The 5 Waves of COVIDprenuership
Oct 17, 2020
Emergence of Entrepreneurial instincts in a Crisis.
Humans, the most interesting living creatures in this world — they are fast learners when adapting to situation — be it a pandemic or war. But whats interesting is the patterns of how they adapt to crisis, which to large extent remains the same and nominal changes to behaviour patterns correlating to the technological advancement of that time period.
COVID19 is the last major crisis to impact us, humans after the — 2008 Food, Financial and Fuel Crises. Unlike previous crisis, this time it has impacted the humankind on a much larger scale, bringing many countries to standstill — which I was able to touch on a article written earlier this year titled “2020: Maldives Transformation to a Digital Economy?”.
Revisiting that article, What we have noticed is the emergence of new entrepreneurs over the last few months. Many, who were comfortable in their “Comfort Zone” has decided to come out and experiment the time on hand and take the necessary risk — and validate their long standing idea or test their new solution to fill a gap.
FIRST WAVE: PANIC — UTTER CHAOS (TECHPRENUERS)
As the word of a new epidemic started to make rumours and with countries taking stern actions, a gradual state of panic, fear and discord started to create throughout the world as governments & organisation started to seek a cure for a non-existent disease, which was spreading fast and wide. As we moved towards lockdown, the techprenuers took the center stage by providing solutions filling the gaps and with the aim to provide the right solutions for their respective target audience.
What we saw in the first week before and after lockdown was a surge of ecommerce platform solutions popping right and left around us, as the techies were trying to solve the problem — which was creating an avenue for easy access for the basic necessities & Essentials. Among the dozens that made in the market, only a handful remain today — perseverance, product positioning, never giving up attitude made them survive in an ecosystem where digitalisation was a myth & an age old behavioural change was questioned, where the confinement of buying whatever you need for today and tomorrow is available for any corner shop, hence becoming your ultimate storeroom at the ground floor and the lack of knowledge among the aged population on using these platform to give or seek service. Perhaps should write an entire medium article on perceptions, behavioural Challenge, acceptance - adoption rate and consumption pattern in another article.
Eventually it was “Viber” that stole the thunder and became the utlimate ecommerce platform for every individual vendor! Question is, what was that these platforms didnt factor into while coming up with their solution, which a chat client was able to provide so easily? Or should we have just developed a chat client instead of an ecommerce platform? Also this showed the potential for fintech growth in Maldives and the utter importance of having a unified payment system established by MMA.
But there is a key takeaway, COVID19 made the enter retail and wholesale industry disrupt and adopt technology as most bigger vendors took themselves online and thereby giving more hope for the development of E-Commerce in Maldives in the near future and as we speak, some of the famous local vendors are coming online with their services via website or mobile apps and paving way for fintech development from vendor adoption perspective.
SECOND WAVE: CONNECTION TO NATURE (AGROPRENUERS)
With days going into weeks and with lockdown giving the ample time for one to reflects on ones action and its related reactions, there was general level of guilt looming around our consciousness. Reflection of us on how we took the environment or mother nature over the last few decades, flashed through our eyes as we talked about food security, climate and how we contributed to this for a momentary guilty pleasure. Many started to question their actions towards mother nature, what they have done — and wanted to be reconnected back to the nature, where they feel connected, cared and more responsible. This was fuelled by growing news of food insecurity, our irresponsible behaviour towards nature and how disconnected we are. This was the opportunity seen by many horticulturists as well as others — as we humans started to take care of plants more than we did for our kids. People exhausted their bank accounts on the sphere to be reconnected and surrounded by nature in the concrete jungle and this was the perfect opportunity seized, where the price of a plant soared to equivalent of gold. The best part about this is, those who ventured into this business are getting many repeaters as they are learning the process of gardening, murdering and killing — while going back for a fresh one again.
Not denying the fact of our love for nature or greenery around us, what COVID19 showed was that sale of plants to the stressed-out community was turning to be making more profit than usual, as a result of which many corner shops pivoted themselves into doing this and converting their business to such.
On a side street, Aquatic Retailers were getting a new lease of life as more and more people tried to adopt pets to keep themselves calm and composed. A fighter fish was acting as the support mechansim for many new owners on fighting their inner demons.
THIRD WAVE: UNEARTHING TALENTS (CHEFPRENUER)
Now that we have calmed ourself and started to accept the new norm and adapt to the changing environment around, what we realised with the imposition of work from home or experiencing forced vacation or furloughing or laid off — was the ample amount of time we have for ourself. As days went into weeks, many sitting at home started to brushing off their soft skills or going back into those short courses they took in a previous era on baking or cooking and the sudden urge to keep engaged and busy to overcome a boring routine confined to a small space.
