Sustainable Transformation Should Inspire Post-Pandemic Business Recovery
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Communities in the Gulf are starting to cautiously open back up, and that is a positive sign for regional economies to begin bouncing back from COVID-19. Sustainability will be a key component in the post-pandemic recovery, and governments around the region have already set a good example of this. The UAE, for instance, has recently undergone an ambitious government restructuring that has seen several ministries and federal agencies merged to create a more efficient, agile public sector.
This is something that those of us in the private sector can certainly be inspired by in the months to come. In April, around 70% of Dubai businesses feared that they could go bust in six months due to the financial problems brought about by COVID-19. While that sentiment has likely improved since April, it ultimately shows us that UAE business leaders will need to transition from immediate crisis response to reinvesting in smart and lean operations as part of a long-term sustainable transformation.
This will first and foremost require private businesses to revisit their short- and mid-term strategies to properly repurpose their resources- finding innovative ways to run an even more efficient business. A common misconception is that “efficiency” means “employee redundancies.” That does not have to be the case. The key is to optimize existing assets to uncover new value, and human resources are equally as important in this context as technologies, infrastructure, and so on.
Let’s look at the retail industry as just one example. With more UAE businesses and particularly SMEs still dependent on e-commerce channels, how can we use the existing bandwidth of our transportation infrastructure, combined with technologies such as robotics and the internet of things, to better support them in deliveries and supply chain management as a whole? Could this be the time, given the amount of investment in the local SME sector, to develop a more focused fund dedicated to helping qualifying SMEs to thrive online?
When it comes to talent, the UAE also has many skilled workers within the country’s retail sector. As some are transitioning between jobs, can they be reskilled to meet the demands of newly sought-after areas such as e-commerce, rather than businesses needing to search beyond the UAE for new talent? Additionally, now is the time to permanently adopt more creative and modern working methods. The pandemic has demonstrated the successes of working from home and flexible scheduling for certain jobs, creating new efficiencies without any actual investment from employers.
These and other scenarios are being addressed in the UAE today through public-private partnerships. Indeed, there is a lot that the private sector can learn from public policies. While these solutions are being experimented with, an era of smarter, leaner business will come even faster if we can work together to optimize our existing assets, technologies, and most importantly, talent.