Last few weeks have been difficult and different. We have been forced to try new way of things. Life has not stopped. We are taking both education and hobby classes online. We are working through technologies that enable online video interaction, team communication and project management. We are also socializing through these channels. These technologies have existed for a long time. But we did not exploit them to full. It always felt that they cannot be as effective as face to face interactions.
Those views are changing now, since we are forced to try otherwise.
Business owners and employers are becoming comfortable with the idea of their teams working from home. They realize that work productivity can be managed from home. Employees showing up in office for 8 hours is not necessary to prove that they’re working. In fact, it has huge cost savings for businesses too. We have already heard announcements from companies like TCS and Infosys that significant part of their teams will be working from home permanently. I believe, others will follow.
On personal front, people are getting used to the idea of exercising and learning new skills from home. People are socializing from home. In fact, they are talking to their families more because they have more time now.
Perhaps this new way is not optimal. But it can still get a lot of work done while saving time and costs. And the trade-off could be worth embracing the change. When life gradually springs back to normal, some of our new learnings and habits will remain.
These new learnings were anticipated to happen in four or five years. COVID-19 has accelerated this to now. We are not ready yet. But we are here anyway. I am not saying that people will go out less. I am saying that such technologies will bring the next wave of benefits of the internet to people, and will leave a permanent impact in how we work, live, and learn.
What does this mean for business owners and others?
- Keep your eyes open: This is the time when we observe how surroundings and behavior are changing. We prepare ourselves to adapt. Observe what other businesses are doing to cope. What are the new ways they are trying to reach out to customers? On personal front, how are people in their daily lives doing things differently? Not just now but after this lock down is lifted. In fact, more so then. Keeping in touch with young people in your family is also a good way to know how things are changing. This will also open new business opportunities for you.
- Try new technologies: Just try them. It might not be useful eventually, but you would not know if you do not try. Technologies like Zoom and GoTo for online meetings and webinars. Asana, Slack and Microsoft Teams for workflow management. Dropbox and Google drive for documents sharing and storing. There would be others being used in your circle. Try them out once.
- Go digital: Internet is going to penetrate further into our daily lives. If you were holding off your website plans, then review them now. If building a website is difficult, then get a Facebook or Instagram page; or a Telegram or Whatsapp group to interact with your customers. Give ways to your customers to reach you digitally. If you are a commodity business, perhaps sign up and list yourselves on the several B2B platforms of India. Every year, businesses are transacting more on these platforms.
- Lookout for new opportunities: Transition is challenging. Some businesses will be benefitted; and some will have a difficult time surviving. Either way, you will have to adapt to new ways of doing things. When Facebook and Youtube came up, it threw open opportunities for businesses on these platforms. This new more internet intensive time, will have similar effects. For example – a group has started managing ‘Housie’ events online. They collect money online, coordinate with people who want to play, host Housie session, and distribute awards to winners. This could evolve into a business of managing online events.
My point in short – Times are changing. Observe how we and businesses are doing things differently when lockdown is lifted. Try new technologies and figure out how you can apply them to your work or business. Keep an eye out for new business opportunities that crop up. And conserve cash. In uncertain times, cash is king.