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The coronavirus pandemic can be viewed as nothing less than a war-like situation that global residents are battling presently, devoid of any discrimination in terms of location, social status and other facets. With people being confined to their respective houses and every physical contact preceding loads of sanitary precautions, the world is rising to a new normal. While everyone is talking about the new normal, all doesn’t seem normal for business houses, as they witness severe degree of inactivity across all sectors of the economy. From C-suite level employees to the ones belonging to the lowest rung of the hierarchy, problems have found a comfortable desk in every cubicle. Especially talking about the modest level employees, furloughs and layoffs have become industry norms, to the extent that it does not come at a surprise anymore.

Shifting focus from the obvious, the world has also been talking about ‘automation’ and aggressively, for quite some time. The idea of automation has become an area of fascination for industry leaders and enthusiast, who are looking out for ways to augment the efficiency of business operations. You got the cue right?

The COVID-19 pandemic will act as a catalyst in the process of global automation.

Sectoral Picks:

Automotive Sector:

The automobile space is already facing the heat with labour shortages and erratic presence, making it difficult for the auto players to maintain its operational shape. There are two important factors that are playing out in the concerned space. One, pent-up demand in the form of previous consignments and two, preference of personal mobility owing to social distancing norms. The see-sawing developments are forcing participants to look beyond the obvious and get back to the drawing board. The industry dynamics are changing and one can perhaps argue that they are taking a course for the better.

As far as the Indian automotive space is concerned, of late it has witnessed some serious developmental push in the form of electric vehicles. The Indian government has been fairly aggressive apropos to the overall promotion of such vehicles, connoting the way forward. Having said that, consumer sentiments seem to not be fully-charged. The plausible argument from their end could be infrastructural backing which in all regards is something to fret over. Various technology proto-typing and piloting is underway as the auto-players deal with the whims and fancies of shop-level labour. An important factor that can play out well for both the suppliers and the customers is standardization in the production process across geographies, augmenting parity over the board. 

Guidelines for automation in the sector across global
Guidelines for automation in the sector across geographies. Source: Markets and Markets  

E-tailers Sector:

The COVID-19 pandemic has made one realize the true importance of essential commodities, delivering cent percent justice to its name. To put things into perspective, if there is any space to be in right now, it’s the grocery business in general and electronic setups of the same in specific. The demand for groceries has hit the roofs, with companies not being able to fulfill orders due to capacity under-utilization. The outbreak of this pandemic turns out to be a pivot point for household brands who have always romanticized their age old business. The numbers indicate massive hikes in online delivery coupled with a spike in the average ticket size.

The automation that such companies are looking for is at the operational level. With a huge surge in the number of deals, physical deployment and packaging will dent the prospects of the concerned companies. However, there is a dichotomy problem that needs to be addressed in the business model of an e-tailer. The current demand scenario is driven by rural participants as compared to the urban ones, on the back of minimum retail disruption and influx of migrant workers and the players expect the trend to continue for at least this fiscal. Therefore, to roll out automation techniques in these backward regions will be a task as such folks will take time to get familiarized with the new automated methods at the ground level.

E-grocery boom for the two major Indian players  globally
E-grocery boom for the two major Indian players  

Banking Sector:

The way banking practices have changed over the course of the past 2 years is itself a major cue, as far as automation in the space is concerned. The camaraderie that technology is sharing with financial services is worth looking out for. The economic inactivity has not been a business deterrent for the banking players, but they have a massive task at hand, and that is to adapt to the paradigm shift. The of-late debacles that one has seen in the sector, raises the bar of caution. The regulators are aggressively trying to enhance transparency along with hassle free dealings with the various stakeholders. The fact that Financial Technology (Fintech) has made considerable progress over the concerned industry, delivers reasonable assurance in terms of the automated future of the banking sector.

The collaboration with robust technology strives to achieve inclusivity, ensuring communication of relevant information to all the stakeholders. The recent instances of money laundering and other unethical practices connote the prevalent disparity amongst the different parties and expose the need for heightened clarity. Besides FinTech, the sector is subject to a plethora of automation driven changes at the operational levels, in the capacity of negligible branch visits and better online facilitation of services.

FinTech infrastructural picture

FinTech infrastructural picture

My take:

The coronavirus pandemic has turned out be a pivot point for each and every industry, apportioning a greater degree of control in the hands of the consumers. With life changing, its time businesses to adopt the changes and more importantly for business leaders to be cognizant of the responsibilities vested upon them in order to shape the future. The present situation can be considered like a pause button for businesses worldwide and this gives them the leeway to go back to the drawing board and transform things for the better. The change that the heath crisis is ushering us into, is an eye-opener, both in terms of human-human relationship as well as human-automation relationship. However, one needs to think about the relevance of human capital in all walks of life, if one identifies the pervasiveness that technology brings along. Human beings are indispensible when it comes to cognitive decision-making but that needs to be supplemented with apposite up-skilling to survive the fight. If not now, then when?