How Startups Will Weather the COVID19 Crisis and Meet the Needs of Tomorrow's Customers?

An alumnus of XIM Bhubaneswar and NIT Rourkela, Partha integrates a deft understanding of the evolving contours of technology and insightful business learning. He has held several key positions in ITC Limited, Tata Steel and Olam International

While the COVID19 pandemic has been harsh on all verticals of the economy, it has been particularly severe for startups. While 30-40% of tech startups have either temporarily halted operations or are closing down, 70per cent of tech startups have a runway of fewer than three months, and several projections forecast a 4-5per cent contraction of the GDP for the FY20-21. Therefore, startups need to adopt a dual-lens of providing short-term operational solutions to problems facing their customers and a long-term strategic route for targeting customer growth opportunities.

Opportunities for Startups Emerging from the New Realities of COVID-19
For startups to thrive, they need to create relevant solutions that unlock the logjam in the revenue pipelines of their customers. Startups need to pivot their short term offerings on the digital transformation of their customers' business processes, workflow, collaboration models, and customer engagement models and can grow their business by addressing the certain pressing challenges.

Startups need to pivot their short term offerings on the digital transformation of their customers' business processes, workflow, collaboration models, and customer engagement models

Cloud-Hosted Applications to Enable Location Agnostic Collaboration
Amidst the need for people to stay indoors, businesses find it challenging to stay connected to their people. The gaps in collaboration slow down the speed of decision making, customer outreach, and engagement. Startups can partner with businesses to empower them with cloud-hosted software applications that make collaboration faster, easier, safer, and more efficient.

SaaS solutions that allow multi-tenant subscriptions, offer scalability, and are priced on metered-billing can enable businesses to achieve better synchronization with their people and customers while also allowing them to decide on the rate of usage and costs involved.

Focus on Robotic Process Automation to Ensure Continuity of Business Processes
The reset in crossborder economic partnerships and employee health and well being may be inflection points in the automation journey of many industries. Startups can partner with enterprises to pivot the management of diverse business processes and functions on robotic process automation.

Startups can provide intelligent automation solutions for functions like indirect procurement, billing, invoicing, customer support services, purchase, and consumption reconciliation of inventories. Doing so shall keep the flow of business processes unhindered, even in the face of staff shortages and little to no access to brick and mortar infrastructure.

Leverage Digital B2B Commerce to Create New Sales and Distribution Models
Traditional models of sales and distribution have borne the brunt of risks emanating from travel and mobility, thus impacting revenue streams of businesses across industry verticals. Startups can partner with their customers in the enterprise and MSME segments to navigate them towards new models of sales and distribution by providing innovative digital B2B commerce solutions.

Doing so, they can unlock stagnant revenue pipelines, facilitate agile cash flow for their customers, and create new opportunities for themselves.

Provide Enhanced Payment Gateway Security and Data Protection Solutions
As more businesses look to onboard the digital B2B commerce bandwagon, questions regarding payment gateway integration and security, data privacy, and cybersecurity are likely to emerge. Startups have an opportunity to partner with businesses to innovate enhanced IT infrastructure that shall be required to support industrial e-commerce. Startups can play a pivotal role in creating a holistic digital ecosystem for e-commerce to flourish.

AI-Driven Procurement Solutions to Leverage the Fall in Input Prices
One of the few opportunities emerging from the pandemic for manufacturing enterprises is the fall in industrial supplies' prices on the back of weak aggregate demand. Startups can partner with manufacturing enterprises to provide AI-driven procurement solutions to map the trajectory of input prices to enable better decision making on advance purchases to avoid steep inflation that is likely to set in, once the pandemic shows signs of finally slowing down.

Gearing Up Startups Through COVID19 and Beyond for A Connected Future
The pandemic is likely to motivate businesses to localize diverse processes such that the resources, materials, and people are available at an arm's length as and when needed. Digital security and data privacy are likely to be in focus as businesses look to migrate from offline processes for physical tasks to online processes to facilitate collaboration while remote working and work from home.

Startups have an opportunity to partner with their customers and create connected teams, value chains, and supply chains of the future and offer technology-driven solutions that augment trust-building, security, and transparency. From reimagining the factory as a service (FaaS) with the internet of things (IoT), sensors and chips for machine-to-machine communication to enabling low-touch delivery to the end customer, startups shall have the opportunity to offer solutions to connect the dots that integrate the real economy with digital platforms.