I don’t have to tell you what the current effects of the Covid-19 health crisis are on our lives and livelihoods today. It’s global, it’s everywhere and we are all going through it at the same time. Turn on the news or browse through your favourite digital platforms and you will be confronted with the reality of things. That, and the fact that most of us are on lockdown at home. Life as we know it, has been disrupted in so many ways.
And while some of the changes in our daily routines are going to be temporary, I believe (and many experts with me) that there will be quite a number of things in our professional and personal environments that are going to change significantly – and for good.
One of the things that we can all agree on, and have witnessed across the globe is how important digital solutions and the internet has become in our society and in our economies. And while access to the internet and these digital solutions is still not readily available to about 4 billion (!) people, many of these tools have enable companies to leverage the power of the internet to reach and impact the lives of people that don’t have.
With people losing jobs, access to resources, limited access to non-covid-19 related healthcare. People losing loved ones – there is a lot going on that we have limited control over right now. This, with the uncertainty of time: how long is the peak of this pandemic going to last?
The truth is, nobody knows exactly how we will come out of this. We can theorise, we can calculate and speculate based on historical data and look at past global crises similar to this. And we still won’t know for sure.
So then really, what does this mean for our businesses? Good question.
One thing we can be sure of; once we do come out of this crisis, it will be to a whole new world, with a different order, and different needs to facilitate an (ever changing) new way of life. And if we have learnt one thing about the past two global crises, it’s those who took action, those who prepared in the midst of it were not only able to make it to the ‘other side’, they came out winning.
And with all the losses that we have had to endure over the past few months, I believe a lot of us are ready to start working towards a win.
I have broken down some points on what I believe the disruption that is currently happening will mean for the future of business, and how you can prepare to come out of it – stronger.
Time to re-strategize
An HBR article published a few years ago found that during the recessions of 1980, 1990, and 2000, 17% of the 4,700 public companies they studied fared particularly badly: They went bankrupt, went private, or were acquired. But just as striking, 9% of the companies didn’t simply recover in the three years after a recession—they flourished, outperforming competitors by at least 10% in sales and profits growth. A more recent analysis by Bain using data from the Great Recession reinforced that finding. The top 10% of companies in Bain’s analysis saw their earnings climb steadily throughout the period and continue to rise afterward. A third study, by McKinsey, found similar results.
Going in to the more recent global financial crisis in 2007 – 2009, not only did a surprising percentage of companies come out of it with steady growth numbers, quite a number of them actually flourished and experienced exponential growth in the years that followed.
The difference maker was preparation. Among the companies that stagnated in the aftermath of the Great Recession, “few made contingency plans or thought through alternative scenarios,” according to the Bain report. “When the downturn hit, they switched to survival mode, making deep cuts and reacting defensively.” Many of the companies that merely limp through a recession are slower to recover and never really catch up. – Source
We are currently seeing a similar divide among businesses. There are those that are now focused on keeping the business running as much as possible, and as close to the way it was before as they possibly can. Then there are those, including some of my ScaleUp clients, who are looking at the developments within their market, the response and behaviour of their clients and are deciding to go back to the drawing board to re-evaluate their position and strategy.
While some companies should definitely keep doing what they are doing (Zoom, Microsoft, Netflix, takeaway.com a lot of others will need to re-strategize, re-invent themselves; pivot.
So here are the first key steps you can take for your business
- Look for new opportunities and innovate: first, look for new opportunities wherever you can. If the recession is located in one specific geographic area for your particular business, consider expanding to new territory. If your target audience is suffering, change your offering or attract a new audience. If there’s something lacking in your business model, don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself.
A great example of this is that of a local corporate lunch delivery service here in Amsterdam, that went from serving a few hundred clients a week to zero in a matter of days because offices were shutting down as they all started working from home. So the company decided to change their offering. They offered to deliver the lunches to the homes of all the clients employees and thereby retaining their clients. And they started offering their services to families who were now on lock down at home with their kids – attracting a whole new set of clients.
- Digitize your offering: If you weren’t sure if digital was the way to go for your business before now, it’s time to look at your options again. For many businesses there lies a huge opportunity to retain and attract customers by moving your offline services to a digital offering. Think about the high value products and services that you have that you can sell online through your own online store or other platforms, and events that you can host virtually using virtual summit tools, or moving your consultations to digital meeting rooms and increase interaction using collaboration tools. And guess what? It’s been proven likely that you will be able to cut significantly on costs, increase productivity and efficiency to name a few advantages.
- Help those in need: Both consumers and businesses struggle in an economic recession, so find a way to serve those sufferers specifically, with different pricing structure or new opportunities they can leverage to make it through. *This is not the time to commercialise on the back of the crisis – be genuine in your outreach.
- Present an alternative: In a recession, people will make hard choices about what to cut out of their lives. If you can give them a more cost-efficient alternative to what they’re cutting out, you’ll stand to win big.
