BigFive Virtual Summit Recap: Winning in a Post-Pandemic World

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This Virtual Summit session features a discussion with thought leader Herman Singh, the CEO of Future Advisory and author of the new book “Di-Volution”, on how the pandemic is reshaping the business landscape. 


In Herman’s own words, he is best known as a disrupter and change agent in the banking and telecom industries. He has held senior strategy roles at MTN and Standard Banks. He’s also a university lecturer and non-executive director at multiple African and Middle Eastern companies. 


Our conversation with Herman centered on doing business during the Covid-19 pandemic. We discussed winners, losers, and what he believes to be the path to success for SMEs. Singh left us with his predictions on when normalcy will return and what has changed for good. Singh has a sobering, yet well supported and insightful take that shouldn’t be overlooked.


A Great Time for Entrepreneurship

Charles opens by asking Singh if saw any ‘silver linings’ to the current climate for SMEs. Interestingly he thinks now is a particularly great time to start a business, or take your small business global. Barriers to entry are lower than ever, and digital tools for creating e-commerce sites, for example, are cheap and easy to use.


Singh’s advice for new entrepreneurs is to offer solutions to remote workers and businesses who need help to re-skill, run digital conferences, and adapt to any of the newly digitized aspects of the workplace. He contends these areas offer immense opportunity.


No ‘Old Normal’ for Travel Industry 

Herman’s outlook was far grimmer for the travel industry. Singh predicts they will never again see the revenues they had reported over the past three years. 


He believes that companies will drastically curtail travel or eliminate it altogether. Conducting meetings virtually is cheaper, more risk-averse, and has no real negative impact, Herman argues. Meanwhile, doing business in person, once thought to be essential, will now be tough to justify.   


Singh shares his observation of an ominous trend in Greece, where seaworthy cruise ships are being taken apart for scrap metal and airplanes in flying condition are being scavenged for parts. Significant capabilities are leaving and likely for good. 


In the United States, he reported that around 35,000 hotels are projected to close this year and a lot of corporate real estate will be hitting the market. Offices that were once full of people who were there just to be seen will become another unjustifiable expense for many. Singh predicts a lot of repurposing for these spaces, likely heavy on distribution centers and warehouses.


A Lost Decade

Towards the end of the discussion, Singh provided his timetable for a “return to normal”. He thinks this is essentially a lost decade but see’s three to five years as a possible recovery timeline. Nothing was sugar-coated. However, Singh’s insights include plenty of light at the end of the tunnel.  


You can view the full interview from our Virtual Summit here:

 


Key Insights from Herman

Covid has exposed the social cracks, and leveraged those cracks open.”


“Overall, if you’re a tech company, or if you have tech in anything that you do, you have an opportunity to really go global and you really should seize it, and seize it now.”


“Generally, I think it’s three years until we see free movement again…But the high street, we could be seeing anything between five to 10 years before we get anywhere near to where we were.…my personal view is that it’s a lost decade and we just need to batten down the hatches and push through.”

 


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