Hani Khashoggi, co-founder, Advanced Solutions.

RIYADH — The spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) represents an unprecedented crisis that we have not witnessed since the end of World War II. Its presence has not only shocked mankind but has also ushered us into a new reality covering various levels and fields. As such, the economy remains to be one of the hardest hit segments by the virus — with an impact that was immediately felt worldwide.

Hani Khashoggi, co-founder, Advanced Solutions, said in this situation, it is quite clear that the repercussions brought about by this pandemic will not go away that easily. “The effect of the crisis will definitely be with us for a long period and will require highly effective strategies and directives to achieve continuity and growth, while also maintaining a strong sense of communication among stakeholders,” he pointed out.

In line with this, companies and organizations must now make quick decisions in developing and implementing strategic economic plans to address the crisis. The impact has affected both large companies and smaller family undertakings, which has resulted in revenue deficits and the accompanying fear of a future marked with great uncertainty and difficulty in setting expectations, Khashoggi said.

In order to survive this pandemic, companies and organizations will need to work closely with both the public and private sector, he stated. Some of the immediate steps to take include the application of governance in arranging internal issues and activating the role of directors and stakeholders through the holding of weekly meetings. These groups should also reinforce oversight and transparency to monitor performance and develop it in an integrated manner, he elaborated.

Moreover, he said the precautionary measures that have been implemented to address COVID-19 have served as a warning bell to companies reminding them of the need to hasten the pace of its digital transformation efforts and adopting newer technologies to meet business continuity and resume operations remotely during this time of crisis.

“An example of this preparedness can be seen in the many retail shops that have made key investments in digital technology and automated operations. They have managed to benefit from this, especially now that people are being urged to stay at home. Meanwhile, companies that did not keep pace with the requirements of digital transformation continue to face many difficulties — hindering their progress and continuity and leaving them with a large deficit,” Khashoggi said.

It is with these examples that prove technology has an essential role to play, offering integrated solutions to the current challenges, and paving the way for growth and prosperity in several sectors, particularly ecommerce.

To keep pace with the rapid developments and the changing market trends, retailers are required to embrace digitization and automation of services. “The tech-savvy youth of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) are now reshaping the demand landscapes and is making the Kingdom one of the world’s most robust markets for high-tech gadgets; relying heavily on ecommerce platforms and online payment methods to finalize their purchases,” he noted.

“As we struggle to face the impact made by COVID-19, the call to implement digitalization has become necessary, particularly in the move to maintain a strong foothold in today's markets,” Khashoggi stressed.

A company’s competitive advantage is subject to its adaptability — entities that have adopted digitization, maintained effective communication channels with their client base and offered their services online at an early stage of the pandemic, have managed to minimize the impact and even achieve growth and increase market share in some cases.

Khashoggi observed that while some business leaders believe that digitization is just a temporary necessity driven by the pandemic, market reality indicates otherwise. Businesses that are hesitant to go digital will have to pay a high price in the new economic landscape where success will be measured by innovation and adaptability.

Driven by the changing trends, major retailers in the region, particularly in Saudi Arabia, are expediting the digitization of their operations and services to maintain their presence, enhance their competitiveness and ensure customer satisfaction. Businesses are now adjusting their budgets based on the shift in priorities and are now moving towards adopting innovative solutions and applications to maintain market leadership in the time of a post-pandemic setting. — SG