As of now, every discussion is centred around the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the industry, economy and general sentiments of people around the world. There is so much information floating around that it has become difficult to differentiate the real news from the fake ones.
I feel that the real threat today is actually the excess of information sharing, where a fear, though real, has crippled clarity of thought. What is the right way forward, is a difficult call, but one thing is for sure, we cannot take the situation lightly.
Initially we were all debating on how China would lose business and the disruption in supply chain would have long-term business implications. But that’s old news, now the seriousness of the situation has multiplied as retail markets lockdown indefinitely and placing fashion in stores is not even a consideration, let alone a priority.
From regular times when even a few days of delay in shipment could mean a debit note or a rejection in accepting the order, leading to major setback in business; buyers themselves are asking vendors to hold shipments till further notice. And in some reported incidences, they have actually cancelled orders.
This fact itself reflects how the industry is impacted. These are times like never before… at least in our living memory, we have yet to see a situation that has such a strong global impact, where companies, communities and Governments are united by a single cause – safety of their people.
A letter my colleague received from a friend with family in Italy, says it all; in fact many of you might have received a forwarded version of the letter, which has gone viral… to quote, “People are confused, sad, anxious and helpless, and often do not understand how this reality was imposed on them… The big mistake was that at the start of the first hit, people continued to lead their lives as usual… Everyone was wrong… Please, learn from the mistakes, we are a small country that could end up with a great tragedy… In Italy, the entire country is isolated, meaning 60 million people in quarantine… This would have been prevented if people had heard the instructions from the beginning.”
My advice to all – safety first! I am confident that when things settle down after this mayhem, many positives will emerge. The picture which looks so bleak today can actually leave some very disruptive and positive lessons for tomorrow. The first of course being that ‘health and safety’ is surmount.
On the business front, companies will realise that depending on few destinations for supply chain requirement is a bad strategy. Having strong back-up sourcing options is a must. While China is being seen as a perpetuator of the crisis, other countries need to learn from the mistakes.
Also, I am sure once people are out from their homes, shopping will be a top priority. Markets which are deserted today will again bustle with activity. Shopping, especially fashion shopping, is a great stress buster, and after months of stress, retail can expect brisk business.
Retailers and manufacturing units should use this time to relook at their operations. What better time than now to discuss strategy and long-term growth road maps. In the daily grind of business, planning for the future often takes a back seat.
We must all use this time productively to prepare for the business that will come in, a few months later. Yes, everyone is facing losses and morale of people and companies are really down, but instead of crying over spilt milk, it would be better to accept the reality that the situation is the same for all and we must act as a cohesive force. What is important is to bounce back strongly with new directions!