COVID-19 SPECIAL

Fresh pastures in the Covid-19 economy: From supermarkets to remote-working tools

PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI, GAVIN FOO, TIMOTHY DAVID, ST FILE

While the pandemic has upended some businesses, it has boosted others like supermarkets and medical tech firms. Insight looks at the fresh pastures of the Covid-19 economy.


The challenge and the promise of the post-Covid-19 economy


An almost deserted Chinatown Complex. The post-Covid-19 economy will lead to a boom in e-commerce, says the writer. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Over the years, economists have talked of the "post-war economy", the "post-industrial economy" and the "post-Brexit economy". Now they are talking about the "post-Covid-19 economy".

It is not yet upon us - Covid-19 is still raging around the world.

But some of the contours of the economic future are already coming into view. And for Singapore, as for many other countries, there is both bad news and interesting possibilities.

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New economy will emerge from new normal after pandemic


PHOTO: ST FILE

The greatest global pandemic in over 100 years has created chaos, threatened lives and livelihoods and brought much of industry and commerce to a standstill.

While the pandemic has created uncertainty, it has also created new markets and opportunities for the post-Covid-19 era.

After all, this crisis has shown us how we can change the way we work and play.

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Home cooking whets increasing appetite for grocery shopping


Mr Denesh Kumar, Cold Storage Singapore's director of operations, has noted an increase in workload during each shift because shelves have to be restocked more often while cleaning frequency has increased. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Sectors across the economy are feeling the pinch amid the circuit breaker period. But supermarkets are bucking the downturn - by feeding the trend of households where families may now have little choice but to cook at home.

 
 

Demand has gone through the roof, with customers buying more, while extra staff have been hired to help with the rush and to restock shelves.

While most retail categories registered a double-digit decline in sales in March, when the coronavirus outbreak began to affect consumer sentiment, supermarkets and hypermarkets recorded a 35.9 per cent rise in sales compared with the same month last year.

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Home-grown firms linked to pandemic work will continue to attract demand, investments


MiRXES chief executive Zhou Lihan holding a Fortitude Kit. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

Singapore's expertise in the health and biomedical sciences that it has painstakingly built up over the years is paying off now, not just in helping the nation battle the coronavirus but also in providing a bright spot in the economy.

Ms Audrey Lok, director of health and biomedical at Enterprise Singapore, says home-grown companies involved in pandemic efforts continue to attract demand and investments from around the world.

Telehealth start-up Doctor Anywhere is one example.

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Spike in demand for gaming chairs, streaming services, meetings software



Secretlab's Ian Alexander Ang. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Zoom, Secretlab, Cast, SmartUC Mobile - tech terms that would have baffled most Singaporeans a month ago are now part and parcel of the nation's conversation as employees and students are forced to knuckle down at home.

Demand for such solutions has gone through the roof in recent weeks, but it is not all work and no play either.

Leading streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+ have seen huge spikes in global subscription numbers as people turn to them to stay entertained. Video game brands such as Sony's PlayStation and Microsoft's Xbox have also reported record levels of engagement around the world.

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More consumers, companies embracing tech



(Clockwise from top left) Singapore Fintech Association president Chia Hock Lai, DBS Bank consumer banking group head Jeremy Soo, OCBC Bank digital and innovation head Pranav Seth and UOB personal financial services head Jacquelyn Tan.

Digital banking was already gaining a strong foothold here but the lockdown is turbo-charging the process among individuals and businesses.

The trend is propelling more companies to adopt digital ways of working such as e-payments, which is giving fintech start-ups and other operators a leg-up amid the pandemic.

"The prolonged social distancing will shape consumer and business behaviour towards digital and across almost all age groups, not just millennials or those who are digitally savvy," notes Singapore Fintech Association president Chia Hock Lai.

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Dealmakers sifting through coronavirus slump for opportunities


Singapore's M&A activity has slowed down in most sectors amid the financial market volatility. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

President Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to pull the United States economy out of the Great Depression by launching the Buy Now Campaign in 1933 to encourage people to start spending instead of waiting for lower prices.

It is a bit too early to make a similar call now, but dealmakers worldwide - from investment bankers to private equity firms - are already seeking out opportunities in businesses that might emerge as the most resilient on the other side of the coronavirus-triggered slump.

All recessions end in time and give way to a period of recovery. Consolidation of businesses through mergers and acquisitions (M&A) is part of the process of repairing a broken economy.

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People still seeking financial, investment advice amid uncertainty


The pandemic has created great economic uncertainty, but people continue to invest and seek advice for managing their wealth. PHOTO: ST FILE

The pandemic has created massive economic uncertainty, but people continue to invest and seek advice for managing their wealth.

Wealth management experts say the key strategy is to have a diversified portfolio during the crisis, while exploring industries like technology that might do better after the outbreak.

Mr August Hatecke, UBS co-head for wealth management for the Asia-Pacific, says: "Now more than ever, clients need a trusted wealth management partner. We just experienced a fast and furious sell-off in markets, followed by one of the quickest rebounds ever in history. Our clients need our advice to understand how to navigate these markets. Are portfolios resilient enough to withstand a second wave? Our job as advisers is to help our clients protect their assets and to capture opportunities in the markets."

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