Pro branding tip: empower your employees to become brand ambassadors: You will be surprised by the number of employees you have working in your company that could be amazing brand ambassadors for your business (really, they all should be) and help drive more of your core clients your way. Question is, do they have your support – or better yet are you cheering them on to do so?
Case study Lin Qingxuan responds to lockdown Corona crisis
For example, cosmetics company Lin Qingxuan was forced to close 40% of its stores during the crisis, including all of its locations in Wuhan. However, the company redeployed its 100+ beauty advisors from those stores to become online influencers who leveraged digital tools, such as WeChat, to engage customers virtually and drive online sales. As a result, its sales in Wuhan achieved 200% growth compared to the prior year’s sales.
The harsh reality is that some businesses may simply not survive if this pandemic takes much longer (do try to apply for government aid if you can). But that doesn’t mean we can’t put in the effort to make the absolute best of it. And who knows, perhaps the shutting down of one business will be your open door to a new business that is relevant and uniquely positioned for the new business climate that awaits us.
Kimberly Ofori: An Entrepreneur, Game changer, ScaleUp Consultant, Strategist and Managing Director at Ofori Inc.
Visit: Kimberly Ofori
ILLA, an African asset-light FMCG Logistics Company Raises $2M Investment Round
ILLA Team (Image: Supplied)
Cairo-based FMCG Logistics company ILLA secures a $2M investment round to boost its growth in the market and diversify its offering to the FMCG value chain. The round was co-led by Watheeq Financial Services and Golden Palm Investments. The round saw participation from Loftyinc Capital Management, Kepple Africa Fund, Cubit Ventures, AUC Angels, Oqal Angel Network and FLat6Labs Cairo doubling down on its investment in ILLA for the third time
Founded in 2019 by Mahmoud Elzomor, Alaa Jarkas, Ahmed Sakr, and Hossam Saraya, and shortly joined by a well versed management team with Mohamed Emera as Director of Growth, Mohamed Kamal as CFO, and Khaled Elzomor as Commercial Director ILLA aims to optimize post-production supply chain activities for FMCG brands, starting with middle-mile delivery services, being the most fragmented part of the value chain.
By focusing exclusively on the FMCG market, ILLA was able to capture the business and trust of over 65 clients in its portfolio, with household names to the likes of Coca-Cola, P&G, Danone, Nestle, Juhayna, and Pepsico.
Since 2019, ILLA has been delivering on its core promise of moving goods with efficiency on behalf of FMCG brands, spanning over 5,000,000 KM and completing over 250,000
transactions, across 27 governorates in Egypt leveraging its tech platform to power delivery
Before ILLA, FMCG brands had to rely on a variety of owned and outsourced assets to manage their delivery operations, and that adds to the pain of a fragmented logistics cycle, which gave way to the value offering of ILLA to those brands; a streamlined value chain with visibility, control and growth potential for each individual brand, with ILLA acting as an asset-light logistics company, leveraging its tech platform and operational intelligence to deliver an unparalleled experience to FMCG brands.
“ILLA will use the funds to fuel its expansion and growth in Egypt and disrupt the traditional route to-market for FMCG companies and SMEs, while building more around its tech platform to deliver more value to its clients and drivers alike”, says Mahmoud ElZomor, Co-Founder and CEO of ILLA
“Mahmoud and the team are tailor-made for ILLA, bringing decades of diversified experience to help drive efficiency into the $15 trillion global FMCG market. With the onset of covid, the global supply chain management industry is suitable for modernization, and ILLA is uniquely positioned as an end-to-end execution platform. In addition, ILLA’s smart logistics solutions also play a crucial role in providing a full stack of operational solutions that will disrupt the sector, and will change the behavior for all stakeholders within the FMCG market,” said Khaled Zaidan of Watheeq Financial Services.
“Middle-mile logistics is one of the most underinvested segments of the global supply chain market. ILLA has identified this massive opportunity in MENA and is offering a full-stack B2B supply chain management platform enabling FMCG brands to reach retailers directly at the lowest cost per case. Mahmoud and team are utilizing the trucking logistics shared economy and tech automation to innovate within a large and fast-growing market.” – AJ Okereke, Partner, Golden Palm
Africa’s CEOs to empower youth for the digital age at the All4Youth Regional Alliance flagship event
All4Youth Regional Alliance Senior leaders (Image: All4Youth SSA)
We aim to support 1 million young people to find work and plan their transition to the digital economy between now and 2022 through a flagship event of All4Youth Regional Alliance, “CEO & Youth Connect”. A collaborative intervention led by various multinational companies dedicated to reduce youth unemployment across Sub-Saharan Africa. Senior leaders from the alliance will meet on November 8, 2021, to discuss skills of the future required in their organizations as well as share programs, training, and initiatives designed to prepare youth for the digital era.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created an economic crisis, forcing tens of millions of people out of work. As economies continue with the reopening journey, some jobs may not come back, yet we continue to see a rise in the number of youth joining the job market. “We have therefore put the best of our resources to support this recovery, including using data to understand the most in-demand roles, supporting with skilling and reskilling needs for job seekers and job creators. Partnerships such as this will play a critical role and will support us to scale us to more youth and increase the impact across the African continent” noted Ghada Khalifa, Director for Microsoft Philanthropies for Middle East and Africa.
