WHILE the Covid-19 pandemic has had a socio-economic impact on the world, it certainly has accelerated digitalisation — changing the way we live, work and communicate.
In this pivotal period, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) require technology and digital solutions to meet growing business needs.
In view of that, a recent webinar session presented by HP for Business and organised by Star Media Group Bhd discussed ways to stay resilient as SMBs embark on the road to recovery. It was moderated by Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation Bhd (MDEC) Global Growth Acceleration vice-president Gopi Ganesalingam.
Kicking off “A Resilient Tomorrow: Emerging Stronger” webinar session was HP Inc Malaysia managing director Fayza Mohamed Amin, who shared some of her leadership actions and decisions taken to tackle issues during the movement control order (MCO).
“Communication is key — telecommunications and technology platforms are fundamental connectors.
“Basically, everyone had just one day to embrace MCO without knowing much about something invisible and the damage that it can do.
“So, I needed as much information as possible from reliable sources to understand the situation and calm my team before putting in place proper standard operating procedures (SOPs) on how we can continue working together through platforms such as Zoom,” she said.
“All in all, keeping everyone in the loop and working together while supporting each other is vital.”
Meanwhile, change was needed to ensure the effects on businesses from the pandemic was mitigated, she added.
“When I mentioned communication with the team, it also meant retailers and partners. As we communicate with them, we know that the biggest problem for retailers is cash flow so we structure the best methods and come up with incentives for them even before the Government can do that.
“We understand that the Government has to focus on the people at large so we know that we have to start on the business side,” said Fayza.
Loob Holding Sdn Bhd chief executive officer (CEO) Bryan Loo agreed that internal communication was crucial during the unprecedented times which has pushed open new revenue streams for the company.
“Digitising a lot of our work and internal communications during MCO really helped to sustain and even grow the business, from stepping up our own e-commerce division and extending our products into the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry to scaling up our virtual kitchen format and strengthening online training modules, among others.
“It has made us realise there’s a lot more we can push through than our brick and mortar module,” said Loo.
For Loob Holding, the MCO is a period where it accomplished more “firsts” than its journey since inception.
Loo said the company took the opportunity to kick-start technology-driven yet emotionally-connected initiatives such as the DIY bubble tea kit, ready-to-drink bottled brews and bubble tea ice cream collaboration with an ice cream producer.
“Our Tealive bubble tea kits are now available in countries such as Australia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Singapore and the Philippines.
“Other sister brands soon began to adopt the DIY approach with our best-selling products,” said Loo, adding that his ready-to-drink range was also launched, whereby customers are able to shop for made-to-order drinks in bigger quantities and get them delivered straight to their doorstep via contactless ordering for the safety of customers and staff.
Meanwhile, Naluri Hidup Sdn Bhd CEO and co-founder Azran Osman-Rani, a local pioneer in digital therapeutics, also prioritised internal communications with his team to make sure the business pulled through.“However, do not rush to take charge when the situation is not clear.
“The more that I do not know, the more I need to communicate, so we need to be very deliberate and clear on how we allocate time in order for everyone to also get rest and persevere through this.
“As we provide a psychological safety net for employee health, we need to define communications protocol, so we set our once-a-day stand-up to twice daily along with weekly emails, monthly virtual town halls and one-on-one sessions with staff members,” said Azran.
As Naluri Hidup halted work because employees were not able to meet clients physically, the company shifted focus to mental health support with employee assistance programmes.
The move garnered double the sales by sending twice the number of proposals per month, being more active on LinkedIn as well as accepting more webinar invitations and following up on potential clients.
“But, personalisation still matters as different market segments have different needs so we take time to understand other people’s problems and help them to come up with solutions that can solve their frustrations,” he said.
Fayza emphasised that going digital was the way forward, which sums up HP Malaysia’s goal to support the country’s digital transformation through a wide ecosystem of PC and print innovation.
“Technology should be seen as a long-term investment. It helps us live, work, learn and build bridges to each other even though we are further apart.
“With HP for Business assisting SMBs with digitisation, SMBs are able to upskill themselves through various business insights and mentorship opportunities provided by revered business leaders across industries, just like this session,” she said, adding that the platform was one of the many initiatives in line with HP Malaysia’s commitment to being a global brand with a local soul.
In concluding the session, Loo conveyed some key messages as a reminder while navigating through a business journey.
“Step up in doing what is right as making the right decision can be very controversial. Remember to be compassionate to your employees.
“Always aim at obtaining small wins and it will accumulate into a big win, just like how Tealive started off with humble beginnings to what it has achieved today,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, Azran advised business owners to reach out and connect to continue learning.
“Making the right decision is crucial and we learned the hard way. So network and learn from others, especially to keep abreast with technology,” he added.
Fayza stressed that being resilient is not an option.
“Nothing’s for certain but yet business has to continue and everyone needs to persevere.“To support the digitisation journey of SMBs, HP is launching a technology instalment plan, which will possibly be launched within the next two months,” she said.
To learn more about HP for Business, visit https://www8.hp.com/my/en/solutions/small-business.html