Risen from the ashes

March 28, 2021

As individuals have adapted to a post-pandemic world, so have businesses around us

For many of us, March 2021 marks the end of a year that we never imagined we would experience in our lifetimes. As individuals have adapted to a post-pandemic world, so have businesses around us. The ability to adapt to circumstances has been the key driving force behind survival and economic growth since Covid-19 entered our consciousness. Those lacking the foresight or means to change business practices - such as moving to e-commerce and providing delivery services - have not survived. However, shuttered shops and bankrupt businesses have not been the only consequence of the pandemic. Businesses around the world were pushed into the competitive but innovative landscape of the World Wide Web. Where there has been appropriate change, there has been exponential growth.

For one, the IT industry has facilitated the accessibility of services and businesses previously constrained by geography and travel allowing for a growth in business and competition. In Pakistan, there have been a couple of notable endeavours that are aimed at providing an online platform for local businesses. Applications like FoodPanda have added home-based restaurants and even local grocery shops and marts to their list of vendors. Daraz offers almost any kind of product one can think of. However, more exciting than old platforms expanding is the introduction of new ones such as Dukan.pk, an application developed by the team behind Rozee.pk, that basically takes the hassle out of moving your store online, whether you want to sell food, books, clothes or toys. It offers a multitude of payment options - which can be costly and difficult to avail for small businesses - and is now integrated with the bykea delivery service, allowing for seamless delivery across the city; the idea being that anyone can open their dukan and become an entrepreneur. And of course, one must not forget the good old social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook that have now become the prime platforms for online shopping - your next order is just a direct message away. Thus, the necessity of staying at home has bred the innovation in online shopping.

Another interesting pattern that has emerged is that of B2B businesses (transactions that are conducted between companies, rather than between a company and an individual) increasingly conducting business online. While larger companies and MNCs are not necessarily buying their raw materials or services online, small and medium business owners can now save themselves a tonne of hassle and even money. Alibaba is an international example that has allowed anyone to source anything from anywhere and start their own business. Other companies such as Proctor & Gamble are now offering their range of products directly to consumers online whilst packaging companies like DS Smith now offer a buy online option.

Where there has been change, there has been exponential growth.

Pakistani businesses are not far behind. Roshan Packages for example, one of the leading packaging companies in Pakistan, has created an e-commerce platform Roshpack.com just for SMEs. The portal not only provides easy access to packaging solutions but is rather geared towards SMEs and thus provides ready to pick up high quality packaging products at the click of a button. This has allowed the company that previously relied solely on competing for large orders from a few large companies in Pakistan to diversify its customer base and revenue stream. As take-outs boomed during the first lockdown in Pakistan, Ali Ahmed, assistant manager (Sales) at Roshpack reported that demand for restaurant packaging such as pizza and burger boxes saw a huge growth. This demand was not something that anyone in the company could have predicted last year, as no one could have predicted a year of a global pandemic, but Roshpack’s willingness to adapt to a new business landscape has helped it cement itself as the go to for corrugated products.

Lastly, after centuries, money is changing from paper to digital. Not only have more and more people gone cashless due to hygien concerns but e-commerce has further incentivised the use of debit and credit cards. Obviously, there is then the cryptocurrency revolution that will shift the concept of money to come.

Many of these changes had been predicted by experts pre-pandemic but the difference is that the pandemic has put the economy on a fast track to the online revolution. Within a year, we have reached a point that many thought would come in a couple of decades - especially for countries like Pakistan. While the pandemic has reduced many a business to rubble, others have risen from the ashes, better than ever.

The writer is a business analyst and a graduate of the Cornell University in New York

Risen from the ashes