Businesses that depend on consumers coming to their premises will find climbing out of the COVID-19 economic depression particularly challenging. Yet, in the words of Rahm Emanuel, one must “…never let a serious crisis go to waste” writes Kojo Baffoe.
What I mean by that is, everything that is happening right now creates an opportunity for us to do things we thought we could not do before. Despite the lockdown, there are businesses and industries that have found a way to flourish, some obvious and some not so obvious.
- Fashion, Garment & Branding Companies
With the mask becoming a must-have accessory, without overwhelming manufacturers of personal protective equipment, who have needed to produce for the medical fraternity, a lot of small to medium-sized fashion brands and garment manufacturers either shifted their focus or expanded their ranges to include face masks, from fabric to denim and leather. In addition, branding companies have done steady business with branding masks for the spectrum of companies that have been looking for branded masks.
- Cleaning & Sanitation Services
With hygiene being imperative during this period, as we deal with a virus that transfers easily from any type of surface, there has been a lot of activity in the production of sanitisers of all quantities and the creation of sanitisation booths. There is a company in the portable toilet business that has even found a way to convert some of their toilets into walk-through sanitisation booths.
- Video Conferencing Services
As remote video meeting services, like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet, have flourished, there is also a growth in the virtual conferencing and webinar space. Where, previously, event organisers needed technical services in the audio and visual spaces, there is a need for IT services to run online events, from video and presentations to the creation of meeting rooms. We will see more digital agencies and tech companies creating platforms for conferencing online.
- Customer Services, Consulting & IT Services
With the difficulties in providing customer services face-to-face, more and more of it is going remote. For example, Amazon recently announced the need for 3000 people in South Africa to work virtually in customer services as well as technical support. Digital security is also imperative and, as businesses seek to digitise, there is also the opportunity to provide those types of services.
- Online Education
From the bigger organisations that provide full homeschooling to tutors who work on specific subjects, there is, and will continue to be, a need for effective online education. Parents have already started exploring this at primary and high school levels but, being indoors, people are supplementing their skills with online platforms such as Udemy, Shaw Academy and Skillshare.
Many of these platforms are providing discounted training courses and also serve as a facility for those who have skills to create and offer their own courses there. And, with the attention of remote video meeting platforms, everyone from chefs to fitness trainers are creating their own content for fees.
More and more businesses are finding ways of making their products available online as we spend more time exploring how to shop without physically going to shops. From the creation of small, individualised e-commerce sites or the use of apps like Instagram, which now allows for shopping to listing on the larger sites, like Takealot and Loot. e-Commerce in South Africa is sure to grow now, having been a small portion of retail sales to date.
- Delivery Services
Convenience and health safety are critical and, the longer we stay indoors, the more important delivery services become for more than the big ticket items. As more companies provide their products online, the greater the need for delivery services will become, throughout the country.
- Working From Home Resources
For those working from home for the unforeseeable future, there are certain resource requirements that they need, including furniture, technology and office materials. While it may be a while before corporate South Africa takes a page out of a company like Twitter’s book in declaring that employees can work from home permanently, there are still those working from home who haven’t put together their home offices fully.
Globally, there has been an increase in sales of everything from groceries, health and household products, gardening tools and entertainment to fitness equipment and digital products.
If you are in these sectors, there is opportunity. If you are not, there is always the possibility of rejigging your business to take advantage of the opportunities. Without being cold or callous, it’s important to remember that there is always a silver lining.