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Digital-first businesses quick to pivot during pandemic

Professional network platform LinkedIn sought the thoughts of startup founders and business owners who were able to wade through the pandemic and reverse what could have been an economic disaster for their own companies.

Major economies went to a halt when the COVID-19 pandemic made it necessary for people to stay at home in an effort to stop the spread of the virus. Businesses — big and small — were affected. Some laid-off workers, the others had to completely shut down their generations-old businesses.

“We’re living through unprecedented and challenging times,” said Chris Anderson, Senior Editor (Asia), LinkedIn News. “As the coronavirus pandemic has forced a rethink of how we live, play and work, companies large and small have had to pivot, adapt and change in order to survive and thrive.”

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In terms of business continuity, early digital adopters proved to exhibit the most resilient response to the pandemic. As reports show, technology has become the most essential tool for companies if they want to survive the revenue loss brought by lockdowns.

Perhaps, one of the first to pivot and make use of its platform — the most affected, however — is the online ticketing platform Ticket2Me. Governments prevented any mass gathering which means organizers had to postpone or cancel concerts, expos, musicals, and sporting events. But Ticket2Me used its platform to help the frontliners simultaneously rethinking its business strategy to adapt to the next normal.

“The future looked bleak, but it also made us realize that we could use our infrastructure for fundraising campaigns for frontliners,” said Darwin Mariano, founder and CEO of Ticket2Me. “Since then, we have partnered with many organizations for this purpose, with a lifetime fundraised of almost P20 million pesos. We have also launched another recovery project called Dok2Me, a patient scheduling system that facilitates online consultations with doctors of all specializations. It uses Ticket2Me technology to confirm appointments and collect payments from patients.”

Ticket2Me is the first blockchain-enabled ticketing platform in Southeast Asia. Having revolutionized the ticketing system, the company utilized its infrastructure instead of parking it and buy time until the world goes back to how it used to be.

Expecting live events to be in the distant future, Ticke2Me also developed a ticketed and secure video platform for event organizers for monetizing online content.

“You cannot save your way out of a crisis,” Mariano said. “While cost control and management of cash flow would be top priorities for small and big businesses, they still must deploy capital efficiently for projects that generate the best value. Take care of your existing customers and, where possible, find ways to support them even better. We will survive this storm better by working together.”

Artificial intelligence

AI is a buzzword that was once synonymous to “future” but the need for automation and contactless transactions made it a mainstream technology almost overnight.

Young but already a veteran in meeting business challenges, having to close down a company in early stages and reopen, Ralph Vicent Regalado, CEO and founder of Senti AI, immediately thought of preserving the future.

“When the crisis happened, we decided to immediately freeze hiring because we were entering uncharted lands,” Regalado said. “However, our survival strategy proved successful and, instead, we’ve started hiring more during the pandemic because of the sudden increase in our sales pipeline.”

Moving forward, over the course of quarantine, Regalado shared they are hiring roles with a focus on tech and digital skills for their growing business: Project Manager, Technical Sales Engineer, Software Engineering Manager, Solutions Architect, Data Scientist, Copywriter, Product Manager, Software Engineer, Business Development Officer, Human Resources Officer.

As their team expanded, Senti AI also laid out their plans to take care of the health and welfare of their growing team.

“For any organization to be agile and pivot quickly during unprecedented times, it’s important to ensure that old and new members are well taken care of first,” Regalado said. “During the pandemic, we’ve added health benefits, sent care packages with protective equipment, we’ve set up virtual team building activities to make up for the lack of personal interaction, and we’ve gotten experts to help strengthen our team’s mental well being.”

Online transaction was once just an option but after the COVID-19 struck, it has become the standard. The online tax filing system has been in existence for years providing a contactless and hassle-free tax payment system for businesses and individuals.

Over the duration of the community quarantine, Ginger Arboleda, co-founder of Taxumo noted the surge in market demand for filing and paying tax online, which eventually led to job creation. To accommodate the demand, Taxumo is looking for tech roles such as Junior Developers who can work in their engineering team to continuously develop the product.

“We have this mission of keeping talent here in the Philippines,” Arboleda said. “We want to see Filipinos with great skill deployed in our own country. And the jobs that we all have in Taxumo is very fulfilling as we know that we are helping make systemic changes in the government..”

Future-proofing

The F&B industry is perhaps one of the hardest hit by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. JJ Yulo, a food consultant who has been supporting local restaurants through his food tours, believes that the industry should start adapting to new technology and make the process for customers more efficient.

“They’ve pretty much been blindsided, just like everyone else,” Yulo said. “And everyone has to figure out what moves to do on their own. Streamline the experience, yet make it true to the brand. Innovate, or revisit things that people will always like. Be thoughtful and most importantly, be true. If you really think about it, truthfulness is what people are seeking now.“

He believes that similar to other industries, F&B enterprises will need to harness technology to thrive moving forward.

“With the trend of cloud kitchens, businesses will still need operation managers to make it work. Marketing and social media are more important than ever because now business is pretty much done online,” Yulo said.

Recovering from the pandemic impact requires adaptability and creativity, as shared by the four LinkedIn members.

“For leaders, understanding how to manage teams virtually, keeping team members engaged, and the organizational culture alive is important,” said Feon Ang, VP, Talent and Learning Solutions in Asia Pacific, LinkedIn. “In addition, soft skills remain relevant across a wide range of jobs. Creativity, Persuasion, Collaboration, Adaptability, Emotional intelligence are key soft skills that businesses are encouraged to adopt to thrive in the new normal.”

For its part, LinkedIn enhanced its resources and offered free courses to aid members that have been furloughed in the middle of the global crisis. With the demand for new jobs, new skills are required so it offered courses for LinkedIn members’ upskilling or reskilling so they will be able to meet the new requirements of new jobs.