Mike Tyson once said that:

"Everyone has a plan until they are punched on the face."

Businesses have plans too. As another quarter of the year has already started, it would be expected that entrepreneurs, business executives, strategists, futurists and all the other people responsible for making long and short-term plans for businesses have their numbers and projections ready.

However, the punch in the face has come in the form of COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019).

How will the COVID-19 pandemic affect businesses in general? Nobody knows for sure. It is hard to tell how the whole script will play out, and with so many moving factors, making both short term and long terms is like shooting at a moving target.

However, we can try and predict a few impacts that are here already and looks like they will last even after the pandemic. It would be wise for any business to work around these.

Among the more essential things during the COVID-19 pandemic are a mask and sanitizer. However, what will the world be like after things get back to "normal."

Remote work as a result of the coronavirus pandemic

Social distancing measures are now forcing people to work from home.

One evident thing is that even when possible, few organizations have ever considered having people working remotely. There are of course many factors to consider, but the pandemic is showing people that it is possible to work remotely.

Not everyone can work from home, as some tasks may not allow. However, I have talked to a few people working from home (in finance, administration and IT) and it seems like at least 50% of work can be done remotely. If this is possible, would it make sense to allow people to work remotely may be at least 2 days per week in the post COVID-19 world?

In places like Nairobi, people spend several hours caught up in traffic jams while commuting to and from work. Cutting down on commute is likely to increase productivity, and working remotely can help with this.

Peak time traffic in Nairobi, Kenya.

Cashless transactions in a social distancing world

Many businesses are now accepting cashless transactions, even in industries like matatu (minibus taxis) that have never been enthusiastic about it. Part of this is due to what the Central Bank of Kenya has done to promote cashless transactions, such as allowing higher transaction limits and scraping off all fees for transactions of up to KShs 1000, which forms the bulk of the transactions.

Transactions between mobile money and banks have also been made free.

The effect of this is that people will adopt cashless transactions for payments even more. While almost everybody uses mobile money for cash transfer, fewer people have adopted mobile money for day to day payment of services. Most small-scale payments are done in cash. The current environment could get more of these transactions going cashless and once this happens, it is likely to remain to some extent even in the post-COVID-19 era.

For businesses, this is the time to make it possible for people to make cashless transactions. It could mean integrating M-PESA payments and adding a shopping cart to your website, getting a Lipa na M-PESA number, or any strategy that will make a business more friendly to cashless transactions.

Public gatherings

Even after lockdowns are lifted, people will still be required to avoid huge public gatherings until the world can find a solution to COVID-19. This means that businesses that depend on people gathering together will be negatively impacted over a long time.

We are likely to see more meetings and conferences being done online, eLearning becoming more popular, and businesses like Zoom are already having their best performance ever.

The public transport vehicles are currently supposed to carry at most 60% capacity, while schools and hotels have been closed. The tourism industry is the worst hit in Kenya.

If you are in these industries, it is time to fasten your belt. Best, consider other practices like doing delivery for restaurants, or making it more convenient for a pick and go service. People in the tourism industry might need to rethink business models to survive. In the news, we have seen some hotels offering a quarantine package where someone can retreat and stay for a few months as the world cools off. Not a far-fetched idea.

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