Beyond WFH, other sectors such as education from K+12 to college or telemedicine that have been complete laggards in digital adoption are also having to step up sharply to adjust to the new reality and yet operate their businesses. But like all industries that have undertaken digital journeys, the pedagogy seems not to have changed. Giving an online lecture to 30 stamp-sized students on a screen may be a good short-term substitute to ending the current school year curriculum but in the long-term, the entire education sector will need to reimagine how to educate and provide value for their high charges. Similarly, crowded clinics and hospitals for consultations should also become a memory of pre-Covid days as doctors turn to telemedicine — though it took a pandemic for the government to notify new regulations —to reduce exposure to infections.
At the other end of the spectrum, some small businesses are also pivoting from high to low touch to survive in a no-cure world. Personal fitness is one example, where gym closures have made many patrons hire trainers for online sessions on video. Local suppliers of food to restaurants and others in the hospitality industry have also quickly realised that high-touch dining out was unlikely to roar back. Faced with zero revenues, vegetable farms and frozen produce sellers located near urban sprawls have now cut out the middlemen and are delivering farm-fresh products direct to homes — rejigging packages into smaller household quantities to retail directly.
Delivery aggregators were among the first to activate a series of low- or no-touch operating processes and have benefited as new outlets have sought them out to sell to the indulgent — multiple types of flour for the lockdown army of amateur bakers and hygiene products. Home sanitisation services alongside disinfecting offices, factories, stations and trains are also creating new business opportunities for many start-ups.
Surprisingly, some of the worst-hit sectors like autos may come back faster than many are anticipating. That’s because, while demand for self-driven cars fell as cab aggregators were a feasible alternative to car ownership, post-Covid, it is likely that car sales will rise as people may reduce their reliance on shared transport.
Perhaps, the most fleet of foot in pivoting have been local, neighbourhood shops that have used the lockdown to narrow their range of food sold, for instance, but expanded it to stock other goods that their customers are running out of.
For the rest like travel, tourism and hospitality, the end of the lockdown and resumption of services will yield clues as to what the new normal will be like. Indeed, the entire sharing economy that greatly increased the ability of people to travel and experience the world using low-cost airlines, Uber, AirBnB, Oyo
will have to rethink their value propositions to customers worried about exposure to infections.
Travelling, holidays and dining were all experiences that had become essential to social identities and behaviours. We must pivot on that too.
The writer is a communications professional