It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought fundamental changes to society, ranging from wearing masks becoming common etiquette to remote work and online classes being the new normal. Business gurus like to say that every crisis comes with opportunity. The question is where the business opportunities exactly are.
Earlier this week, an online seminar co-hosted by D.Camp, International Finance Corporation and World Bank tried to give clues about this important issue.
The participants of the webinar, including the World Bank Korea Office representative and prominent investors inside and outside Korea, said opportunities are popping up along the lines of a swift transition to digitalization. The most overt example is in Southeast Asia, where the digital economy is expected to grow to $500 billion by 2025, a forecast radically revised up.
“In 2016, there was an estimate that was made for 2025: it was about US$200 billion in the digital economy in Southeast Asia. That was revised last year to US$300 billion, according to a report by Google and Temasek,” according to David Gowdey, a founding partner at Southeast Asia-focused Jungle Ventures.
“New consumers who had previously not been adopting e-commerce are now adopting online channels and governments are working to drive digitization within businesses,” Gowdey added.
Kim Hong-il, head of the D.Camp, a nonprofit startup accelerator backed by the country’s financial institutions, also agreed that the world is shifting from real-world contact -- touch, offline and face-to-face -- to the connected world of the internet, online communication and smartphones.
Kim pointed out there are many “online” and “digital” services that still need humans along the process, but customers are blinded by dazzling buzzwords, such as concerning drones, artificial intelligence and robots.
“The disconnection between our perception and reality presents business opportunities that are still untapped.”
Kim added that startups are better players who can nimbly turn uncertainty into opportunities as compared to conglomerates that might be hindered by size, bureaucracy and institutional resistance.
“Startups frequently pivot their services and business models to match consumer needs for survival on a short-term basis. In other words, they are closely connected to consumers for the success of their businesses,” Kim added.
While discussing business opportunities, participants of the webinar warned on the digital divide and the poor who might be left out from the digital transition.
“So in the post COVID-19 world, we need to be more inclusive and resilient. Focus on job creation. Focus on the number and the types of jobs, as well as helping workers to learn the skills needed for those jobs. Promote resilience of societies, health care systems and economies against pandemics,” said Hoon Sahib Soh, special representative for the World Bank Group Korea Office.
Kim of D.Camp also said that disparity in our society, which has been further revealed due to COVID-19, might also offer business opportunities. “The disconnections and divides in our society represent imbalances in demand and supply in the economy. I believe innovation will occur when solutions to these disparities are found,” Kim noted.
To view the full online seminar, visit shorturl.at/hESU5.
By Park Ga-young (firstname.lastname@example.org)