Bruno Olierhoek, Chairman and Managing Director at Nestlé East and Southern Africa Region emphasized the importance of senior leaders taking keen interests in the development and ultimate successes of the youth. “We are driven by our inspiring purpose that is so relevant in our East and Southern Africa Region (ESAR) and we want to do good by addressing societal challenges such as climate change, sustainability and youth unemployment. To help contribute to these major challenges, we realize the need to work in an ecosystem which is entrenched around long-term thinking, with immediate actions. Through our involvement in different programmes supporting the youth in Employment & Employability, Entrepreneurship and Agri-preneurship we are committed to continuously define projects that are fully integrated in our value chain for them to be viable over the long term and be able to make a real meaningful impact for the community and us.”
“The youth of today are the builders and leaders of tomorrow. As Adcorp we know that enabling agility, focus and skill in the youth of today is the key to unlocking their potential for tomorrow ‘’ highlighted Dr John Wentzel, Chief Executive Officer, Adcorp Group.
In the last two years, alliance partners have reached over 150,000 young people, empowered over 3000 young people through employability and mentorship programmes. Giving high potential young talent access to a network of high performing industry professionals that accelerate opportunities, career and personal development goals.
We encourage young people to register for the upcoming event to click here and learn more about in-demand skills, insights to future of work and opportunities alliance partners have available for youth.
Fawry Invest in Sudanese Classifieds and Marketplace Platform alsoug, Marking First Overseas Venture
Fawry CEO Eng. Ashraf Sabry (Image: Supplied)
Fawry establishes strategic partnership with Sudanese consumer platform with an eye to scaling up technology platform beyond Egypt.
Fawry (the “Company”, FWRY.CA on the Egyptian Exchange), Egypt’s leading provider of e- payments solutions and digital banking services, announced today that it has finalized an investment in alsoug.com, Sudan’s largest online classifieds platform and marketplace, to help build out alsoug’s new fintech platform, Cashi. Fawry has acquired a strategic minority stake in the alsoug.com/Cashi holding company, marking the Company’s first venture capital investment outside of its Egyptian home market. The investment comes as part of Sudan’s first announced venture capital funding round.
Fawry played a leading role in ensuring the success of the USD 5m round, with the Company’s presence catalyzing involvement from other strategic Western VC players. As a strategic investor in alsoug, Fawry intends to leverage its long track record with white label technology solutions to help the platform expand in scale, enhancing the platform’s merchant acquisition operation, refining its go-to-market approach, and providing valuable insights that inform high-level strategy across all segments of the business.
Founded in 2016 by a world-class team of technology entrepreneurs, alsoug is now Sudan’s leading consumer internet platform and its largest digital marketplace. Alsoug is one of Sudan’s most downloaded apps on the Google Play app store with two million downloads and is a platform where sellers can list everything from real estate and cars to services and commodities.
Despite the political and economic headwinds experienced by Sudan as it goes through a transformative political transition, the platform has grown rapidly since 2016, reflecting alsoug’s highly skilled team of in-house developers, comprehensive coverage by its on-the-ground teams, as well as Sudan’s promising economic fundamentals. Moving forward, and building on the strategic partnership with Fawry, alsoug will significantly expand its service offering by building a new payments network capable of serving customers across Sudan, one of the largest countries on the African continent.
“We’re delighted to be kicking off our partnership with alsoug, one of Sudan’s most exciting prospects and a Sudanese leader in tech innovation. This is our first investment foray outside of Egypt in our thirteen years of operation, and we’re confident that our story with alsoug and Cashi will be a special one. Fawry’s investment in alsoug delivers on our plans to venture into underserved international markets by leveraging our technology and teaming up with strong local players. This investment will provide us the opportunity to strategically expand our footprint into Africa and transfer the experience we’ve gained in the dynamic Egyptian market to neighboring Sudan, an economy with major potential across several sectors and with a significant pool of entrepreneurial talent. Meanwhile, Fawry’s strategic partnership with alsoug leaves it ideally placed to help guide the platform’s rollout of a countrywide payments system, a feat which Fawry has already managed through a scalable, robust, and best-in-class technology platform.” said: Fawry CEO Eng. Ashraf Sabry
“This investment marks a significant milestone not just for alsoug, but for the nascent tech space in Sudan as a whole, which has until today been essentially shut out of the global capital markets. I hope this investment is the first of many and that the huge potential of the tech sector in Sudan is fully realized in the coming years. We are looking forward to working with Fawry, and our new strategic shareholders, to continue our expansion from the classifieds and marketplace space into payments. We will build a payments platform that will deliver financial inclusion to all Sudanese.” said Alsoug co-founder and CEO Tarneem (Nina) Saeed
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