The whole world is reeling from the deadliest pandemic of recent times. Death tolls have skyrocketed in many countries and the global economy to has had its foundations shaken.
ICE Business Times initiated the e-panel discussion to dissect the issues that various sectors are facing in this pandemic. We have attempted to engage with industry experts to learn about the prevailing conditions of the markets and the possible strategies for a way out.
FAIRS & EXHIBITION INDUSTRY
In a live panel discussion with ICE Business Times, Meherun N. Islam, President and Group MD at CEMS-Global and Faizul Alam Biddut, Managing Director at Savor International Limited shared their insights about the current situation. The Fairs and Exhibition industry contributes to trade and investment outcomes, innovation, jobs creation and visitation. In existing volume, it costs around $120 mil in Bangladesh. The industry is set to lose more than Tk 1500 crore.
However, most hard-hit will be the freelance workers who constitute the majority of the workforce in the industry. They are at the risk of being out of work for more than a year. The industry leaders have urged government support in these trying times. They believe, instead of cash incentives, tax rebating and VAT exemption will be more effective.
REAL ESTATE MARKET AND THE PROPERTY INDUSTRY
The real estate and the property industry are crucial sectors for the Bangladesh economy. The COVID19 pandemic has hit the sector hard and the fallout may last for years to come. In the e-panel discussion, The experts in the industry discussed the current crisis at hand and how the government stimulus package will save the industry and the millions employed in it.
The COVID19 has brought a lot of uncertainty in the real-estate sector. It can lead to a slump in sales by affecting people’ decision to invest. However, companies and stakeholders are not panicking and they are hopeful the industry will overcome the challenge. Concurrently, they are expecting some changes in dynamics. Due to new norms of social distancing, companies will look for larger offices. Consequently, the market might experience some form of price correction.
The experts have also suggested some amendments to revive the sector. The suggestions include increasing access to funds for consumers, reconsideration of the high registration charges and extension of the EMI period to 20 years.
The Bangladeshi Insurance Industry is maintaining constant communication through various digital channels. The mass adaptation of technology has made it easier for all the stakeholders to switch mediums at a very fast pace. From email to Zoom meetings, technology has become the core of the insurance industry. They put systems in place to provide 24/7 online services to clients in emergencies.
Green Delta Insurance Company Limited (GDIC) has conducted mental health sessions for its employees. They have also celebrated the 14 April program digitally to keep employees motivated. There are also leadership training sessions taking place to keep employees engaged. The company is trying to maintain positive energy not only among the employees but also the customers.
Guardian Life Insurance Limited (GLIL) has been diligent throughout the pandemic in ensuring exceptional client service. They have revised and adapted their whole modus operandi and the value delivery chain to ensure the best services for their customers and stakeholders. The first step was to let people know that “Guardian Life is open for business” and all the commitments made to the customers shall be kept under any circumstances. It was ensured via extensive internal and external communications using both traditional and digital channels.
MOBILE FINANCIAL SERVICES
Currently, all the MFS providers are facing a similar challenge. It has now transformed into the most important financial service in this lockdown. However, the MFS agents who facilitate cash services to people across the country are not being able to provide services because of the lockdown. They are facing a lot of operational challenges due to restrictions from the local authorities. Even though the central bank gave a directive to consider MFS as an essential service, there have been some irregularities in its implementation. This has resulted in certain impediments in our operations and has made communication between the agents and distribution channel even more challenging.
Ultimately it is hurting the consumers who are depending on such services now more than ever. Also, banking channels have become very restricted and in some areas, they are closed completely, restricted banking access is making MFS operations more difficult.
BRAND COMMUNICATION IN THE BANKING INDUSTRY
Brand communication teams in the industry are going through an extremely challenging period. They have increased responsibility to make customers aware of the situation regarding product and safety. Brand communications in banking are longer restricted to product and operations, they are also making the customers aware of the new social distancing regulations. The communications teams are also making customers aware of the alternate digital banking mediums that can be used to substitute or reduce the need to do physical banking.
Concurrently, they now have the responsibility to provide accurate information to clients and stakeholders as the intensity of fake news has increased during the lockdown.
The communication teams are also working closely with the employees who have to physically go to the banks to carry out transactions. It has been a pivotal tool to raise the morale of the employees who are risking their lives for the sake of our economy.
ICT SECTOR AND & DIGITAL INVESTMENT
Currently, the BPO sector is at the verge of becoming completely standstill. Both the international and local BPO scene are facing the same fate. In aggregate, the industry has quickly adapted to the work from home culture. They are making good use of the time saved by not having to be stuck in heavy Dhaka traffic. They have shown that it is possible to carry on operations completely remotely. Conversely, the employees of the companies are working extra hours to make up for the efficiency lost in working from home.
However, as the lockdown prolongs, Bangladeshi ICT companies are becoming more cash strapped as government and private firms are delaying paying their dues.
Correspondingly, Bangladeshi ICT companies which deal with international clients are facing a bigger crisis. 174 BASIS members work with international clients. An overwhelming number of clients are from Europe and the USA which are the hardest hit from the pandemic. In the period January-March, the ICT companies lost 72% of internal deals.
Finally, the industry is predicting that the current situation will prevail until a vaccine is invented and more and more workplaces are going to be digitalised. It is extremely important that the youth of our country develop the necessary skill sets required to accommodate themselves in the workplace of the future.