The covid-19 coronavirus is offering the world a glimpse of what it could be if there was a mandatory shutdown of all aspects of life.
Businesses have not been spared the ravages of the virus with many entities suffering from the outbreak which was announced on Dec 31, 2019 in Wuhan, China.
Airline and travel businesses have been the most hit and in Africa, the virus threatens to shut down many airlines. While the continent does not have many airlines that do cross-continental travel, the few that do are in the eye of a storm whose end is not in sight, yet.
Researchers in the UK have warned that countries need strict lockdown measures lasting almost two years in order for them to be effective against the coronavirus. This means that the world is effectively shut down from business as usual threatening many businesses since they rely on the free movement of people, goods and services.
To cushion businesses from the shocks, the UK has, for instance, announced a £330 billion government-backed loans and guarantees to cushion businesses.
Finance Minister Rishi Sunak said that the government would do whatever it takes to support jobs, incomes and businesses.
In Kenya, the tone set by the president during his televised address to the nation is more of businesses getting little support since they have to negotiate terms with their financiers while he said nothing concerning jobs and livelihoods of millions of Kenyans who live hand-to-mouth.
Speaking when he met members of the Governing Council of the Kenya Bankers Association, President Uhuru Kenyatta instead called on traders not to exploit Kenyans in pursuit of profits.
He said traders should conduct their businesses justly adding that law enforcement agencies have started taking punitive actions against offending businesses.
“Nobody in this country has ever had a problem with people making profit but indeed it is highly immoral if you take advantage of the unfortunate situation to make super profits,” he said.
During the meeting, Central Bank Governor Dr Patrick Njoroge said that banks had agreed to provide relief to borrowers on their personal loans based on their individual circumstances arising from the pandemic.
Dr Njoroge added that corporate borrowers and SMEs would hold discussions with the banks to seek a restructuring of their loans.
How to Survive the Hostile Business Environment
As it is, only businesses that evolve with the coronavirus will survive and have a mark after the dark phase is gone.
Many companies are launching services aimed at assuring their clients of their support but most of this remains an arms-length kind of approach. This means that while these companies are offering these services, most are to make the service providers look good at the cost of the customers.
For instance, while supermarkets are advocating buying online and getting the shopping delivered, none has offered to reduce prices for those who could be trapped by the emergence of the virus. It is all about making profits in the name of convenience. While this is not wrong in any way, businesses should incorporate the needs of their customers in such times as these when they are fashioning services to offer.
Ride hailing companies- both cab and motorcycle apps, have learned of this value addition for the customers giving them an edge over many other companies offering services to customers. Every so often, the companies offer discounted rides which keeps attracting customers and retaining them.
While costs may not allow this to happen across the board, only innovators will survive this dark period not only in Kenya but the world over.
The question should be how companies- big and small- weather the turbulence now since coming back for many businesses may become harder with time as people get used to life as it is or find other alternatives to services and products they needed from legacy businesses.
As the old adage goes, Necessity is the mother of invention.