Moving beyond the shock and mobilising into action

With over 2 months of the National Lockdown due to the Covid1-9 pandemic, a trail of dire consequences has been left affecting Large Corporations, Medium Corporations and Small and Micro Businesses along the way.  Quantifying the damages has been an infinite process that has seen the South African government pull out some of the most decisive, helpful, and effective strategies demonstrating a level of leadership that citizens longed for quite some time.  So, what now? How do SMME’s gain traction and try to return to some level of normalcy?

Well, normalcy is all relative.  Creating a robust, agile, and adaptive environment will be the new status quo. For any entrepreneur to even have a fighting chance, an upgrade of technological fluency and leveraging of digital tools is required.  Most companies could learn from Alibaba’s trajectory of how to leverage and create a robust innovative business that can survive and thrive during a pandemic.  

In 2003 China was hit SARS-CoV, the pandemic was determined to bring China’s economy to its knees. It was estimated that Asian states lost USD 12–18 billion as the SARS crisis depressed travel, tourism, and retailsales*(i).  It is to be noted that the global macro-economic impact of SARS was estimated at USD 30–100 billion or around USD 3–10 million per cases*(ii). Alibaba, at 3 years old was uniquely positioned as most people were staying and working from home out of the fear of contracting the virus.  The company, who’s initial core focus was an online,B2B marketplace, aimed at Chinese firms looking to sell their goods to other businesses, had the innovative leverage on its existing infrastructure to sell directly to the public who was  turning to the internet to purchase most of their commercial and living goods.  Alibaba was leveraging the internet as a medium on transaction and had to compete with eBay by offering new clients free trading on their platform for over 3 years and as they say the rest is history.

It is evident that the world has dealt with pandemics from the Spanish flu in 1918, Asian flu in 1957, H1N1 Swine Flu in 2009 and finally Coronavirus in 2020 to still recover economically and thrive.   By applying historical learnings, SMMEs can adapt, change course, and innovate to cultivate a success story.   The key is to assess, apply learnings and innovate! 

Heather Nogala, C4G



(i). E. Wishnick, “Dilemmas of securitization and health risk management in the People’s Republic of China:The cases of SARS and avian influenza,” Health Policy and Planning, vol. 25,no. 6, pp. 454–466, 2010

(ii). Smith, “Responding to global infectious disease outbreaks: lessons from SARS on the role of risk perception, communication and management,” Social science & medicine, vol.63, no. 12, pp. 3113–3123, 2006

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