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As the world continues to grapple with the uncertainty of COVID-19, the consequences of this pandemic, further exacerbated by global lackadaisicalness at the beginning of the outbreak, has driven many economies into recession and created a seismic shift in the job market. According to a report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the pandemic could potentially cost the world economy up to USD$ 8.8 trillion in losses, with the Asia Pacific region (APAC) accounting for 30% of this. If these estimates are correct, this would mean the loss of over 200 million full-time jobs worldwide; 70% of which will come from APAC.

Despite this rather bleak outlook, the risks involved for each industry differ greatly. In certain cases, some jobs are severely affected while others seem to be thriving and even evolving to meet new demands. As an example, global tech juggernauts like Amazon, Microsoft and Apple have all performed exceptionally well and even continued recruitment activities during the crisis. Several other industries have bounced back quickly from their own dire situations and learned to adapt to the “new normal”.

Why is this so?

What has set these companies and organisations apart from the rest of the market, many of which endured devastating financial losses, bankruptcy, and job redundancies?

The answer lies within an organisation’s operational blueprint. Less than a year ago, the term “digital transformation” was something rigorously analysed and discussed, but rarely implemented save for a few visionary industries. Old skills and traditional modes of company administration were still heavily utilised, with many entities at the cusp of transitioning into a new era of digitization. Fast forward to 2020 and these visionary industries are the ones that have now succeeded despite all odds and are pursuing new opportunities in the middle of one of the worst global economic downturns in history. Innovative technologies in the form of e-commerce/online retail, video conferencing platforms, contactless food delivery and many others have showcased the importance of digital transformation in catalysing business models and adapting them to suit the needs of the current economic and technological climate.

One of the major and most immediate responses to COVID-19 was the stay-at-home policy put in place by governments worldwide to control the spread of the virus. The impact of this regulation meant that more people were spending larger amounts of time at home but still expecting a similar level of normalcy in their new lives. As such, e-commerce and online retail/grocery-buying was catapulted to the top of the list of business sectors finding its niche in the middle of a global pandemic. Panic buying and general alarm over the possibility of food items running out forced buyers to download online grocery apps, with many of these services seeing a staggering increase of about 300% in their average weekly order. In Southeast Asia (SEA), regional brands like South Korea’s Lotte, Japan’s Rakuten and even startups like Malaysia’s HappyFresh and Indonesia’s Gojek-owned GoMart have gained a high level of consumer confidence and trust since the onset of COVID-19.

HappyFresh’s website states that we have been doing everything we can to keep business running as usual. It is apparent that it is not the case as we see a significant and prolonged increase in demand across all our delivery areas. We’ve implemented a few changes for the time being and we believe we can continue to deliver your #FreshlyHandpicked groceries.”

Additionally, many on-demand services like food-delivery platforms have been making a fortune during the last few months. Foodpanda in Singapore and GrabFood in Indonesia are just two of the many food delivery services that not only provide quick, high-quality meals for their customers, but they have also gone the extra mile during this pandemic to give customers the peace of mind of knowing that all meals are prepared fresh in a well sanitized kitchen following strict precautionary measures. For most of these platforms, customers are even given the option of choosing contactless delivery through their online apps, allowing them to collect their packages at the doorstep without interacting with the delivery driver as a way to limit social contact.

In terms of health and safety, health-tech powered by AI saw an increase in usage of 70% at the beginning of the year. The surge in visits to the Doctor Anywhere and Doctor World apps in Singapore highlighted the strong incentive to overcome these hurdles quickly by rising to the occasion and finding a solid solution to the problem, much like what is being done by tech startups and enterprises at this time.

As we have already seen, the stay-at-home policy accelerated the digital transformation for many service companies. Another service that witnessed a meteoric rise in a short amount of time was streaming companies like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and Apple TV+. As lockdowns, curfews and working from home became a routine, more and more people turned to online streaming as a way of curbing their boredom and catching up with the latest shows/movies. Video gaming apps were also thrown into the mix as confining situations pushed many people to find alternative forms of entertainment once binge-watching TV serials became tiresome. COVID-19 consumer impact tracker Glimpse reported a +2056% surge in Nintendo Switch’s Animal Crossing since its launch at the height of the pandemic back in March.

In a statement to its investors, Netflix said, “We're acutely aware that we are fortunate to have a service that is even more meaningful to people confined at home, and which we can operate remotely with minimal disruption in the short to medium term…Like other home entertainment services, we're seeing temporarily higher viewing and increased membership growth.”

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