The ripple effects of the ongoing pandemic on the social, economic, and business front are long-term. While it has severely affected masses across geographies, India experienced the world’s second-largest COVID-19 outbreak, constraining back-to-back lockdowns and local shutdowns, significantly impacting many businesses in the country.
A recent FICCI survey has revealed a deep deterioration in the country's business sentiments due to the second wave of COVID. The Overall Business Confidence Index took a downturn and stood at 51.5 in the current round while it was at 74.2 in the previous survey round. This clearly states that businesses across industry are being challenged to promptly adapt to the erratic ‘new normal’.
While the unprecedented disruption caused by the pandemic has forced many businesses to change their strategies, it has also accelerated their journey of digitization. Digital adoption has taken an upswing at both organizational and industry levels. Technology has been substantiated as the fundamental building block for businesses to succeed in the new normal environment. Let’s look at some ways in which technology has been used by businesses to continue operation amidst this phase of turmoil.
Enabling emerging India to shift from offline to online
Businesses with brick-and-mortar establishments have been dramatically impacted during the lockdowns resulting from the pandemic. With the help of technology, many businesses went online for the very first time. Businesses, especially from tier 2 and tier 3 cities pivoted online at a fast pace with the help of vernacular internet. A recent ICICI securities report states that the growth of e-commerce volumes in tier 2 and 3 cities in India have surpassed those in tier1 cities. One such example is Raha Homes, a home textiles brand based out of a tier 2 city, Lucknow, who started their online journey during lockdown and has witnessed how having an online presence added value to the credibility of the brand.
With internet penetration rapidly growing in tier 2 and tier 3 cities, there is a growing demand for vernacular content from these cities. To cater to the next 200 million internet users coming from these smaller cities, many entrepreneurs are now launching or rehashing their businesses and technology products in vernacular languages.
Creating a phygital experience
While businesses are slowly resuming offline operations with some parts of the country slowly coming out of physical lockdown, the fear of getting infected continues to make people hesitant to step out. In this new post-COVID world, consumers are likely to look for an amalgamation of the physical and digital space.
According to a Deloitte Digital and Salesforce study, since the COVID-19 pandemic started, customers are using a mixture of digital touch points along their buying journey: Mobile wallets are behind e-mail as a place to make purchases. And more online shoppers are making purchases through social media channels. This is where the potency of ‘phygital’ experiences really comes into play, when online experiences are personalized based on a consumer’s physical experiences. AR and VR initiatives should gather pace for businesses looking to achieve product and brand immersion without human contact, both in the store and at home.
Accelerating employee upskilling
According to a report by Amazon Web Services, India will need nine times as many digital workers by 2025, as it needs now. With changing ways of working, in this new normal, many Indian businesses have started investing in upskilling and reskilling programs to retain and train their current workforce. Rise of EdTech solutions has helped these businesses to support their employees in this digital journey and fulfill their dynamic job roles.
Along with working from home, employees are now also able to learn from home. Companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Salesforce are providing free upskilling programs and online training for employees, preparing them for new technology-oriented jobs in the post-pandemic world.
Technology is performing a pivotal role in reshaping businesses to help recover and grow in the new, post-COVID-19 environment. Businesses making the right investments in their technology infrastructure, data-driven analysis, empowering processes, and skilling their people to help drive them forward, are more equipped to succeed. In these changing times, leaders should focus on prioritizing investments towards digital transformation, while employees should be agile to adapt to the new ways of communication and doing business in efforts to attain operational excellence.
Nikhil Arora is the managing director and vice president at web hosting company GoDaddy India. The views in this article are his own.