It has been a difficult week where individuals and families have had to pick themselves up and adjust to the new environment. And it has been challenging for companies, experiencing the problems with dealing with workforce welfare, operational problems related to home-working and maintaining customer fulfilment and service, and for certain sectors such as airlines thinking about whether they will exist at all in a few weeks’ time. On top of that, business has had to demonstrate how they can contribute to the efforts of keeping health and emergency services going and how they can do their bit to tackle the virus and for wider society*.
The new business KPIs which will emerge, according to a World Economic Forum paper this week, include responsiveness, resilience, and reconfigurability. There will be an increased need for infrastructure and technical ability which create transparency within global supply chains.
One person who stands to benefit from handling coronavirus well is Jeff Bezos. In a message to his employees at Amazon he said that his time and thinking ‘is now wholly focused on Covid-19, and on how Amazon can best play its role’. It is obvious that the crisis has brought about a remarkable opportunity for Amazon to solidify the role it plays in our lives and also to get to the few that remained resistant to the retailer’s reach until now. The world of retail and groceries will forever change and Amazon’s more than twenty years of experience in using data to drive efficiency will certainly rise to the challenge to emerge a winner. Alibaba has already built a service whereby customers can buy food via livestream. Expect other food retailers to continue to try to replicate Amazon and use their newly-found demand to invest in the same processes.
Unfortunately, some companies haven’t managed to adapt and have even shot themselves in the foot in ways that will damage their reserves of goodwill. It seems the opprobrium is directed more on high profile entrepreneurs and individual CEOs rather than companies. Richard Branson, Tim Martin and Philip Green – love ‘em or hate ‘em types – have been in the firing line. While the public will give everyone a certain amount of leeway in these exceptionally stressed times, Mike Ashley of the UK’s Sports Direct’s apology for going against government advice earlier this week and keeping stores open, will not undo his decades of reputation corroding efforts. Perhaps Ashley hasn’t fallen quite far enough.
*Some of the companies who have responded to the virus this week have included:
Dyson which has has unveiled a plans to make up to 30,000 medical ventilators from next week. It is waiting for the UK government to give the green light on the plans.
Ford, G.M. and Tesla tapping their supply chains and looking into building ventilators to send to hospitals. Elon Musk said he had acquired more than 1,000 ventilators from China last week and arranged for them to be air-shipped to Los Angeles.
Decathlon is working with engineers from an Italian research institute to convert its line of snorkelling masks into emergency ventilator masks.
Tech companies are donating their huge computing power to crunch data in the search for a cure. A consortium including Amazon, Google, IBM and Microsoft was recently formed to enlist their supercomputers in making calculations and modelling scenarios for the spread of the disease.
Unilever announced a wide-ranging set of measures to support global and national efforts. It will contribute €100m to help the fight against the pandemic through donations of soap, sanitizer, bleach and food.
Distilleries and breweries are making hand sanitizer, with Anheuser-Busch InBev, Diageo and Pernod Ricard rejigging their operations to meet shortages. Surplus alcohol generated from alcohol-free beers has come in handy for the process.
Clothing companies are retooling to make masks and other protective garments. Factories that churn out T-shirts, a company in the US that makes uniforms for baseball teams. Clothing manufacturers Prada and Gucci converting their workshops to produce medical equipment.
Airbnb announced that landlords who make their empty apartments available to care staff and social workers via their platform would be offered compensation
Paris Saint Germain announced it had made a EUR100,000 donation to NGOs and Bayern Munich‘s players and senior staff taking a 20% pay cut to help pay for staff in other areas of the club during the outbreak.