Some say it was the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some believe it was a cursed Year of the Rat, bringing about damage and ruin to the lives of people. But for me, 2020 was a year of the great pause. A time to reflect on the past many years of many successes and failures, rise and fall, and celebration and learning.
The pandemic hit all of us, and hard. Businesses had to make massive adjustments to their operations, restructuring their resources and organization to ensure they stay afloat, and trying to keep in touch with their customers who were ordered to stay at home. After adjusting to the initial shock of the quarantine, people started to adjust and become productive in their homes, embarking into home cooking and selling, and honing their Zoom skills with countless virtual meetings, patiently praying and waiting for everything to go back to normal.
But as the pandemic dragged on, people started to adjust to domestic life, but businesses took a hit, forcing a big segment of our micro and small enterprises (and even large ones) to downsize or close down for the time being.
Udenna had its own share of challenges, as overnight, we saw people stay at home during the quarantine. Less people driving meant less visits to our Phoenix gas stations. Mall closures meant our Conti’s and Wendy’s had to stop offering their dine-in experience. Enderun had challenges continuing its education offerings, and our Supercat and Starlite Ferry lines had to stop sailing. DITO Telecom construction of towers also had to slow down, and our infrastructure developments in Clark Global City also had to make major adjustments in its development.
But unlike those who stayed down when they realized they were beaten, the Udenna group saw an opportunity to prove what it takes to serve the Filipino people, and work with them to rise from the proverbial ashes COVID-19 has brought. Since people are not going out and staying at home, Phoenix rebalanced manpower and financial resources as gasoline sales shifted towards LPG tanks and auto care, ensuring the right level of inventory and services.
Family Mart delivered products within its community, and pushed this further as it allowed some employees to sell Family Mart products by setting up their own mini-marts in their homes. They also went to where their customers are with Fam on Wheels, and then partnering with successful home-based cooks and other SMEs with new product lines, like the popular sushi bake and Spanish favorites like the Paella con Chorizo and the Roast Beef a la Madrileña.
Conti’s and Wendy’s beefed up their take-out, delivery offerings and online ordering, experimenting with new product offerings and strengthening partnerships with mobile delivery platforms. Enderun launched its new online course offerings, and DITO Telecom and Udenna Land restarted their construction applying COVID-19 safe protocols. Business as usual became business unusual, as business kept running.
But the businesses that are continuously operating and surviving during the pandemic do not guarantee that they will become sustainable businesses. Beyond making a business pivot, we have to reframe the business model, given that the changes brought about by the pandemic will be permanent. The Philippines will not go back to normal. It will go forward to a new normal. This means that our businesses will have to make substantial changes to heed the new realities. Any business that is operating the same way pre-COVID is bound to fail.
With that in mind, Udenna also had to make permanent changes in our business models. A touchless consumer economy means creating touchless solutions. For example, Phoenix launched its Limitless mobile app to ensure payments in the gas pumps can be purely contactless. Wendy’s and Phoenix also embarked on new marketing platforms, venturing into eSports to communicate to their target customers.
And we also realized that health really is wealth. That this is a good time to help. And so that was what we did with the Udenna Foundation. And every small bit of help matters.
Personally, the pandemic is a nerve-wracking and humbling experience, as I know it is for everyone. I remembered the time we were so paranoid with the Y2K bug 20 years ago, and nothing happened. This year, we were hit when we were most unprepared. But then, I am sure we all realized the most important things to us that we fail to give importance, are the ones that really matter: spending more time with family, attending family gatherings that we avoided, giving time to meet old friends, and enjoying home cooked meals.
“ The pandemic is a wake-up call, a call to order on how we are treating the world and the people around us. It is to remind us that as humans, we have infinite powers to reach our dreams, but we have finite energies, time and resources, and that is why we also have to take care of the people that surround us and the world we live in. ”
For some, I am sure they have reached a point where they believe they have everything all figured out, as the past 10 years had been good to most, with the economy growing and business had been vibrant. However, we also hear of established organizations letting go of people, or some companies declaring they are closing down, not just here in our country, but also globally.
Who would have thought that it would take a virus to bring down the most powerful to their knees, to pause and think on what they have been doing, and reflect if they are still going on the right path?
The pandemic is a wake-up call, a call to order on how we are treating the world and the people around us. It is to remind us that as humans, we have infinite powers to reach our dreams, but we have finite energies, time and resources, and that is why we also have to take care of the people that surround us and the world we live in. Let us take advantage of this great pause, like how we hold our breath, so that when we take our next breath, we are ready. A whole new world awaits.
Edited by Büm Tenorio Jr.