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Impact is Real: Business Trends, Changing Dynamics & Opportunities in the COVID era



The recent pandemic as some say has created a level playing field in most of our lives. Entrepreneurs were (and are) staring at a never-imagined black swan. Brick and mortar business models suffered; while some tech enabled products and SaaS faced a good problem at a very bad time. Lack of funds hit both these almost in the same way. One segment was facing extinction while others were reckoning their biggest opportunity in front of them.

Entrepreneurs, new and serial alike, have done well in general. Some understood the essence of survival vs growth while some did not shy away from temporary pivots to ensure their ship stays afloat. They embraced Darwin’s theory to the T and have navigated treacherous waters successfully. Albeit some have perished, we see a lot of rejuvenated and reinvented business models and approaches to entrepreneurship on the ground. Acceptance of shock helped many to understand the situation perfectly and once given the opportunity to resume, most fought back. Our portfolio companies Quodeck, Oizom and 5C Networks were generous enough to share the insights on how they managed this time, and how they changed to adapt.

Impact on Overall Business

Ringing true to the popular idiom it has been the ‘spring of hope and the winter of despair’. Quodeck founders have been reignited with belief, experiencing a significant increase in interest as a content-tech platform. Essentially a digital platform that lets companies broadcast content to a geographically distributed workforce, Quodeck has been an instant hit with expanding ‘work-from-home’ culture.

Oizom Instruments, an Internet of Things (IoT) startup working on curbing pollution, has faced the darker realities of the pandemic. The startup’s co-founder Ankit Vyas shared how most of the development projects have got on the backfoot due to COVID-19. For the decision-makers at 5C Networks that connects the five stakeholders of radiodiagnosis — doctor, radiologist, patient, technologist and hospital, their confidence has kept them rooting for their value proposition. ‘We kept an eye on managing customer relations and supporting them through tough times,’ the founders add, speaking of the initial lockdown days when their business saw a fall by over 65%. As things started opening up, their resilience met its reward in a demand-spike and eventually they reached 150% of pre-COVID highs.

Opportunities

Hopes of flatter curves have grown parallelly with innovative solutions to adapt to the change. While physical movements have gotten restricted, virtual networks have only increased. Our portfolio companies echo the same sentiment, just like Quodeck: that accessing international markets has become a lot easier now. This has led to higher demands, with their team performing better, faster and with less infrastructure than before. Though as a young team complete remote-working hasn’t been easy, seeing their clients become more open to evaluating products online has kept them focused. Their strategy has been to distribute content at scale and speed, which then drives the interest for and adoption of this content. Unlike Quodeck, 5C Networks has used this time to reflect on its internal management system. Time and effort have been invested in clearly drawing out and executing the product roadmap. Product-focused plans during the lockdown have led to the testing of many new features and their deployment by the team. Colliding with opportunity in the IoT sector, Oizom Instruments’s IoT based Fever Screening system has been a recent addition to tackle the aftermath of the pandemic. Its record-keeping feature has become a much sought-after solution for COVID-Compliances.

Business models & Team

When COVID-19 hit, many in the entrepreneurial ecosystem anticipated their businesses would require restructurings and sustainable changes in their long-term models. Now, these predictions are being seen in practice. Some practices have a temporary life, while other changes are being seen as a part of the changing world going forward.

‘Work from home,’ Quodeck founders feel is here to stay, likely becoming a permanent feature in addition to a skeleton physical infrastructure. Such working choices have led to improvisations in the way projects are being monitored by the Quodeck team. Tech tools have come to the rescue — to plan collaboratively and track their daily tasks. The real-time tasks and tracking has allowed the managing team to better monitor and control the direction of their work. ‘Last six months,’ at Quodeck have been all about ‘increased usage load by clients, extensive internal tooling, upgrade of their entire content creation technology, analytics engines and backend optimizations…’ summaries the founders.

Speaking as an example for short-term changes, Oizom Instruments sees their fever-screening innovation as the need of the hour, a contextual gain rather than a long-term commitment. The team will be relentlessly pushing for the IoT Fever Screening Solution (FEVO — www.fevo.io) as much as possible to compensate for the shortfall in revenue due to the pandemic. Their demographically diverse team responded with ease to the ‘work from home’ model; they already had software-driven processes in place before the pandemic, thus making it easy for everyone to adapt to the task-oriented work-method.

5C Networks team sees their effort to improve and put in place new clinical excellence processes initiated during the pandemic, as long-term sustainable business models that they wish to continue post the pandemic. Elaborating on their teamwork the founders proudly disclose, ‘The team at 5C has been incredible; all teams — finance, customer service, sales, product, quality control brought their A-game every day. We found ways to collaborate and get the work done online. Our sales team has become much more experienced in technology and bringing in new deals remotely.’

Words to remember

Overall, teams feel they have a far more performant culture today. And this is likely to increase — evident from their forthcoming plans! 5C Networks is all set to execute their product vision and expansion strategy. Helping them in this is the team of eight, hired recently. In the encouraging words of the founders of Quodeck, ‘There’s light at the end of every tunnel. Hang in there.’ A time to adapt runs beside the time to reorient and bet on a trend that you personally think is here to stay — to be flexible enough to survive the new world. Extending on these nuggets of wisdom for the aspiring minds is the concluding lines of Oizom founder, ‘Cash is the king. Agility is the saviour.’

In polite honesty, it is a business only if it stays.

It will be very exciting to see what new innovation is in store for the next 18–24 months. We see a lot of tailwind in some sectors such as Edutech, Healthtech and SaaS (general). There seems to be faster adoption of AI, Robotics & Automation in many applications in areas such as logistics, supply chain, and public infrastructure (civic/urban tech). We end our note in hope, and an inspiring line, one of the founders shared with us — ‘It is not the critic who counts…because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds…who spends himself in a worthy cause…’


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