COVID-19 is an unforeseen and unprecedented situation that has turned the world upside down. It has taught sweet and bitter lessons at the same time. Traditional business practices were completely thrown off-gear demanding digital interventions as saviors to stay afloat. Not only that, product redesigning or service redesigning were rather compelled into businesses that needed to be diversified or re-strategized to suit a specific demand that emerged out of the pandemic.
Diversification in business is not new. When companies open new channels of products, locations, and new partnerships, they increase the chance of long-term success and increasing profits. With the pandemic, the increased demand for niche online services just accelerated the diversification for a large number of organizations that were either digitally non-existent or minimally existent. The pandemic certainly called for a proliferation of digital services across all verticals.
Either ways, this pandemic proved that quick diversity adopters were fast movers and were winners by virtue. Digital transformation or digital escalation gave companies a new lease of life and ensured sustained business continuity proving that laggards have lost golden opportunities that came knocking on the doors.
Listed here are few Indian organizations that chose to diversify at the pandemic time to scale business operations and also add value to the society through their services or products:
From travel-tech to ed-tech
Yatra.com diversifies its portfolio & enters ed-tech
Four months after the pandemic struck India, somewhere in July 2020, India’s popular online corporate travel service provider, Yatra Online Inc. forged an alliance with upGrad Enterprise – the B2B arm of upGrad, India’s largest online higher education company. This alliance reflects the perfect example for COVID-19 induced portfolio diversification.
Through this alliance Yatra’s aim was to diversify its portfolio beyond travel, enabling its corporate clientele to deliver advanced learning and skill development for their employees. upGrad Enterprise is now working closely with Yatra’s corporate and SME clientele to deliver a deployment-ready workforce, within a short period, reducing employee attrition and aligning L&D plan with business growth strategy. The ed-tech major will be providing deep skilling programs that align with the client’s desired business outcomes to deliver impact at scale.
Dhruv Shringi, co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Yatra.com sees this alliance as an opportunity for the company to become an end-to-end business solution provider to its clients. Whereas, Mayank Kumar, co-Founder & MD, upGrad, sees this first-of-its-kind alliance as an opportunity to create a new milestone in the education industry.
Strengthening online content sales
S Chand launches lockdown specific digital content products
S Chand & Company, India’s oldest and largest textbook and education content company, took COVID-19 lockdown as the right time to strengthen its digital portfolio.
S Chand has been an education content company ever since inception. As learners are moving towards multiple modes of content consumption the books company has ensured that its content is available not only through physical books but also through digital means like online and mobile apps. And now, amid this pandemic disruption, students and parents are worried about the education of their children without hard copy versions of textbooks, and the trust in the need for quality content present is a high concern. These days, parents are looking for quality content in affordable Apps, and hence S. Chand found this pandemic time to aggressively take its three digital products to students, parents, and schools. The three products are:
- Mylestone: An end-to-end education solution provider for teachers and students which has been adopted in 12 States.
- Learnflix: A personalised home learning application, which was launched around this current mass shut down of educational institutions and this being affordable has now reached to over 15 schools in India and middle east.
- SmartK: Pre-school in a box concept with balanced play and activity-based program which provides a stimulating environment for the language, intellectual, social, emotional, and physical development of the child and has been adopted by 17 preschools till now across India.
On why S Chand found this the right time to escalate its portfolio, Vinay Sharma – Business Head, Digital of S Chand & Company, says, “In the post-COVID-19 era, education would have changed forever, and it will become a hybrid of physical and online. There will be more infusion of technology, innovative techniques that will combine the best of offline and online, education becoming more learner-centered and personalized. In higher education, there will be increasing demand for reskilling and upskilling with massive disruptions in business models and roles. Colleges and universities will compete with multiple private companies in these areas. Viewing all these scenarios, our plans are to offer complete education solutions to our customers – schools, colleges, teachers, and students. They can consume our content in multiple formats like books, eBooks, online, mobile apps, LMS. These will include all kinds of assets like written content, multimedia content, assessments, simulations, etc.
In our digital initiatives, our focus is to provide complete academic solutions to schools as well as providing personalized learning solutions to students using technology. We will continue to innovate to help schools in India become fully prepared for not only the current situation but also for their future requirements.”
Showroom selling to digital selling
Transforming traditional showroom selling strategy to digital
Big Boy Toyz (BBT), a marketplace for pre-owned luxury, exotic, and imported cars for sale from showrooms located at Gurgaon, Mumbai and Hyderabad, is now promoting its brand at a Pan-India level via its online portal.
Jatin Ahuja, Founder and MD, Big Boy Toyz, says that the novel coronavirus has played a major role in altering the normal course of life impacting the markets and businesses alike, thereby, affecting the luxury auto market as well. “The current market situation has made us, at BBT, understand that digitalization is the way forward. Therefore, the business strategy during the lockdown was largely focused on our e-portal, which has most certainly emerged as the major platform for driving sales for the last 3 months. Big Boy Toyz has now observed 85% sale through the online portal alone, during the pandemic itself. Apart from this, we at BBT, did a pilot project by entering into the entry level sedans and SUV’s to understand the purchasing mindset of the consumers overall.”
It is certain that Ahuja was rather quick to change the selling strategy. Not only did Ahuja strategize to sell more on online portals but also escalate his offering from luxury cars to budget sedans and SUVs.
