Leadership amid a pandemic and geopolitical firestorms
It has become clear that we will not be back to ‘business as usual’ anytime soon with many international borders, including Australia, remaining shut for the foreseeable future.
A year ago, the changes to the workplace brought on by Covid-19 were viewed as a temporary adjustment and something we needed to endure for a few months before the inevitable return to commuting, full offices and face-to-face meetings with customers, partners and suppliers.
As companies across Asia Pacific settle into the reality that things are not going to change very much, they need to shift their focus from temporary fixes to a fresh approach to their organisational strategy.
Sell more effectively
One thing that companies should be focusing on as the pandemic evolves is to sell more effectively and to put sales at the centre of their entire business strategy. They should be adapting the way their sales organisation goes to market to meet different customer priorities. Focusing on markets, products, capabilities and initiatives may have worked well enough in a good economy, but in a tight market, they should be looking at their sales function to win business.
Companies should leverage sales to discover and meet new customer needs. Even though APAC economies have tightened during the pandemic, it does not mean there are not new opportunities.
Covid has caused lifestyle shifts that have created new markets and sales prospects, including the technology, office supplies and food and beverage requirements of the droves of people now working primarily from home.
The fact that the CBD cafes are now quiet, but the suburban ones are packed tells you how things have changed. What new customer needs can local companies across APAC meet? This is an opportunity to learn about the issues that are driving or reducing the use of certain products over others. It will help them to determine what additional challenges they could help customers solve and then build a strategy that will capitalise on and adapt their offerings to those new needs.
Improve the sales experience
At the onset of the pandemic, many companies adapted by moving sales interactions to videoconferencing platforms like Zoom, MS Teams or Google Meet. But the longer-term opportunity is to rethink how to use these platforms to improve, not just sustain, the sales experience, creating value and providing differentiation with prospects and clients to make the whole experience more compelling.
APAC companies should consider new opportunities to help customers recognise issues and identify opportunities they had not considered. With video calls, it is easier than ever to involve remotely based subject matter experts, implementation or customer support staff and other functions earlier in the sales process to provide deeper expertise and greater insight. Videoconferencing also makes it easier to involve company leaders with customers that would not usually attend face to face customer or prospect meetings to address any challenges and to provide higher-level connections.
Seek out acquisition opportunities
Despite the pandemic creating a real sense of panic, we are well used to crises in the technology sector, think the 1987 stock market crash, the post Millennium Bug IT spending slump and even the 2008 financial crisis. Crises create either volatility, a market disconnect or interruption or a lack of supply and demand of transactional capacity.
The pandemic caused volatility and a market disconnect but did not drastically diminish a supply of capital or demand of transaction activity. There was a bit of a pause in the initial months, but then the mergers and acquisition environment recovered a lot quicker than expected and deals were being done right left and centre.
Managing the geopolitical firestorms affecting Australian businesses
The relationship between China and Australia has seen its fair share of differences, but it has become increasingly tetchy in the past year after we requested an investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 virus in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Added to this, our opinions about the political unrest in Hong Kong since 2019 has been unwelcome by the Chinese Government. This ongoing tension and anti-government sentiment always generates side effects for any business and has influenced many foreign companies like us with headquarters and offices in Hong Kong to consider temporary relocation of major assets and key operations.
And now a potential conflict with China over the independence or otherwise of Taiwan could test the already volatile relationship with Australia to the limit. Since China is one of our biggest trading partners, it is fundamentally important not to hastily misjudge their good trading history with Australia by throwing the toys out with the pram. We need to provide both Hong Kong and China the much needed time to adjust and settle in and work together.
Prospering in our new reality
The consumer reality has changed dramatically over the past few year; Australian and other APAC companies now need to take advantage of the opportunities and mitigate both the pandemic driven and geopolitical risks.
Businesses need to continue to articulate their commitment to customer safety and respond to the consumer demand for value for money and ease of buying online, by more deeply understanding the needs of their new customers they will prosper in our new reality.
