The human race, our history, the story of our existence opens us up to a trend; 1889 through to 1890 saw the flu pandemic hit its heights in 5 weeks. It claimed over a million lives. 24 years later, 1914 through to 1918 came the war to end all wars, the World War 1. That battles was so fierce that it directly resulted to the loss of 16 million lives. But the worst of human experiences always have birth the best inventions. It’s to the First World War that we owe the invention of drones (an in-built technology that enabled the development of a remote controlled flying bomb). We owe to that same crisis the invention of industrial fertilizers, tea bags (it started off as soldier’s mechanism for packaging tea in small bags that could be dropped right into a pot of boiling water for convenience), it also create the use of sanitary pads and even plastic surgery to correct war injuries.
The same year the war ended came the influenza pandemic which led to millions deaths worldwide. Two years later it was 1920, the great depression in which millions of people watched their incomes sink to nothing. But that low income era saw the invention of the chocolate bar out of necessity (the world was a dark place before 1930, and not just because the Great Depression had hit the year before. Until that year, no one had ever eaten a chocolate chip cookie. But that year, Ruth Graves Wakefield accidentally created the recipe while baking for guests in her tollhouse. For lack of disposable income, she ran out of supplies including the baker’s chocolate while making cookies and had to settle for cutting a chocolate into bars and pieces. She assumed the chocolate would melt, but instead, it hardened into tiny chips. Her recipe eventually became the Nestle Toll House Cookie). This formed till date the platform for the massive growth of an FCMG multinational to be later known as Nestle.
It was also during the Great Depression that the world’s most respected magazine was formed. Even though it seemed ironical, the magazine by the name Fortune did everything wrong and still ended up in the right place, It released its inaugural issue in 1930, less than a year after the stock market crashed, and charged more money than other magazines at the time ($1). Not to mention the fact that it called itself Fortune and promoted stories of the wealthy in a depression. And yet, its circulation reached nearly half a million around that year.
Nine years later after the Great Depression era, it was 1939 the beginning of World War 2, where a blood tasty leader by the name of Adolf Hitler led his Nazi army and the axis to hunt and slaughter a race. It ended in 1945. But with the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two cities in Japan wiping a good portion of the population, the world was shown the power and application of atomic technology. Then came the Cold War, signified by the Cuban missile crisis, which brought us an inch close to the utter destruction of the world. We have been faced with the deadly flu, the H1N1 Swine flu infecting over 1.4 billion people across the globe, claiming thousands of lives within a year.
Despite these many set backs and seemly impossible challenges, we have made it through. We have not just survived; we have come out stronger and better. When we are faced with challenges, we move from a place of total dependence on resources to resourcefulness. Perhaps answers lie in old quote “necessity is the mother of inventions”. Most of the technological advancement has been carved out in the eye of the storm.
It is out of necessity to generate sales for businesses to stay afloat during crisis has employees been pushed off their limits and invariably new marketing and branding tactics been developed. It’s out of macro economic bailouts that create government support of new infrastructure which make innovation possible. Take for example; it’s out of the oil shocks of 1973 and 1979 that to divest risk that hundreds of millions of dollars were invested in these high-speed integrated circuits. By the early 1980s it became clear that these tiny chips could be used for miniaturizing dozens of small appliances: the personal computer, the Walkman, and the portable phone. This is how electronics became the biggest boom of the last quarter of the 20th Century. This paved the way for the maximum explosion of the internet too.
The biological weapons used in the First World War became the bases for the use of biogas in health care. The Internet initially know as the Arpanet was a product of the cold war. Just as metal goes through fire for refinement, the world is not merely prone to crisis, it is also shaped by it. At the end of every dark devastating tunnel shines a bright light.
The world has always been known to prosper further and better right after crisis. The same applies to us as nations and individuals. But while in the dark light, things may look bleak. While it rains it pours, that’s the bad thing about bad times. But the good things about bad times are that it’s never that bad just like the bad thing about good times is that it’s never that good.
While things seems bad, let’s not lose hope or out of fear and pain throw the baby with the bad bath water. When in crisis, always remember, that this too shall pass. It will pass. It may not seem like it, but it will, trust in that!
When change comes, you either embrace it or get consumed by it. Let it be one of our makers, without being our undertaker. Let’s not act like victims and get drowned in hand downs. An African proverb reminds us that “whoever you give the power to feed you, you also give the power to starve you”.
In this times where we are faced with the lockdown and pandemics, it’s important to look beyond it. The Covid-19 suddenly didn’t drive us home to stay indoors. It drove us to somewhere deeper, online. And it will never return us back. Our lives have just changed!
Generally, what were the worst of times for the economy as a whole turns out to be one of the best times for resourceful and opportunistic entrepreneurs.
Now, we are faced with the lockdown, unlock your mind. At the end of this Pandemics, especially after staying home for weeks, if you didn’t come out with a new skill, or a new plan or updates strategy for your future, you‘ve not only wasted it, but have successfully proven to yourself and others that you didn’t have a time problem, you just have an excuse problem.
Take for example, after this pandemics and lockdown, the Work from Home concept will have more credibility. For a lot of companies, in the past, there has been some sort of mental barrier to letting people work from home . Well, not anymore. I think a lot of organizations will see how well their business copes (if they get the right digital tools in place) with more of their employee base working from home ( which could invariably create more work-life balance as well as cost saving). Be on that dinner table and not on the menu; eat and not be eaten by it.
There is crisis and panic. As the world become more anxious, desperate and hungry for a solution to these deaths and pandemic, what will emerge suddenly will be new opportunities, new brands, a new league of power brokers and perhaps even a nation with a solution to this crisis. It wouldn’t just be vaccines and cures; it will be business, power, 5G and biotechnology. 5G is here to stay and it will revolutionize everything. It’s easy for 5G to be thought of as just a generation of phones (1G being the Walkie Talkies, 2 G the big ugly Cellular Phones, 3G being the Nokia 3310 era, and 4G being the iPhone era). So we assume 5G will be about the next type of phones right? Nope. At the heart of 5G is that there will be no phones!
Graph above shows the big domestic brand winners and losers of the pandemics (I believe that female bra should beat cars in the time series curve too🤡, and Zoom should beat sweat pants). Zoom in a few weeks has gained 135% through March 23 and become a multimillion dollar business as the coronavirus pandemic brought millions of users to its platform.
After the lockdown will come a take over of bigger brands by underdogs. This will be driven by a consumer preference for cheaper, faster and easier alternative to their decline purchasing power from global recessions. And then will come the massive deployment of 5G. 5G aren’t about phones, as chips, AI, Nanotechnology implants, Biotechnology, centralized data and higher sophistication in intelligence and governance, will replace phones. This will make things more efficient and secure. But remember that the trade off of excessive security is always the loss of privacy and safety. That battle isn’t about efficiency. It’s about the data, its multi uses, and who controls it and the threats. This is already sitting in the middle of the China versus USA feud, the coldest war yet.
I am not interested in the conspiracy theories around what the future will hold. Looking through the crack of the badly written scripts we see that no matter how badly written a book is, there’s always something to learn from that books, even if it’s on not how to write a bad book. This current story is showing us something we all should take advantage of. History shows us that life is a game where the deck gets reshuffled in crisis. As crisis develops, habits are re-examined and patterns of behavior are broken, perhaps to greater degree than when things are humming along at a steady state. And that’s what creates business opportunities. Beyond panic, news and updates, what’s your plan to leverage on this crisis?
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