A few days ago, I did an Instagram Live session with Annette Oppong, a Senior Associate at KPMG, podcaster for Diaspora Talks and Partnerships for Foundervine, an inclusive startup community supporting and building businesses. The session engaged the impact of the pandemic in South Africa on business, technology and the relationship with xenophobia; and inspired this article. In observing some of other conversations and articles that have been happening around the topic of the healthcare crisis, I wanted to introduce a five series of articles that will provide thought leadership into, what I call, The Business of COVID-19. Every month, I’ll focus on an aspect of business that has had to react or be proactive to how we do business, this May, we focus on the theme of Pivoting.
Whether you’re in Italy, Singapore, Canada or South Africa like me, you’ve experienced or seen from large to small businesses having to pivot their businesses and doing so through different models. We will unpack THREE ways to model, how this adaptation will influence your business decisions and the current and (potentially) long term impact of your enterprise?
“Adapt – make something suitable for a new use or purpose, modify; become adjusted to new conditions.”
Per this Oxford dictionary explanation, to adapt is employed in business studies to explain how a business’ product, market, or the way it operates can be modified to a new use or purpose, per the economic conditions. But Vuyo, you may ask, is this not pivoting? Or rather, what’s the difference between these two terms? Let’s dig in.
Pivoting addresses the HOW of adapting. When a business pivots, they are taking an informed business decision to do so based on the measured evidence because the market has changed, and in this case, the market has been affected by the pandemic of SARS COV-19.
“Pivot – to pivot is to turn or rotate, like a hinge. When you’re not talking about a type of swivelling movement, you can use pivot to mean the one central thing that something is depending on.”
The Business of COVID-19 has meant that enterprises have had to pivot to adapt. To pivot, means to change the core of the product when it is not meeting the needs of the market. This Cambridge Dictionary definition stood out for me because it speaks on centricity and dependency. The mechanism of pivot innovation and its dependency of the affected market is what can make or break the business.
New Product PPI
Before this pandemic infected now, over 5 million people, and impacted millions more, the saying used to be “How the mighty have fallen”, but now, it’s “How the redundant have fallen” and you could fill in many other adjectives with this term too. Aside from the hospitality and travel industry which has been affected because of global travel bans, many other industries have been affected because of the product’s reliance of people moving from the comfort of their own home. This has enforced companies to develop new products completely out of what they’re usually capable of doing to stay open. In Canada, INKSmith, which is an edtech startup specialising in making design thinking and technology tools for kids, has now had to move to manufacturing face shields and has, as a result, ended up hiring up to 100 new employees to meet demand.
In a study by the Erwing Marion Kauffman Foundation, two of the findings expressed that “over half of the companies on the 2009 Fortune 500 list, and just under half of the 2008 Inc. list, began during a recession or bear market.”; and “Job creation from startups is much less volatile and sensitive to downturns than job creation in the entire economy”. Companies like Airbnb, Microsoft and General Electric were created during an economic downtown, such as the one we’re currently living through. Will yours be one of them?
Innovation is not limited to new product development, it’s about finding new processes to improve a company’s efficiency and effectiveness, as well as gain momentum on its competitive advantage. Startups have been pivoting incrementally through either product expansion or new products via their core models. A prime example of what has been happening across delivery services businesses like Netflorist which moved from only delivering gifts to now exclusively groceries or Exclusive Books who is now delivering its books on UberEats. Bottles, an alcohol delivery service, also adapted to this, and are now grocery providers.
This century presents the age of the weaponizaton of data through its licensing, yet COVID-19 has given us an ultimatum to either digitize or go home, stay at home and not be an economic participant. Due to the advisory of physical distancing, this has meant that some PPI has had to be digitized to adapt to the new market. Online classes have become (sometimes to a parent’s nightmare) the norm for schooling, gyms and fitness instructors are moving their classes to zoom rooms and more conferences and summits are being moved online. Keeping with this trajectory, products that were already online like Zoom has seen a surge in daily users to 300 million, and influencers have had a much more captive and larger audience than ever before and securing more deals.
So, what does this Pivot Product Innovation (PPI) mean for your business going forward?
The long-term stain that COVID-19 has imprinted is Pivot Product Innovation (PPI), the mechanisation of market capitalisation and continued democratisation of economic participation. Millions of new challenges have emerged, and old ones worsened, and millions of opportunities are inserting themselves through new and incremental product development as well as digitization. You have been disrupted; with what PPI will you respond with for your business? Make your move!