“Our digital presence clubbed together with our pilot project testing revealed that the customers are transitioning towards sedans and SUVs, which will inadvertently affect the sales of luxury cars and sports cars. It was, therefore, imperative that we realign our strategy in these trying times. We realized that it was necessary for us to amplify our digital focus and give the consumer a 360-degree view and complete transparency of the cars they were seeking to purchase. This, in turn, has acted as the main mechanism for boosting the car sales and generating revenue for the company, even during the lockdown,” admits Ahuja.
Ahuja envisions that a lot is suspected to change post-lockdown. While the limitations will be heightened, says Ahuja, it is extremely uncertain whether people will prefer to come out in congested spaces. In the long run, digitization of business is going to save the ship. Whether or not people will continue to practice social distancing is yet to be seen, but the smartphones are here to stay and so is the era of digitization.
“Keeping this in mind, it will be correct to state, even this early on, that the auto market – luxury and utility-based vehicles, will witness positive sales growth via the digital platform,” testifies Ahuja.
Using digital expertise to build video conferencing solutions
Unleashing video conferencing solution during lockdown
Inscripts is a decade-old, Mumbai-based product development company that offers encrypted text and communication services to some of the largest companies globally. The company specializes in plugging-in communication services such as video and chat applications as an added feature within websites and platforms.
During lockdown and WFH, Inscripts extensively used video conferencing platforms, which came with its set of challenges. It was in one of the virtual meetings that CEO Anuj Garg realized that as a product development company the team had the right expertise to explore and build a video conferencing platform of its own.
“Forty-eight hours later, Say Namaste was born out of the need of having access to a ‘simple-to-use’ interface providing great user experience. While we developed Say Namaste for our internal consumption to get users’ feedback, we released the beta version to a select user base and before we knew it, the application went viral with thousands of downloads within 72 hours of the beta launch,” jubilantly expresses Anuj Garg, CEO, Inscripts.
Inscripts has been in the B2B space for 10 years now and with the launch of Say Namaste video conferencing product, the company forayed the B2C segment.
Anuj Garg, CEO, Inscripts, says, “With millions of people working from home, away from families and friends, collaborative tools such as video conferencing platforms were the only thread for many to communicate through this pandemic. While our product was initially launched only for internal use, we scouted the market and found that the consumption of video conferencing is on a rise, at the same time users were looking for an easy to use, secure platform with great user experience. We further built the product keeping the local sensibilities in mind as well as particular user behaviors and launched Say Namaste in the market.
Our Android and iOS apps launched in May and June respectively, have been trending in the top charts for the past few weeks on iOS & google play store, and Say Namaste continues to grow with over 1 million app downloads and hosts 50,000+ daily meetings on the platform.”
Garg has completely used the pandemic caused lockdown to his benefit. Earlier video conferencing was restricted to the confines of tech-savvy businesses only. Now as folks are forced to adopt and adapt to new behavior, there is a shift in consumption patterns and people have seen the tremendous cost and time-saving advantage by using video conferencing tools.
All these factors urged Garg to consciously build a new video conferencing application and now Garg sees Say Namaste emerging as a long term business vertical for Inscripts and his focus would be to provide a great experience for the product’s users and he intends to focus on building a secure privacy-first experience. Garg says his company is also in the process of building out and expanding the company’s team.
Accelerating from a basic event’s platform to building a virtual marketing universe
Launching in-house custom virtual platforms during COVID
Personalized and engaging experience creation has been core to Kestone’s service offering since its foundation. With core capabilities of event management, telemarketing, digital marketing & content marketing, Kestone was one of the few early players in the integrated marketing services space to offer comprehensive solutions, expand and evolve following market demands.
Piyush Gupta, President of Kestone, says, “Kestone has been doing digital events from the past five years but on different platforms. This had given us a lot of insights into the entire customer experience & feature sets for platforms present globally and the gaps that existed. We had started to pivot towards building our platform just before COVID -19 hit us. What this pandemic did was, it pushed us to accelerate as we realized that globally, with physical connect stopping for a long time, there will be a need to connect and engage virtually. The idea to launch the platform, which has been conceptualized and built in-house (completely), was to make it a part of the integrated offering where we continue to solve the sales & marketing problems and holistically address this crisis. Lockdown, social distancing norms further have rung a death knell for many and compelled them to hunt for an alternate medium to connect.”
And that large scale need to connect, pushed Gupta to bring out a virtual universe, fixing the huge market gap to stay virtually connected. Gupta claims that Keystone is for sure one of the first few integrated marketing organizations to have built such a kind of a platform in-house. Others have mostly tie-up with a tech firm or outsourcing it, says Gupta.
“Being in the marketing services business for over two-decades and delivering thousands of successful flagship events in India and beyond, we knew we had the necessary insights and knowledge bank to propagate a solution that would empower thousands of businesses across sectors especially in the COVID19 recovery period. We chose to assess this business opportunity and develop a solution that can cater to the market requirement extensively and introduced a highly engaging experiential business connect virtual platform,” believes Gupta.
By building in-house, Gupta views the biggest advantage as having control over the product. “We can tweak the product basis the needs of a customer, our solution has the experience of 23+ years of doing event management and our integrated solution (Tele, Digital, Content) is focused on solving problems,” says Gupta
Conclusion: Strike while hot
The pandemic has certainly taught global business force one big lesson: There is no waiting. Examples of companies that diversified are projected here as proof.
The iron has to be struck while hot. If diversification can turn a new page for the company, so be it! If new paths are needed to explored and treaded, there should be no stopping.