Even as Singapore transits into Phase 3 and eases its safe distancing measures, individuals and businesses here have to be vigilant to the COVID-19 threat – as second waves sweep across the entire world.
In the immediate-term, beating COVID-19 may just mean recovering to pre-pandemic levels of business – in terms of operations, revenue, profit or other measures. 2021 is already looking like a better year with COVID-19 vaccine developments.
With many government grants and schemes coming to an end by early to mid-2021, it may be the best time to grow or pivot business models to take advantage of the recovery while enjoying government subsidies to reduce risks.
However, for some business owners, a recovery might not come fast enough, and biding their time to re-start their entrepreneurship journey once things are better is the play. For most businesses, COVID-19 may have changed the playing field.
COVID-19 May Have Changed The Entire Business Landscape
What we may not take into consideration is that COVID-19 may have changed the entire business landscape. A return to pre-COVID-19 business is forever lost.
Sectors such as the F&B outlets must not only continue offering delivery options, but may have to build their business with both dine-in customers and delivery customers in mind. Dining-in may or may never come back to pre-COVID-19 levels (we just don’t know), but what we know is that delivery customers will continue to order online.
The same goes for large swathes of the retail industry. As a personal example, my dad runs a small clothes tailoring outfit. He faces at least two-pronged problem – 1) how to go digital and leverage on e-commerce (he is in his 60s and without the right skills to pivot digitally) and 2) will professionals require custom-made shirts and pants at the rate of previous years with more offices implementing work-from-home policies. This is just one example – there are many others all around us.
Speaking of work-from-home, there are businesses offering digital solutions that will benefit from this trend and new businesses that will tap on these growth opportunities. At the same time, many businesses will suffer because of it.
2021 may be the beginning of the post-COVID-19 era – with many business sectors entirely disrupted, and more pertinently, business sectors we never even thought about becoming the engine of new growth. These may include robotics, deep tech, virtual and telehealthcare, esports, live streaming and more. In the past, we may have clumsily clumped all these into “tech”, but what COVID-19 has shown us is that they can be large enough to stand entirely on their own with billions of dollars pouring into each business.
Singapore Also Has To Play By Its Own Rules
To help small businesses cope with the transition in the interim, the Re-Align Framework was introduced as of 15 January 2021. This allows small businesses to enter into renegotiations of contracts such as:
- Leases or licences for non-residential immovable property which have a term of 5 or less years
- Hire-purchase and conditional sales agreements for commercial equipment or vehicles (except agreements entered into with banks and finance companies regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)
- Rental agreements for commercial equipment or vehicles
- Contracts for supply of goods or services
Having To Also Consider Singapore’s Structural Employment Market – An Ageing Workforce
While trying to leverage on opportunities in business, Singapore companies must be keenly aware of longer-term structural risks in the employment market – a rapidly ageing population and a population with one of the longest life expectancies in the world.
Businesses must embrace hiring older workers today or ready their business to accept older employees soon, or risk facing a hiring crunch in the longer-term. Today, it will be a tricky affair as many businesses are pivoting some or all of their businesses digital. This has traditionally been a pain point for old workers – change and being up-to-date digitally.
The government must work with businesses to solve this – providing funding as well as the tools to enable older workers to thrive in the working world.
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