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Carpe Diem

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Carpe Diem

In Latin the title of this blog means “Seize the Day”, now that we are in the Age of Pandemic , this is truer than ever.  What can be done in this period, frustration, anger and anxiety are creeping in and clarity of what will commence, businesses are stalled, daily wages are suddenly coming to standstill, teachers are going on making videos online and students are not sure what their future holds.Well the last one, all are wondering through out the world.

Let’s go back in past, 1918/1919 the world is just coming out of WW1 and hits with Spanish flu, it killed 40 million or more people worldwide. Some excerpts from the of various articles that appeared in the fall of 1918 on business impact.

Little Rock, Ark.

“How Influenza Affects Business.” The Arkansas Gazette, Oct. 19, 1918, page 4.

 • Merchants in Little Rock say their business has declined 40 percent. Others estimate the decrease at 70 percent.

• The retail grocery business has been reduced by one-third. • One department store, which has a business of $15,000 daily ($200,265 in 2006 dollars), is not doing more than half that.

• Bed rest is emphasized in the treatment of influenza. As a result, there has been an increase in demand for beds, mattresses and springs.

• Little Rock businesses are losing $10,000 a day on average ($133,500 in 2006 dollars). This is actual loss, not a decrease in business that may be covered by an increase in sales when the quarantine order is over. Certain items cannot be sold later.

• The only business in Little Rock in which there has been an increase in activity is the drug store.

Memphis, Tenn.

“Influenza Crippling Memphis Industries.” The Commercial Appeal, Oct. 5, 1918, page 7.

• Physicians report they are kept too busy combating the disease to report the number of their patients and have little time to devote to other matters.

• Industrial plants are running under a great handicap. Many of them were already short of help because of the draft.

• Out of a total of about 400 men used in the transportation department of the Memphis Street Railway, 124 men were incapacitated yesterday. This curtailed service.

• The Cumberland Telephone Co. reported more than a hundred operators absent from their posts. The telephone company asked that unnecessary calls be eliminated. “Tennessee Mines May Shut Down.” The Commercial Appeal, Oct. 18, 1918, page 12.

• Fifty percent decrease in production reported by coal mine operators.

• Mines throughout east Tennessee and southern Kentucky are on the verge of closing down owing to the epidemic that is raging through the mining camps.

• Coalfield, Tenn., with a population of 500, has “only 2 percent of well people.”

These reports are very similar to the exodus which we are seeing today, with migrating workers from various fields going back to their villagers are putting both human life and businesses at risks. With limited manpower for the manufacturing sector, even to start to the operations are going to be a challenge to say the least. 1918 and 2020 industrialists can share the pain here. Also as mentioned in Little Rock, a lot of businesses are going to declare losses. The peddle is pushed extremely hard across sectors in the last quarter of the year. However, due to China not able to supply in Jan/Feb and world going down in lock down in March has hardly helped anyone to close the books on a high.

Where we differentiate from 1918/19 is the use of internet, work from home, communication and awareness of the problem we are facing. I can’t comment how lonely someone felt in the Spanish flu crisis but today feeling of togetherness is there. 

If we are to seize the day today, what should we do?

Actions Activity Time line
Apply for all the provisions govt/banks are granting you 1. Find out as much as possible from sites/experts
2. Apply for all provision mostly its online
3. All may not come your way but keep at it, no one wants to see a thriving business go down
Short term
Focus on key employees at all levels 1. List your key people
2. Speak with them 
3. Be open and transparent with them
4. Keep them engaged
5. Run improvement projects
Short term
Focus on key vendors 1. Map your vendors needed immediately to move your inventory out of company
2. Highlight risk associated with them if they are not able to supply
3. if vendors in China or indirect dependency create localization plan
Short term
Keep an eye on customer’s customer and their behavior 1. Fear has a way of changing habits
2. Observe and learn from experts what will be the long-term impact of the virus
3. How will the industry you serve or the products you make change  e.g. If the car can intuitively give us instruction and provide sanitizer to rub on our hands as soon as we sit in the car. Just like oil change every service sanitizer is also filled.   Just a use case maybe Uber/Ola will be interested in.  
Long term
Frugal Automation to deal with skill or manpower shortage 1. Focus on key processes
2. Accept that you are to deal with new rules of social distancing and absenteeism
3. To keep getting the same output with out investing much (clearly, we won’t have much) look at frugal automation for consistency  
Short term
Digital transformation 1. Accept that business processes need to be transformed to suit monitoring remotely and assist in correct decision making
2. In coming months even post lock down many people will still have to remotely and if this holds true
3. Business owners will need to go beyond ERP and data capturing needs to be done intuitively  
Long term

If businesses do the above with all their might in this period, commencing back to work will be done with confidence through informed decision making.

So enjoy Carpe Diem my friends because as like all the great stories this will also have light at the end of the tunnel.

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