Coronavirus forces businesses, unis to adapt

Coronavirus forces businesses, unis to adapt

COMMENT
Agribusiness
RAPID RESPONSE: Like many businesses, universities have had to make rapid changes in recent weeks, shifting to online courses wherever possible.

RAPID RESPONSE: Like many businesses, universities have had to make rapid changes in recent weeks, shifting to online courses wherever possible.

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Some sectors of agriculture have to be quite agile to remain front and centre in their customers' minds.

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Some sectors of agriculture have to be quite agile to remain front and centre in their customers' minds.

Wine companies are one example. Other agribusiness such as graingrowers and commercial livestock producers tend to produce a more commoditised product. In their case, marketing is still very important, but not so much the branding of the particular producer.

A few months ago I wandered into the local barber shop and was pleasantly surprised to see a wine tasting being offered. I quizzed the business owner, and he told me he had done a deal with a local winery to promote their product. It was also a way to differentiate his business from the competition.

Given recent events around the forced closure of businesses such as dine-in cafes, many businesses have had to change their operating model in order to adapt.

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The alternative scenario is quite dire. There is no doubt there will be extremely tough times ahead for businesses that have been forced to curtail activities.

These cafes I am talking about have been quite good at marketing their changes - mostly online - and garnering community support. The vast majority of them are offering takeaway options and home delivery.

I imagine that behind the scenes there are frantic discussions with banks and landlords to try and keep the overheads as low as possible.

Another sector that has had to close altogether is gyms. I follow one fitness business quite closely and they have taken the forced closure in their stride. In this case, the owners are eternally positive people who have built up a strong community and have already worked out what's next.

In this case, they have allowed members to borrow gear from the gym. They are in the process of uploading videos and information on workouts that can be done at home, and gym members have already started sharing their workouts online.

Likewise, universities have had to change the way they deliver courses. I know this first-hand, as I am on the back end of a law degree.

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The universities have transitioned to an online platform quite quickly. The tools have been there to do this for quite a while, but for whatever reason, they haven't chosen to embrace a new style of teaching.

This style suits someone like me just fine, and hopefully the universities leave this in place in the future for those students who prefer this model. There are, of course, other degrees that are much harder to deliver online, and these will always have to be taught with a more hands-on approach.

I am sure the health crisis will throw some curveballs that will also affect the agricultural sector. In some ways it is a chance for the savvy agribusinesses to observe how other businesses have had to adapt out of necessity.

There may be some innovations that agribusinesses can weave into their business model that will help them through this crisis and into the future.

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