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Navigating business in Bangladesh amid the pandemic

Update : 15 Nov 2021, 06:24 PM

It has been over a year now since the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we go about our lives.

Though the idea of the “new normal” is yet to be defined, it is undeniable that we have taken gradual steps towards it.

The pandemic has caused massive disruption to the supply chains and business operations and forced the companies to strategically adapt to the “new normal.”

Bangladesh went into a nationwide lockdown from March 26, 2020, which was further extended a couple of times.

BGMEA reported cancellation of orders worth $3.18 billion earlier in 2020 causing loss to the textile industry.

As the lockdown interrupted private and government mega projects, the construction industry also encountered a drastic drop in their demand.

Where pharmaceutical industries and e-commerce services witnessed significant increase in sales, the food delivery services struggled extremely amid the lockdown.

Nowadays a significant shift in the purchasing behaviour of the consumers is also noticeable.

People are choosing to shop online and spending only on essentials, while cutting back on non-essential costs.

This changed dimension is likely to continue in the post pandemic world too.

Since every business faces unique challenges and there is no one-size-fits-all strategy to overcome these challenges, the companies should focus on developing their individual plan according to the nature of their business.

The strategies to consider in navigating the new normal are as follows:

Elevate virtual presence

Although Bangladesh was already familiar with the concept of online business, having an online presence became vital for the companies amid the pandemic, since social distancing and quarantines have become a part of the “new normal.”

Companies should bring about a digital transformation in their marketing strategies by creating user friendly websites and captivating social media profiles to promote their services.

By evaluating the consumer engagement in these digital platforms, the companies can also introduce virtual sales channels and adapt creative brand building processes.

Posting online tutorials/free trials can be a great way to increase customer interactions in the social media platforms of the company.

Technology simplification

In many business operations the processes, services, sales, inventory management software and support models are unnecessarily complicated.

This does not allow the consumers to easily communicate and make transactions with the company.

Hiring a web developer who can design a user-friendly website can resolve this problem.

Rethinking go-to-market approaches

Quality contents such as videos, blogs etc. can be perfect in building the brand value and goodwill of the company as the usage of social media has increased since the outbreak.

Hiring remote marketing specialists who understand the changes in marketing trends and investing in social media ad campaigns can also benefit the business during this time of crisis.

Since the viewership of OTT platforms such as Bongo BD, Bioscope, Chorki, etc. have grown considerably within a short span of time, the companies should also consider the potential of these platforms as a medium of advertisement of their products.

Inventory management

Initially companies should enlist the most popular services in the online inventory system and gradually add more.

Companies should invest in creating a free-flowing inventory system to correspond with the online and in-store inventory management.

Payment, pricing and shipping

The number of registered mobile banking customers has escalated considerably during Covid-19.

Hence, payment systems can be made easier by accepting mobile financial service providers such as bKash and Nagad.

Right pricing tactics should be applied which can minimize the loss and maintain the value perception of the goods.

Consumers are also in search of easy and safe delivery options these days.

Hence, introducing a smooth delivery system can attract the potential buyers.

Building local network

Promoting the local community on social channels can go a long way in building a support network for a business. Research should be carried out by the companies on how the local network is adapting to the new circumstances.

Diversification

Companies should also consider diversifying their business partners and be less dependent on one country’s economy.

There were several incidents in the past when competitors across the globe helped each other with supplies and raw materials during a crisis.

Businesses that have been experiencing declining sales should consider product diversification and re-pricing for expanding the original market for their product.

Clear and transparent communication

Employees, customers and partners of a company should be communicated about the company’s business dynamics during the pandemic, especially about supply risks, stock availability, delivery delays, commercial strategies, social distancing measures in their stores, hygienic production conditions, changes to business hours, location, events, etc.

Messaging on social media, responding to FAQs, providing updates on websites, directing emails, etc. can be great ways to let the customers know about the company’s initiatives in limiting the spread of the disease.

Collaboration

Brands should collaborate and develop a mechanism that can resolve challenges together and build a strong partnership for the future.

Distributors should collaborate to meet the increasing demand for takeaways, home delivery services, online orders, etc.

Redefining the concept of workplace

Business operations should take advantage of the flexible and remote working practices and connect with experts which can be beneficial for the company in future.

Moreover, the companies should also consider incorporating work from home as a regular working condition along with work at the office.

Holding virtual meetings via Zoom, Google Meet, Messenger Room and Microsoft Teams regardless of the pandemic situation would not only cut back the operational costs but also save much time.

Supply chain transparency

Supply-chain transparency was a topic of concern even before the outbreak of Covid-19 and now the companies across the world are facing supply chain vulnerability more than ever.

Digitally enabled supply chains and advanced analytics can deliver significant advantages in building resilient supply chains.

Although it is too early to speculate the Covid-19 outbreak’s impact on conventional business channels, these disruptions can be a catalyst for change.

Focusing on the right customers, the right products or services and the right geographies is crucial in this time to keep the revenue coming.

 

The author is a researcher and columnist at the Bangladesh Institute of Social Research (BISR) Trust. She can be reached at [email protected]

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