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COVID-19 has caused major disruptions globally. This crisis is intensifying and evolving every now and then. At the current state, public healthcare systems of many countries are taking actions to curb foreigners from entering their boundaries.
Undoubtedly, the focus should be on controlling and mitigating the outbreak. However, the economies have been significantly affected. Global financial markets have created fears in many investors about the pandemic. The negative impacts at this juncture have led to many companies facing great challenges. How can enterprises prepare for such crisis and turn it into an opportunity?

It is our honour to have Stuart Tan, CEO of Zero1 to share his company’s journey and strategy through this arduous crisis. Zero1 Pte Ltd was founded in 2017 as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) licensed by the Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore.

As a licensed MVNO, it does not own the network infrastructure. Instead, it partners one of the leading mobile operators that is well-known for the fastest network and widest 4G coverage.

1. Pertaining to COVID-19, what are the impacts on your company?

Impact on operations: As a network operator, Zero1 provides services that are deemed as essential in Singapore and operations are not suspended. Zero1 is allowed to operate within those guidelines given by the Singapore government.

However, acknowledging the effects and nature of the current pandemic, Zero1 still decided to close the 2 offices. Daily operations are instead supported by staff through telecommuting, i.e. All staff work from home. This reduces the chances of our staff contracting the virus, which would be terrible for the individuals, and further impact the manpower of the company.

Impact on sales: There are consumers who would like to sign up at the office. But because of this situation, we have streamlined registration processes to allow these customers to sign up through our online portal instead.

Sign-up rates have dropped by more than half (from 300 to 100 plus) due to this pandemic and business has slowed down tremendously. This is a chain effect as most of the supply chains and industries are affected including Zero1, our partners and vendors. Due to this pandemic, consumers behaviour may reshape businesses in both the short and long term as they change their lifestyles to adapt to the crisis.

2. What will be your suggestions for the other businesses to tide through this challenging period? What are the measures adopted by your company to mitigate the impacts caused by the pandemic?

Even before the Circuit Breaker was implemented, Zero1 has already split the staff into 3 teams for operations to ensure continuity. As the government gradually implemented the measures, Zero1 has also prepared for the worst i.e. full lockdown. Business owners must anticipate potential changes and prepare for worst-case scenarios to mitigate any negative impact to the business.

The reason for foresight is the need to train teams. Our teams at Zero1 adapted the ‘work from home’ well and fast. The earlier preparation allowed the teams to streamline new processes and activities in order to continue operating fully.

More specific to the current situation, Zero1 prepared its teams with the correct mindsets and objectives to treat the measures seriously. This makes employees aware about the situation and its impact to the business, making them think how they must adapt to the changing environment.

The pandemic has forced people and companies to change the way things used to be ran and to adapt new processes and workflows that are useful even after this period. For example, networking usually is conducted through Face to Face (F2F). However, with the pandemic developing, people have turned to video conferencing to have F2F business meetings. Such practices can be further developed and utilised after the pandemic to save commuting time and costs.

3. How long will it take to resume as normal?

Nobody knows for sure when this pandemic will end. My guess is sometime in mid-June when government starts to lift certain restrictions gradually leading to normalcy for businesses. Enterprises must innovate and devise new ways to sustain business and adapt to the volatile situation or they will not survive.

Zero1’s new service plan will be launched in light of the current situation where unlimited data is offered at an affordable price. We have brought forward certain innovative products’ timeline such as Zero1’s e-Wallet and Remittance Services in view of the current pandemic. We conduct more regular meetings internally with all the respective stakeholders to keep Zero1’s business strategy aligned.

4. There will be opportunities in a crisis. What and how are the opportunities to be identified in this case?

There is a Chinese phrase “危机为商机”, meaning “opportunities lurk in the crisis”. As a startup, we will always do things that nobody would want to do. Our motivation shall be identifying those that will bring huge opportunities for the company.

It is important to attempt the first step and continue to evolve. Take risks and do not be afraid to make mistakes as this is the only way to “discover” new things. We need to be creative and leverage on whatever resources we are equipped with especially during this pandemic period.

Aligning these short-term opportunities with the company’s long-term goals in my opinion will be the key differentiation.

About BlackStorm Consulting

BlackStorm Consulting (http://blackstormco.asia) is a boutique growth consultancy firm that specialises in corporate strategy, profit management and investment management. We mainly serve clients in four sectors: FinTech, Gaming, Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT), and manufacturing.

Our clients and connections are internationally present and range from small and medium sized businesses, MNCs, to government agencies.

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