[TechSparks 2020] How COVID-19 accelerated the work-from-anywhere movement to create tech impact at scale
2020 will forever be remembered as the year when the world was brought to its knees by COVID-19. The pandemic changed human behaviour: houses became havens, sanitisers were the norm, and masks became commonplace.
Coronavirus reset several industries, such as commercial real estate, travel, and hospitality, and forced millions of people to work from home.
At TechSparks 2020, India’s largest and most influential startup-tech conference, panelists from Dell, Simpl, Cleartrip, and NoBroker deliberated on how COVID-19 had hastened the switch to technology for businesses of all size and how they ensured it was business as usual amidst the pandemic.
Venkat Sitaram, General Manager and Geo Head, South India, Dell Technologies, said, “During the pandemic, nothing but technology worked. Businesses have to embrace technology if they have to create impact at scale.”
Dell had 100,000 employees work from home overnight.
Apart from corporates, startups are also embracing technology to better engage customers during COVID-19.
A recent HBR report said companies had to arm their customer service reps with new tools to manage customer queries. The report added that managers had to coach their teams better for customer service to be successful during the pandemic.
Aditya Agrawal, head of corporate strategy at Cleartrip, said: “Startups and companies are embracing automation faster. When COVID-19 hit, we had to communicate with thousands of hotels, airlines, and customers that wanted to amend or cancel their travel plans.
“We have always used automation to communicate with our stakeholders. In customer service, we were able to use a combination of automation and manual intervention to help people redraw their travel plans."
The opportunity – and need – to go digital is high in all sectors, be it fintech or real estate tech.
India has 900 million bank accounts and a similar number of debit cards. However, there are less than 45 million credit cards.
Nitya Sharma, Co-founder of Simpl, said: “The use of cash has reduced, and we can use data from different sources and enable payments on a fortnightly basis.
"This is a major shift in behaviour and will have a massive impact going forward as all bills are consolidated as one bill for consumers. We are already in the open API world where collaboration can be very high and we can create new experiences for consumers."
Real estate, which had long relied on middlemen for rental agreements and sales, also got a digital makeover.
Saurabh Garg, Co-founder of NoBroker, said: “Today, 90 percent of rental agreements have gone digital. People are looking at properties online and deciding which one to go with. Just a few months ago, they would visit homes and then stand in line at government offices for a rental agreement.”
All four panelists told YourStory that building customer support was on the top of the priority list, especially when the entire workforce was at home. All the four companies deployed technologies that allowed their customer support and sales teams to receive calls at home. This meant infrastructure had to be set up and laptops, configured for the new normal, had to be shipped within day.
But all that – and the fact that there has been little letup in the spread of COVID-19, means that work from home is here to stay. Startups, enterprises, and corporates are experimenting and deploying tech to ensure this translates into the best customer experience.
For more information on TechSparks 2020, check out our TechSparks 2020 website.
TechSparks - YourStory's annual flagship event - has been India's largest and most important technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship summit for over a decade, bringing together entrepreneurs, policymakers, technologists, investors, mentors, and business leaders for stories, conversations, collaborations, and connections that matter. As TechSparks 2020 goes all virtual and global in its 11th edition, we want to thank you for the tremendous support we've received from all of you throughout our journey and give a huge shoutout to our sponsors of TechSparks 2020.
Edited by Teja Lele Desai