All thanks to COVID-19, most companies and entrepreneurs were forced back to their drawing boards, to conjure up suitable strategies to navigate through this unforeseen circumstance.
The pandemic brought life as we knew it to a grinding halt, and things that we once took for granted - like eating out and shopping in malls - were suddenly sorely missed when the lockdown began.
This also meant that entrepreneurs had to adapt to these sudden changes or be swept away by the tide. The most logical thing to do for most businesses was to move their operations online.
Restaurants, for example, got themselves on board in large numbers, with food-aggregator companies when home deliveries were permitted by the government. The announcement by Zomato about the tremendous growth of its revenue generated from its operations during FY20 is a testament to this fact.
Because of the increased presence of food-app players and significant growth of supporting digital technological solutions, there has been a significant spurt of cloud kitchens across the country.
This growth is so significant that a report by RedSeer Management Consulting predicts that the D2C restaurant business in India could be a $2 billion industry, a significant jump from the $ 200 million that the sector was valued at back in 2019.
For bigger companies, the shift to digitalisation was far more involving. With the need to keep the show on the road and keep operations going, most brands shifted to the Work From Home (WFH) model.
This model allowed employees to perform their duties safely from their homes and connect to their colleagues and bosses via internet. This was obviously not possible in sectors like manufacturing where the physical presence of workers is critical and industries were forced to either shut down completely or limp along with a skeletal number of staff.
All thanks to the internet, WFH has proven to be successful for a wide variety of roles. Most meetings today, are being held online, except for the critical ones which necessarily need to be conducted physically.
The remote working environment and the concept of 'hot seats' have enabled companies to move into smaller workspaces. This in turn helped them to significantly reduce the costs in terms of rent, utilities, employee conveyance and other administrative expenses.
This major shift from physical to digital in the workplace also needed the creation and subsequent implementation of processes, to keep track of the progress of the work being carried out.
With some businesses like restaurants, showrooms, boutiques and the like, location meant to be everything. With the advent of digitalisation, the access to these brands by customers is not restricted by geography anymore.
The phenomenal performance of the Indian unicorn startup Nykaa, an e-commerce cosmetics brand, is just one example of how a new entrant can successfully take on established players on their own turf through the effective deployment of digital solutions and strategies.
German luxury carmaker Audi too has invested heavily into digitalisation. The brand envisions that this strategy is a must because it predicts a strong increase in the use of digital solutions within the purchase process of its customers.
The brand has employed artificial and virtual reality technologies to bring the showroom experience into the homes of its customers.
That being said, this push towards digitalisation does not completely negate the need for physical touchpoints for customers and employees alike.
For example, Audi has implicitly stated that its physical showrooms will continue to be the backbone of the brand because they provide the elements that no digital solution can.
The same implies for Nykaa, which was building its fortunes through the e-commerce route, the marque has now begun to establish a string of brick-and-mortar centres where its customers can physically experience its products.
This omnipresent strategy, straddling both digital and physical, is the need of the hour. The difference between a successful entrepreneur and one that isn't will be how this balance is calibrated and implemented within the business.
These processes must constantly keep evolving; constantly tracking the performance of employees to maintain efficiency within the organisation and monitoring the preferences of customers to spot and cash in on emerging trends.
(The author is Co-founder, Sequretek IT Solutions Pvt. Ltd and Member of ASCENT Foundation.)
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