BY: Olukayode Kolawole
Without any doubt Coronavirus has impacted a combination of health, economic, financial, supply/logistics, human resource and operational challenges on virtually all aspects of our life most especially businesses.
Businesses in Nigeria, however, must begin to rise and tap into the new opportunities and potentials that COVID-19 presents especially amidst the resolve by the government to allow more sectors to return to business.
As the world settles down into the new normal that the Coronavirus pandemic has foisted on all of us, implementing a recovery and business continuity plan/strategy is the most paramount thing for businesses now.
The need to encourage personal responsibility and enforce compliance of the citizens with physical and social distancing protocol that has become part of the new world order, is therefore, an imperative for businesses to begin to think and act smart.
It is now time for businesses to see beyond COVID-19 crisis to tapping the enormous opportunities and potentials that are within, and ahead the current situation as we gradually move into a more relaxed phase of the ease of lockdown that will see many more businesses open, and more people on the streets and in public places.
In China and elsewhere, businesses have started adjusting to the new reality by rethinking and repositioning their operations and catering to the new needs of consumers. By taking time to understand the new market realities, smart businesses are now making COVID-19 the main propeller for new growth and activating dormant potentials especially by moving from the traditional brick and mortar ecosystem to the online space, with the e-Commerce system powering things.
Nigeria cannot be an exception as COVID-19 has come with lots of opportunities and potentials for businesses – micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and large corporations – to rebound into profitability. Much more, for those that can transition from brick and mortar businesses to online and leveraging the e-Commerce backbone provided by a viable platform like Jumia, the sky would be the starting point of rebound and returning to profitability.
Examples of the sectors that businesses can tap into include agriculture of which food is a major segment, healthcare, education and services such as hygiene and sanitation, fast moving consumer goods (FMCGs), sports and gaming, entertainment, IT/technology and electronics/electrical appliances. For government business continuity, e-governance is a new opportunity to leverage.
Food is man’s number one existential need and agriculture is the domain of food production and food security. During lockdowns, Jumia logistics bridged the supply and logistics challenges that hampered people from accessing agricultural produce especially groceries due to the poor enforcement of inter-state and inter-boundary movement bans.
In spite of the fact that coronavirus has disrupted farming activities this year, surge in demand for food such as fresh groceries, meat and poultry products remains a major trend. In order for consumers to get constant supply of these essentials, it means more storage facilities are needed.
Due to poor electric power supply in a country like Nigeria, however, many families, for example, will be unable to stock perishable groceries for a longer period. MSMEs can take advantage of this need and invest with e-Commerce operators like Jumia marketplace and logistics serving as the pivot for them.
As more people work remotely from home, demand for essentials including food, water, cooking ingredients, toiletries and appliances will continue to increase. Hence, there is an opportunity for FMCGs manufacturers on the Jumia marketplace to push their inventories and put their products in the hands of millions of consumers.
Demand for healthcare and technology-driven products and services will continue to rise, and this also opens a new vista for businesses. Pharmaceuticals, supplements, medical devices, personal protective equipment (PPE), telemedicine, smart hospitals, online consultations, digital medical assistants, apps and mini-apps and self-diagnosing medical devices are all opportunities to extend business frontiers.
Virtual classrooms and tutorials, e-books, e-lesson notes and workbooks, online training and virtual cooking classes are also opportunities in the education sector that businesses can leverage while they are also helping to reduce physical contact and the spread of Coronavirus.
Online sports betting, development of online fitness classes, apps and mini-apps for indoor sports and games will also boost business sustainability as well as breaking the cycle of COVID-19 transmission.
Virtual entertainment services such as dancing tutorial, singing via Zoom, gaming and virtual visits to landmarks are also some of the new ways of disseminating content and promoting small businesses as well as boosting social distancing.
With suggestions that Coronavirus can survive on cash money, remote or digital banking services such as payment and transfer of money as opposed to handling cash is another smart business model in this present situation. The good news is that JumiaPay has been at the forefront of promoting a cashless system thereby ensuring reduction of person-to-person/person-to-cash contact that can aggravate the rate of virus infection.
Small businesses can also key-in to Jumia Contactless Delivery to provide contact-less systems and enhance delivery of services to their customers. For non-essential goods, as more people are encouraged to work from home, and likely to do more home chores such as washing of dishes and laundry, they can make orders and pay online on JumiaPay for electrical appliances such as dishwashers, washing and sterilisation machines. Jumia agents in protective kits can deliver the appliances to them at home under strict no-physical contact protocol.
As businesses reduce the number of employees that can converge in line with social distancing rules, there are cost reduction opportunities that organisations can benefit from. They can cut down on office rent or redesign office space and let out a part, build remote work systems, leverage software platforms like Zoom and cloud-based solutions for internal and client meetings.
Businesses can also reduce cost of operations with apps for accounting and HR as well as digital solutions that can minimise paperwork, physical contact and promote the growth of an infinite number of contactless environments.
Certainly, transitioning to online businesses will increase demand for mobile devices such as handsets, tabs, laptop computers and data while adoption of e-Commerce will provide the needed impetus for the growth of the digital economy, which the Nigerian government is promoting as one of the major drivers of economic diversification.
*Olukayode Kolawole is the Head, PR & Communications – Jumia Nigeria. He writes from Lagos (Nigeria)