While powers immeasurably superior to ours work tirelessly to contain COVID-19, the impact not just on lives, but on livelihoods is becoming apparent.
It will be huge.
Whatever your opinion about the damage COVID-19 will cause to families in terms of lives lost, the economic impact will be a game changer and a tipping point for many industries and companies. In short, COVID-19 will be the biggest, ugliest digital disruptor this decade.
Already companies are going to the wall, in their hundreds. A major regional airline in the UK went bust last week. Millions of small companies are swinging in the wind as their supply chains dry up and their employees stay at home. Governments are urging banks to increase lending and credit lines, the US Fed has already cut interest rates as an emergency measure and stock markets around the world have factored in an enormous impact, as witnessed by more than $200 billion (and counting) being knocked off the value of shares.
There are winners, of course. Companies that make toilet paper and hand sanitisers are cleaning up.
There are losers. The company that now has two Princess cruise ships grounded must be talking urgently to their banks. Travel companies, cafes, restaurants must feel the belt tightening by the day. Our own GSMA, who made the right decision will, undoubtedly, be struggling to find its feet again.
On the other hand, there are 780 million Chinese people sitting at home. Billions of people must already be in self isolation around the world. As a result, the digital leaders are winning. Downloads of games are soaring, streaming services are booming and retailers with an effective online presence are having a field day. Alibaba has even set aside $144 million in spending subsidies for its customers.
Whatever else COVID-19 brings, it will bring change. When the dust settles, whether to diminishing news and the conclusion that it wasn’t as bad as all that or whether to an exhausted, depleted population, the aftermath will be grim. Whether it is because of hype and panic or well-placed warnings will not matter.
COVID-19 will force digital transformation to the top of the agenda, if it wasn’t there already. It is disrupting almost every industry on earth. It will – sadly – make the planet a little less human.
There will, of course, be blame. Some will say that it proves that ‘lean’ management only works in ‘fat’ times and when times are lean it breaks. Some will say we should limit the power of the press if the press is likely to cause panic. Some will say we have a right to know – everything.
All of which is immaterial.
At the end of all this, there will be companies that will be very powerful, thrown there by COVID-19, like the drug companies were by war. There will be companies that we look on now as giants who will be sadly reduced.