We are four months into the global pandemic and it’s a cliched narrative already that our business and social lives won’t be the same in the post-Covid world.
Some pundits sound reasonable in their prophetic claims while others go overboard with exaggerations, laying it on with the kind of changes they are envisaging.
The business world will be different, no doubt, but, to what extent is anybody’s guess. Yes, some industries will face the economic brunt, but a few will thrive in the wake of the pandemic.
I hate the business of prediction. But this post warrants that I wade into it. Following are my two cents on the near-to-medium term changes that might transpire in the world of business once the world has emerged on the other side of the pandemic:
Who would benefit?
It doesn’t matter where you are right now. Everywhere from North America to Europe to Middle East to Asia, the online education is gaining astonishing grounds. If you look at the positive side, Coronavirus has given online education a much-needed shot in the arm.
In the coming months, you can expect to see many education startups reaching new heights. A lot of VC money is going to flow into this segment. In India, Edtech startups have raised over $1.8 billion in the last five years. This money is going to go up manifold in the coming times.
The moot question, however, is whether the online education would make the transition from a quarantine-time favorite to becoming a default choice for educational institutions, teachers and students.
I think it will take the world 3-5 years to determine if online education can permanently replace physical experience. Until that time, it’s foolhardy to jump to conclusion that physical classroom learning is on its last legs.
Online Food Deilvery
This is one vertical which had been picking up pace well before the virus threw our lives into a tizzy. A 2019 Frost & Sullivan study estimated the online food delivery business to climb to $200 billion by 2025 on adoption of new technologies such as AI, augmented reality and delivery drones.
When the restrictions are lifted and people step out of their homes, they won’t be making a beeline for their favorite restaurants. I, for one, won’t be comfortable sauntering into a crowded place where the person sitting at the next table can peek at my plate.
The digital offshoot of the restaurant business is expected to thrive though. Online food delivery has reached the tipping point and will become the first choice of millions more now. However, here also, there are many variables at play that will decide the extent to which food delivery business is successful.
Customers in the post-Covid world are going to be highly circumspect and delivery platforms will have to bear the onus for cleanliness and hygiene of not only their own delivery partners, but, that of the food restaurants,too. Failure to do that will dent a great opportunity.
At the height of dot-com bubble, circa 1999, an online grocery startup called Webvan raised $375 million in its IPO and raked a valuation of $4.8 billion. Webvan was a money pit. It haemorrhaged money and in 2001, after 5 years of its checkered existence, folded up in a mortifying fashion.
The world of today is a far cry for the Webvan days. Since 2014, buying groceries online has become a thing.
In the post-Covid world, this business segment is expected to go mainstream. More and more customers would choose convenience over risk of stepping out into a crowded marketplace.
In the wake of the Covid pandemic, most countries will amp up their investments in healthcare. Telemedicine, it appears, will be one of the biggest beneficiaries.
Patients and doctors are going to be wary of face-to-face consultations in the post-Covid ERA. The good thing, however, is that doctors that balked at allowing telemedicine are embracing it now. It’s safe to assume that remote consultations with doctors will become a norm.
Who stands to lose?
The movie hall experience looks all set to change, at least, until the time a proper vaccination or a treatment is found.
You can’t feel comfy plonked into your chair as the guy sitting next to you slurrps his soda. Nope.
Unless cineplex owners take drastic measures – operating only at one-third of the total capacity, let’s say – things don’t look good for this sector. Reducing capacity will impact yield, but, it seems like one of the few feasible solutions as of now.
Restaurants and Food Joints
Many restaurants and food chains, I am afraid, would cease to exist, at least in the format we know.
The closed kitchen door with ‘authorized personnel only’ plate will only raise suspicions and if restaurants are to survive, they will have to make major tweaks to their existing operating models.
One of the worst impacted sectors in the short-to-medium term will be travel. Travelling from one country to another is not going to be the same.
The pre-travel preparation could become a nightmare. Some experts are foreseeing the advent of a health passport or a health wallet. This document/app will carry your up-to-date health-related information.
This document could also decide, in addition to travelling abroad, whether you are fit enough to step into a cinema hall or a hotel.
Human race has overcome the most devastating of challenges, and we will surely overcome this one. When we emerge on the other side of Covid pandemic, the world will abound with new business opportunities. That’s exactly how it has always worked. The biggest depressions in history have given way to vibrant times. There is no evidence to suggest that post-Covid world will be any different.