The days we are living are possibly among the most challenging we will ever live, in terms of economic and social uncertainty. The disruption of every semblance of normality we were accustomed to, has been compared to that brought about by war.
As persons of business, however, we are blessed with an ability to be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel shine much brighter than perhaps others and identify opportunity when others can only detect clouds. This is no different.
As Malta’s foremost representative body for businesses of all sizes, we have made it a point to be catalysts in this regard and enable our members as well as all members of the business community in Malta to rise up to the challenge, be more resilient in the face of these challenges and strive on.
In the past days, we welcomed the Government opening further parts of the economy to business as the situation is reportedly becoming increasingly stable from a medical point of view. This was extremely important as the Malta Chamber is adamant that as a country, we need to get creative to see how we can get as close to normality within the limitations and considerations we need to make to protect our vulnerable and each other.
We have said it in the past and it remains true, that this storm may not be over as soon as we wished it would. So rather than waiting it out and hoping to find a world we recognise waiting for us outside once its over, we need to be courageous and fashion ourselves the best protective gear we can muster and go out and continue with our lives.
We need to understand that the way we live our lives will change drastically, be it how we work, do businesses, sell our products, and so on. We must hence do all in our power to get ready for these changes and make sure that we are best prepared for them.
``We cannot wait for the storm to be over - we must learn to grow anew, today``.
— David Xuereb
President, Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry
Adapting to the new normal will entail re-thinking business models and strategies. It is now more essential than ever, that companies are incentivised to work hard to become more innovative and resilient in order to grow and develop further in a competitive international market with fast-changing dynamics.
As a Chamber we have continuously aimed to remain updated with the real situation on the ground at all times, keeping close contact with businesses but also communicating closely with all the relevant authorities on behalf of the business. We have conducted a number of surveys among the local business community, which have proven a pattern of results the businesses need wider support and more realistic guidance from the authorities in order to avoid further redundancies.
Most importantly, we have set up a Post Pandemic Strategic Group with the purpose of researching and developing various scenarios of how the post-pandemic business and social landscape might look. The Think Tank’s ultimate objective is to develop strategic initiatives which will need to be undertaken in the short, medium and long terms to address what many are calling the new normal.
This is why contingency planning and adaptation is crucial in these circumstances. The success of our businesses at this time of extraordinary challenge will all boil down to our resilience, our ability to adapt and ability to innovate. We must ensure that our businesses are aware of the opportunities that are arising in this new world, and use them to adapt and innovate.
I am always inspired by peoples around the world who live in areas which are characterized by adverse natural predicaments and yet, for centuries, they have still managed to create sustainable and productive lives for themselves and their families. In their resolve one often learns that these people have a very strong sense of belonging that ties them to the earth and motivates them to be creative. We ought to take a leaf from their book and do the same.
We cannot wait for the storm to be over – we must learn to grow anew, today.
Harnessing the Power of Tech
The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred innovative approaches that may not have been possible or particularly urgent before. Technology has been playing a critical role to many businesses trying to cope with new demands as a result of the crisis and for others seeking to adapt their approach to continue operating. In times of turbulence and uncertainty, it is important to remember the many positive ways in which technology is connecting people, educating children and entertaining families who are now forced to stay at home.
By mustering resources at its disposal and deploying technology, Malta has been able to mitigate the effects of the virus to a significant extent. Using healthcare as an example, technology has played a key role in revolutionising the healthcare system during the pandemic. From state-of-the-art robotic technology modernising the distribution of medicine to robotic machines which can process over 800 swab tests per day, Malta has really taken the bull by the horns and shown its capacity and determination to excel.
Looking at the current situation from any angle, we must accept that our way of living has changed and likewise the way we do business. Customer behaviour has changed drastically in the past 3 months seeing consumers adapt and learn new ways to affect their purchases. Businesses who were dependent on tourism or on a walk-in, physical purchases are suffering drastically and so are businesses whose offerings are concentrated only to our local market. The greatest lesson we have learnt is that we must operate with zero dependencies, remove geographical barriers to trade and become global. If the customer is not coming to you, then your business needs to set presence in the customer’s life, digitally. Invest today in having a digital presence, so that your business is discoverable globally for the sustainability of your future. Swift adaptation is key and the Maltese culture does not shy away from this capability. We are a nation of tradesman and have always made it through difficult times in history. Together we can see our businesses flourish again.
``We must operate with zero dependencies, remove geographical barriers to trade and become global. If the customer is not coming to you, then your business needs to set presence in the customer's life, digitally``.
— Dana Farrugia
CEO - Tech.mt
In relation to industry, Tech.mt has been instrumental in encouraging industries to go through the process of digitisation and get their businesses online, particularly through informative webinars and extending its contact details to all businesses in need of advice, support and information about available grants to tap into. In terms of educating children, educational systems that customarily did not use digital tools had to ramp up the digital transformation swiftly, with lessons moving to online platforms. Tech.mt has ensured that the transition to online learning is in fact done through a safe and responsible mechanism, thereby providing tips for educators for remote teaching, parents, carers and children.
With the pandemic exposing the digital divide across different segments of society, Tech.mt has also pledged its commitment to ensuring that those left behind continue to receive opportunities to be able to cope with the digital transformation COVID-19 has brought to bear. Informative online courses on smartphone usage for the elderly will also be launched in the coming weeks. Through its transformative and proactive values, Tech.mt continues to promote technology as a tool, a necessity to empowering digital innovation, connecting the digital supply chain and bridging the digital gap. We are doing our utmost to identify vulnerable people whom we can help through our resources, and I hereby reach out to you to get in touch with us if you know of someone whom we can help through training or re-skilling.
The new normal for business is a work in progress as the economy attempts to re-open following the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, technology will continue to advance exponentially, but businesses and societies need to accelerate in adapting and must continue investing in necessary technology solutions in a timely and systematic manner.