Are we entering a new era?

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The spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) across the world in a matter of weeks was unprecedented. Italy was the most affected. It reported over 700 cases on March 21. The USA has over 400,000 affected by the virus. The COVID-19 has been a revelation. It revealed to the world the system every industry was working on. The healthcare crises seen in the UK, Europe, USA and across Asia have been unprecedented. The pandemic has transcended borders and has shaken the very foundation of our system. Every industry is at a standstill. Production has reduced or halted, businesses have been closed while people earning on a daily wage are left in the dark.
Despite being the world leader, the US could not fathom the magnitude of the COVID-19. Jen Kates, Director of Global Health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation said, “Everyone working in this space would agree that no matter how you measure it, the US is far behind on this.”
The COVID-19 has shaken the world to its core. The economic activities of production and manufacturing have been halted by many countries. There seems to be a shift in perspective felt and experienced across the globe. This shift comes mainly from the fact that businesses are not operating as they used to. What once seemed no possibility for businesses to stop their production is now a reality. Whether it was rising oil prices, the emergence of disruptive innovation or a change in consumer behavior, the businesses kept operating while producing and launching their products. With the COVID-19 standing at the doorstep of each country, the art of war – or the art of survival has changed. Countries and individuals, communities and groups have now resorted to entering the mode of survival.
Instead of focusing on the luxuries of life, they are focusing on the necessities. Including these necessities are water, milk, staple food and grocery items along with important medicine. What we once believed to be items of status and power have been reduced to a mere thought. Once the people went into isolation, they are not concerned about how big is their home, how powerful is their car’s engine or how much did they enjoy on their last vacation. They are concerned with surviving this period of isolation. We need nothing but items that keep us alive and well. This has been the case at the micro level. One can see similar observations and trends at the macro level. Companies no matter how big their employee base was are cutting down on their expenses to get through this lockdown. Organizations are looking at restricting their operational strategies.
Because of the lockdown, educational institutes across Pakistan switched to conduct online classes. While this was a part of the long-term strategy for many institutes, they needed to implement it at the earliest once the lockdown was initiated in Pakistan. Similarly, employees are working from home and are connected with their superiors and subordinates through various digital applications. Had the organizations been asked to change from one mode of communication to another – in this case from a face-to-face mode to an online mode – it would have taken weeks maybe months until the change was implemented. However, since the situation was drastically changed for everyone, our social consciousness changed collectively. We became more responsive to this change and modified our routine accordingly.
Much in the same way, the industries across the world and the sectors of each country will need to consciously think of how to restructure themselves. The lockdown is an opportunity to reorganize thoughts, update processes, modernize strategies and renovate tactics to achieve individual and organizational goals. The COVID-19 could catapult us into a new era. An era backed by digital and online communication and a period where thoughts and opinions matter more than the status and position associated with the person presenting this opinion.
The industries that will become potential losers from this social change will include tourism, automobiles, real estate and construction, airline, financial services and manufacturing. The industries that will gain will probably include e-commerce, internet and communications technology (ICT), healthcare and food processing. One must ask, why?
The COVID-19 has compelled us to remain in our homes and complete our most important tasks online. For students it is attending lectures; for teachers, it is delivering these lectures and continuing with their academic research. For employees, it is monitoring teams and completing tasks. The companies that were operating as brick and mortar would need to change their operational strategy and convert into a click and mortar setup.
This is an opportunity for companies who wanted to make this transition. Furthermore, this is a threat for those brick and mortar companies that do not want to make the switch. For them, it could be curtains for good. During this period of lockdown and in the post-lockdown period, the fittest will survive – whether they are countries, organizations, communities or individuals. Those who are willing to adapt to this comprehensive change will survive. Those who cannot or will not, they could become a footnote in history.

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