Rainmaking + ESG Launch Supply Chain Resilience Accelerator
Rainmaking, one of the world’s leading corporate innovation and venture development firms that create, accelerate and scale new business, has partnered with Enterprise Singapore (ESG), a government agency that champions enterprise development, to launch Singapore’s first ‘Supply Chain Resilience Accelerator’.
The new programme will unite startups and enterprises to boost scalable technology solutions that help fuel supply chain resilience by addressing pain points in transport and logistics.
Over the last 13 years, Rainmaking has launched 30 ventures totalling US$2bn, including Startupbootcamp. Having invested in over 900 startups that have raised more than US$1bn, Startupbootcamp is one of the world’s most active global investors and accelerators.
The new programme looks to help build more resilient supply chains for Singapore’s burgeoning network of startups by leveraging its advantageous position as a global trade and connectivity hub. As part of the Supply Chain Resilience Accelerator programme, no less than 20 startups with high-growth potential will have the opportunity to become a part of Singapore’s vibrant ecosystem of startups.
Calling Supply Chain Solution Startups!
The programme will kick off with an open call for startups who specialise in supply chain solutions for end-to-end visibility, analytics, automation and sustainability.
Applicants will then be shortlisted and receive nurturing from Rainmaking, fostering valuable engagements with corporates to drive scalable pilots with the aim to stimulate investment opportunities.
“Covid-19 exposed the fragility of global trade, and the Supply Chain Resilience Accelerator is our opportunity to spot weak links and build back better. Piloting outside tech can be an incredibly efficient way to test viable solutions to big problems, provided you de-risk and design for scale. Our programme does precisely this by helping corporate decision-makers and startups to work on compelling business opportunities, anticipate operational risks, and ultimately co-create solutions fit for wider industry adoption,” said Angela Noronha, Director for Open Innovation at Rainmaking.
Pilots will run from Singapore, with the objective that relevant organisations may adopt successful solutions globally. To that end, Rainmaking is currently engaging with enterprises specialising in varying industry verticals and have expressed interest in partnering.
“Even as we continue to work with startups and corporations all over the globe, we are so pleased to be anchoring this program out of Singapore. With a perfect storm of tech talent, corporate innovators, and robust institutional support, it’s the ideal launchpad for testing new solutions that have the potential to change entire industries. We look forward to driving the transformation with the ecosystem,” added Angela Noronha.
One of the first selected corporate partners is Cargill, a leader in innovating and decarbonising food supply chains.
"Cargill is constantly exploring ways to improve the way we work and service our customers. Sustainability, smart manufacturing and supply chain optimisation are key areas of focus for us; exploring these from Singapore, where so many key players are already innovating, will help us form valuable partnerships from day one. We look forward to joining Rainmaking and ESG on this journey to work with, support, and grow the startup community by keeping them connected to industry needs,” said Dirk Robers, Cargill Digital Labs.
In order to raise awareness on the importance of building resilience and how technology can be leveraged to mitigate risks of disruption, industry outreach efforts will include fireside chats, discussions and demo days.
In July, Rainmaking will host a virtual insight sharing event for innovation partners as well as a ‘Deal Friday’ session that connects businesses, investors, and selected startups with investment and partnership opportunities.
Programme events will also benefit Institutes of Higher Learning by offering exposure to how advanced practitioners leverage new technologies to transform traditional supply chain management and share real-world case studies and lessons learned, better equipping next-gen supply chain leaders.
“As an advocate of market-oriented open innovation, we welcome programmes like the Supply Chain Resilience Accelerator, which aims to help companies resolve operational pain points, strengthen supply chain resilience and spur growth in a post-pandemic world. With a strong track record in driving open innovation initiatives for the transport and supply chain industry, we believe that Rainmaking’s in-depth knowledge of the ecosystem and network of global partners can complement Singapore’s efforts in accelerating our business community’s adoption of tech-enabled tools, to better manage future disruptions and capture opportunities arising from shifts in global supply chains. This will in turn help to strengthen our local ecosystem and Singapore’s status as a global hub for trade and connectivity,” said Law Chung Ming, Executive Director for Transport and Logistics, Enterprise Singapore.