Digital transformation on speed
Disruptive innovation has paved way to a new status quo in mainstream businesses.
What an interesting era to be in. One that our grandchildren will most likely reflect on decades from now as one of the most challenging phases in human history. But let us be fair here. This watershed moment has been as constructive as it has been destructive. Economic repercussions aside, every single sector on the planet has been mandated to accelerate its digital transformation plans. I'm referring to what should have realistically taken us another few years to achieve. With lockdowns and global standstills in full motion, every company and sector saw itself jump into digital mode in the name of business continuity. Prepared or not, did not matter. The imposed transition was literally mandatory. Lucky are those who, like us, already had digital transformation on the radar with the potential to actually go digital. And unfortunate are those who had delayed the process which they deemed a luxury at the time, many of whom did not survive the transition. One of the most notable aspects of this chapter of our global lives is that we have been catapulted into the future, overnight.
There are multiple ways to view this current situation. The infamous post-Covid-19 era, which served as a means to identify the urgent necessities of a new modem-operandi, was in the making for years anyway - it is just the urgency that changed. But, as daunting and devastating as it has been on every level imaginable, it did also present a major opportunity for businesses to flourish in this new so-called reality.
Ultimately, our line of work remains unchanged. We analyse and harness market conditions and consumer dynamics to help brands and companies to maintain loyalty within their markets and respective segments. As simple as that. But the terms of the game have changed. And dramatically at that.
Going into lockdown is proving to be an entirely different scenario than coming out of it. Driven by a dramatic $82.5 billion global surge in e-commerce demand, some sectors in the region have reported up to 800 per cent growth in revenues - gym equipment alone saw a rise of 600 per cent in sales. To give you a sizable measure, in the Middle East and Africa alone, there are over 445 million mobile money wallets as opposed to 286 million bank accounts.
The increase in online sales brought forward a fundamental 'need for speed' - pun intended - adaptability and agility. The reality is that no sector has been left spared from resorting to "disruptive innovation" to survive the new status quo at the cost of compromising mainstream businesses, forever.
Multimedia production, data analytics, remarketing, AI and machine learning are now vital components of every sector, helping us to "unlearn what we once learned" and overhauling the way we perform every aspect of our business. Let us be pragmatic here; digital transformation has the potential to make our jobs easier, our budgets more flexible, each dollar spent more measurable, and our ability to optimise performance - phenomenal.
Surely, companies that had been delaying their plans for digital transformation and had deemed it a luxury at the time have already suffered the grunt of business disruption because they were unable to match the changing consumer demands for their products or services. What this pandemic did was force leaders to move towards a "digital-first" approach at super speed thus imposing agility in the in adoption of their newly found operational model. And the world is becoming a more efficient place because of it. Bank tellers have shifted to fully online-based services in Indonesia. India is rising on the global manufacturing platform - now set to start producing Apple products and empowering consumers, thanks to the reduced retail pricing.
Whether we return to fully virtual or semi-virtual workplaces, schools and businesses, chances are this "virus-induced" online culture is here to stay. Maybe not at the same scale of growth, but permanency of consumer habits is in the horizon to some extent.
The good news is that with markets like the UAE enjoying an almost 100 per cent mobile penetration and the number of smartphone users in the Middle East doubling way before Covid-19 even came into view, the appetite for digital solutions has never been this great. With technological means at our disposal, we have reinvented our business model, and we are willing to bet that no sector is exempt from reaping the benefits we have seen manifested in a matter of months.
Truth be told, countries like the UAE have been on this journey for years and have, in a way, inspired our decision to follow suit. With government-led initiatives such as the UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence (AI) in full motion, amongst other digital initiatives such as e-government, digital currency, and blockchain, and the heavy Saudi investment in robotics and AI standing as one of the key pillars in their Vision 2030, we would be insane not to prioritise digitalisation when our very survival depends on it.
So, rather than dwell of the negative aspects of this situation, let us focus our energy and attention on how we too can excel to best prepare for the pent-up demand that will be inevitable in the very near future. Why am I so confident about the potential which lies ahead? Well, because if history has taught us anything, it is that no matter how grave the circumstance at hand, humans are the most resourceful species on this planet and will surely find a way to recreate, heck even reinvent the new norm.
Elie Haber, Managing Partner - Fusion5.