Many took this time to reconsider their passion, their skills and what they could do to overcome the abundance of time on their hand and how they could fill into a gap as the restaurants and cafe’ came to a halt with the lockdown. It was deemed unsafe to eat from outlets and the surge of Home Cooks / Bakers — The heaven for good food which is safe, healthy and comforting.
It started with a coffee craze — Dalgona coffee and went from Dumplings to Brownie to many types of pastry items & resurgence of different varieties of breads. All this led to the Restaurant Association of Maldives getting irked, who rallied to ensure that the home cooks have proper license and registrations, which we could understand as they capture a large of their market share. One of the worst hit industry apart from tourism is the Restaurant and Cafe' business and hence started the 3rd Wave.
For many home cooks, this is the experimental phase times for putting into test their culinary skills, their passion and how they could work on capitalising from this. Whether they have the driving factor to run with this.
Even today, we are seeing many home cooks updating their social handles regarding them taking breaks or moving away from this business— which is understandable as many wont have the time to do this and the test of times would be to see who remains in the market and who matured themselves into a formal business as almost all are unregistered -- online home cooks, who are running their business through social mediums.
By the way, have you tried the new trendy donuts or churros?
FOURTH WAVE: SURGE OF ONLINE BUSINESS
Here comes the most interesting wave of entrepreneurs emerging from any crisis — these are the bunch of entrepreneurs who were researching, exploring, validating, sourcing and working towards addressing any gaps left open to make money during such a crisis. With the current era been more technologically enabled (digital natives), there was no spot for hawker business, which is normally where the 4th wave entrepreneurs jump in during the previous eras. But as we are in a much more technologically advanced society, these entrepreneurs find themselves selling very niche product categories to a specific target audience.
If we look carefully, one of the major surge of online business category was in the baby clothings online stores, during this pandemic and all most all are unregistered business just popping up online sourcing from other countries. These unregistered businesses fall into the micro level category in the MSME classification and depending on how well they understand, implement and execute their business — they turn around to remain in the market even when things go back to normal and continue to grow and scale further with the lesson learned in a pandemic or crisis.
All the leading e-commerce giants of the world are capitalising on these entrepreneurs by acting the main sourcing center for this online business pages.
As COVID19 is accelerating many countries towards to adoption of e-commerce, these are the entrepreneurs if done properly who would be reaping the benefits in the longer run and be the market leaders in the coming time period.
FIFTH WAVE: RESILIENCE AND ADAPTING TO THE CRISIS (SURVIVAL ENTREPRENEURS)
Interestingly the first 4 waves happened during a similar timeline with a gap of maybe over a month and we have now entered into the final wave of the COVIDprenuership, where its all about resilience and how we survive the economic downturn, rising inflations and keep ourselves afloat the tiring times.
All those who started & survived in the first 4 waves have graduated into the 5th wave and are continuing the market dominance along with many other types of online business. The 5th wave major category includes those business who pivoted themselves and are continuing to be functional and profiting during the pandemic. The business that remain relevant during the changing times are the ones thats going to survive the pandemic.
At the end of the day, a crisis is the door that opens to a meaningful struggle and test your perseverance and how much we have in ourself to go beyond. Many business pivoted during the last few months and have adapted to the new norm. Many bigger corporations are evaluating themselves and working on cost cutting measures but at the same-time working towards efficiency and higher productivity.
This wave also include those entrepreneurs, who were furloughed or laid off and who had to move back to their native place and found a way to use their skills and earn money from that. Every crisis has led to the development or emergence of such entrepreneurs, who rediscovered themselves during a crisis and started to do something, they always dreamt off to be their own boss and took charge of the moment.
THE NEXT PHASE OF INNOVATION IS NOW
Crisis has always led the path for a leap of innovation and every crisis has come up with tons of new innovators narrating their success stories in the next 5 years. The last financial crisis of 2008 gave birth to the many unicorns, which you see around and are using. This is the perfect time to test, validate and run amok with your million dollar idea. Every single wave in a crisis leads to a validation, enhancement and opportunities - so what are you waiting for? It's still not too late!
This opinion piece is written by Hussain Jinan, CEO and co-founder of SparkHub LLP focusing on the Maldivian ecosystem and reflecting into the current global trends — which are very similar to waves of entrepreneurial mindset growth happening here. This also show we humans are adapting and challenging ourselves to survive and weather this.