Turning Lemons into Lemonade: How Companies Innovated During the Pandemic

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Never in our wildest dreams did we think that we would see the entire world frozen in place, yet 2020 proves to be a year of bad lemons as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt normal operations while we wait for a cure to be developed. This global halt has greatly harmed businesses of all sizes as consumers are discouraged from going out of their homes for their own health and safety. 

The decision to indefinitely close establishments during the pandemic comes with a price for businesses as customers or clients steadily walking through the door become scarce or non-existent. Some have already closed up shop for good, but others have decided to turn things around by adopting new practices and adjust to the “new normal” that has been brought about by the pandemic.

Innovation has always been the key to a company’s success, but in these trying times it seems that it has instead become the key for businesses to stay alive.

Taking It Out On Food

One of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic is the food and catering industry. With little to no people going outside during quarantine, the very idea of having dine-in customers has been ruled out for quite some time, if not for the rest of the year depending on one’s local situation.

However, the craving for certain food never stops. Thus, a few restaurants have decided to open up once again to loyal customers who are willing to buy food through pickup or delivery. 

Another tackle in innovation would be the collaboration of food establishments with on-demand service and delivery providers that order and buy food for the customer. For example, Singaporeans have the option to choose between names like GrabFood, FoodPanda and Deliveroo; all of which have been experiencing a spike in orders since the ban on dine-ins took effect in the country. 

Because of measures discouraging people from going out, restaurants and food joints had to take it on themselves to reach out by promoting their products in social media. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have some of the farthest-reaching networks, with a few restaurants putting them to good use. It also doubles as a means to communicate with their loyal customers who may be curious about the restaurant’s side of the situation, whether it be explaining the plan of the management moving forward or simply uplifting everyone’s spirits during such challenging times. One notable example is Filipino celebrity Judy-Ann Santos-Agoncillio, who turned to Instagram to sell food products through Angrydobo, a small establishment located just in front of De La Salle University – Manila that she opened over a year ago. Singaporean restaurant and Michelin Star recipient Hawker Chan also used Instagram to inform their customers about the reopening of their dine-in services, as well as the actions they’ll be taking to ensure everyone’s safety.

Lessons At The Student’s Pace

Schools have remained closed to this day to prevent students from gathering in crowded places where they can possibly contract the virus. The moment quarantine measures were put into place, schools scrambled to determine how they could provide quality education to finish the school year while keeping their students safe from the pandemic. 

Another problem in the education sector is the fact that not all students have sufficient resources needed for online learning such as stable access to the internet. To tackle this problem, various universities in the Philippines such as Far Eastern University and De La Salle University have provided options for students to continue attaining quality education while adjusting to their living conditions through either fully-online or blended learning styles, where they will be given a mix of print, digital and online tools as lesson materials. 

There are multiple options on where to take these new styles of education, and a number of them have already made strides prior to the pandemic. Canvas is a popular Learning Management System choice among universities, perfectly complementing face-to-face classes and becoming a transition point towards either the fully-online or blended learning scheme. Canvas creator Instructure already maximized their efforts for the system in the past to increase their presence within Asia Pacific, with universities like the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts and the University of Auckland investing in the program.

Another example of an education system is Blackboard, which is developed as both a supplement and an addition to classes, but now serving as a venue for online education. Universities that utilize Blackboard include the University of Petroleum and Energy Sources in India, Mapua University in the Philippines, Western Sydney University in Australia and Nanyang Polytechnic in Singapore.

Need Help? Just Tap Your Phone!

As social distancing measures remain in place, some tasks have become difficult to do for most people. With the public being discouraged from going out unless absolutely necessary, people have been clamoring for businesses to come to them instead.

This has turned into an opportunity for on-demand service providers to step up and maximize the power of technology to reach customers in need. This has been a growing trend in recent years as contactless payments and essential services can be done from the comforts of one’s home. Some of the most prevalent on-demand service providers today include Gojek and Uber for transport and Deliveroo for food delivery. Some retailers like H&M and Bench have also opened online stores for satisfy people’s shopping needs. There are other apps in the market that have more specific descriptions, some which include creating a home spa, taking out pets for a walk, or aids for more physical chores.

Experts believe that there are a multitude of reasons as to why the on-demand service industry saw and continues to see a surge of patrons during the pandemic. According to Yasir Yousiff, head of marketing in Asia Pacific and Japan for data management company Commvault, these reasons include a robust and thriving platform, reliable threads of communication, constant absorption of feedback and improvement from it, and the training its staff went through to meet certain standards. The industry already gained momentum prior to the pandemic thanks to these factors, and they were further highlighted once quarantine rules forced people to stay inside and businesses to close shop for the time being.

Trace On!

One way to keep track of the spread of the virus is through contact tracing, which in of itself is a tedious process. It involves mapping out an infected person’s history of contact and the subsequent contacts of multiple levels. This is a crucial part of the battle against the virus, as one single person can be the cause of a massive outbreak, like what happened in South Korea when a single infected person managed to be the reason behind the first wave outbreak just by entering a church.

This prompted a wave of focus on contact tracing; some Asia Pacific countries took the initiative of developing smartphone apps to help contain the spread. These apps were made in collaboration with government agencies to ensure maximum efficiency in using the received data. Australia has COVIDSafe, Japan has the Contact-Confirm Application, Malaysia has Gerak Malaysia and MyTrace, Singapore has TraceTogether and South Korea has Corona 100m, to name a few.

As of writing, the governments around the world continue to launch efforts to contain the virus, holding the line for as long as they can until a cure or a vaccine is developed. Despite these circumstances, it’s been proven in history that we can adapt to and overcome any situation. A global crisis cannot stop people from finding ways to innovate and make the best lemonade out of the lemons life gives us.

Visual by: Chloe Gaw

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