you going to look for new markets, digitize your business, respond through technology, adjust businesses model, be adaptable and agile in order to survive? Post COVID economy will be the survival of the innovative.  If a homeless man with meagre resources and under difficult circumstances can innovate, there is no excuse for an entrepreneur not to innovate.

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