6 Business Owners Share How They Are Preparing For A Post-Covid World
Since the coronavirus outbreak, there have been constant reports of startups across the region cutting staff, closing locations or shutting down entirely. Most who have survived have done so by quickly adapting to the new situation and making drastic pivots to keep their business afloat as capital dries up. Unless, of course, you're in telehealth, food delivery, contactless payment, ed-tech or any of the other industries that have thrived in the time of coronavirus.
But while it's a difficult time for most businesses, a crisis can also open up the competitive landscape to those who display resilience and weather the storm. More than half of Fortune 500 companies were started during a recession or bear market.
Here, we speak to six entrepreneurs from the Gen.T community to find out how they have been coping with the next normal, and learn more about the measures they are implementing to ensure the survival of their business post-pandemic.
Securing A Backup Plan
Co-founder and CEO, Dahmakan
With Malaysia in partial lockdown, Jonathan Weins and his team at Kuala Lumpur-based food delivery startup Dahmakan have had to quickly impose cost-saving measures. "At the moment, we’re very careful about our spending and cutting back on unnecessary expenses. We’re more conservative about how much we spend on marketing and have paused expansion plans into other countries. We’ve also planned for different worst-case scenarios that may come with a prolonged pandemic."
However, the entrepreneur is optimistic about pushing forward with some of the plans he had in mind before the outbreak. "When the pandemic is over, we will continue to implement some of these measures we've put in place, but in a less radical manner. We will continue to keep our expenses low where we have come to know it's possible. But we will certainly push forward with the expansion plans we had in mind."
"If there’s anything we learned from this, it’s to always have a backup plan and be prepared for the worst.”
CEO, Wildtype Media Group
“In a post-Covid era, I think all companies including mine will continue to embrace remote work," says Juliana Chan, who is the founder and CEO of STEM-focused media company, Wildtype Media Group. Since Singapore entered its circuit breaker period, she and her team have organised daily town hall sessions on Zoom and started a reporting system that sees team leaders working with their team to set daily KPIs.
On top of this, Chan is now open to the idea of hiring overseas talent, "since it really doesn't matter where our team is based if everyone can work remotely and productively."
Reinventing The Production Process
Founder and CEO, Munkysuperstar Pictures
As a team of creatives, Gillian Tan and her team at Munkysuperstar Pictures have had to adapt to producing their video content remotely. This includes “conducting all pre-production meetings and directing our talent, who films alone at home, over video chat. They will usually film using a basic point-and-shoot camera or their mobile phone. Their footage is uploaded to a cloud drive, then downloaded by our editor working from home for post-production."
She admits that remote working has been a huge challenge, and she and her team are anxious to get back to their original workflow, but "the situation has really forced us to think outside of the box".
"We’re trying to be more experimental with our content, developing new concepts and styles of presenting our work to our audience. Right now, we're also producing content on topics that are relevant to people today, such as health and wellness."
(Related: 5 Youngest Billionaires in Asia, According to Forbes' 2020 Richest List)
Giving Hope Through Film
Ho Jia Jian
Co-founder and CEO, Viddsee
As a community-centric video entertainment platform that is built on its storytellers and audiences, Viddsee has been affected by the pandemic in its ability to carry out events, activities and commercial and production work, says its co-founder and CEO Ho Jia Jian.
But that hasn't stopped it from innovating. One of its first efforts in response Covid-19 was to launch StoriesTogether, a regional initiative that brings together its community of storytellers, audiences and partners "to spread hope through films". Leveraging on its strong social media presence, Ho and his team have created a series of weekly online English and Bahasa Indonesia watch parties, Instagram live discussions and marathon film screenings that entertain and stay connected to their audiences.
The initiative also supports Singaporean filmmakers and media companies through the StoriesTogether content creation fund, which is backed by Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority.
This year, Viddsee has also decided to go completely virtual with its annual Viddsee Juree Awards, a film festival that celebrates the best short films from Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines. "In better times, we’d hold live screenings, panel discussions, and award ceremonies together with film fans and filmmakers. This year, the online film festival incorporates a number of new initiatives, including live film screenings across platforms, podcast interviews and a live awards show.”
Listening To The Community
Creative director, Sunnies Studios
For Martine Ho, the co-founder and creative director of Manila-headquartered lifestyle brand Sunnies Studio, the definition of a successful brand will continue to change and evolve. But in a time like this, it pays to be laser-focus on providing convenience to customers with a people-first mindset. "We love the community that we've built and we're really listening to them—this, I think, is the key. Our job now is to continue providing the products they love, and at the same time, trying to adapt to their changing expectations from brands moving forward."
Delivering "hyper convenience" is an idea that Ho and her team have been talking about a lot lately, which will help them navigate and adapt to the new ways in which customers will behave online and offline. "We're accelerating our efforts in our direct-to-consumer channels as well as our retail marketplaces."
One example of this concept that Sunnies Studio has rolled out is the relaunch of Sunnies Specs Optical as an online prescription eyewear service with free local shipping. It also includes virtual consultation services with certified optometrists and an in-store booking appointment system. "We're learning as we go along, but we have big plans to launch our eyewear and beauty products globally."
Bringing The Industry Closer
Co-founder and director, Jigger & Pony Group
For Indra Kantono, the co-founder and director of Jigger & Pony Group, the pandemic has presented numerous opportunities to create a tighter-knit community among the F&B players across the region. “This crisis has made us realise the importance of bringing the cocktail bar community together to support each other."
Kantono lists three plans in the works: The first is a series of candid, online conversations called ‘Basic Bubbles, Candid Chats’, which will see the cocktail bar community discuss the most pressing issues they face today.
The second is ‘Path of Recovery Bootcamp’, which will serve as a platform for Kantono and his peers to "share our best practices and analytical frameworks to develop strategies for the post-Covid recovery phase."
The third, spearheaded by his co-founder Gan Guoyi along with other industry players, is to launch the Singapore Cocktail Bar Association (SCBA), a non-profit organisation that champions the city’s craft cocktail scene. "More than just benefitting Jigger & Pony, the organisation will provide ongoing support in the areas of education, business opportunities and partnerships. In the short term, SCBA will provide rapid financial support for cocktail bars and bartenders in need during the current crisis. In the medium term, it will aid in the recovery of the Singapore cocktail industry.”
(Related: Singapore's Cocktail Haven Jigger & Pony Is The Best Bar In Asia)
Exploring Overseas Collaborations
Toh Yah Li
Principal, Light Collab
Similar to Juliana Chan, Toh Yah Li of Singapore lighting design firm Light Collab is keen to explore more collaborations with overseas designers. “In line with our company name Light Collab, we hope to attract talent from all over the world, since this pandemic has shown us that we aren’t restricted by a physical office space. Hence, we are open to supporting global projects remotely and direct the expenses we’ve traditionally used to travel to focus on developing the quality of our delivery and international talent pool."
At the same time, Toh and her team are exploring ways of using lighting designs to have a positive effect on people and the environment. "We’re exploring ways to see how lighting can improve people’s health and mental well-being in a sustainable and environmentally conscious manner. We are also seeing how our designs can have a possible germicidal impact in a discreet and harmless manner.”