At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has upended every social and financial system in South Africa, on VIA’s (DStv 147) new magazine show, Besigheid Wat Saak Maak, presenters Rozanne McKenzie and Anton Schmidt are looking at how businesses are rapidly adapting to the crisis. They’re sharing stories of businesses and business owners who have made, and continue to make, a big difference in South Africa and in their communities.

“What we want to bring home is the thought that business does matter, even now with COVID-19,” says Anton. “We don’t only focus on the product, but the people behind the product and the business.” Rozanne adds that viewers will see how companies have adapted and innovated with COVID-19 and are now doing business… not quite as usual. “They had to find new ways to promote their products and their business,” she says.

From office to online

One of the biggest COVID-19 adaptations has been in the rapid change from working at fixed locations, to working online. Anton is impressed with how companies have managed to carry on through adverse circumstances. “With lockdown in place and movement of people restricted, most companies now work from home. Their workers’ setup is at home and they have to use social media and other online platforms for doing business and bringing their products to the customer.”

Rozanne also remarks on the online-driven strategy: “Companies are making sure that they deliver essential goods to customers like food and other products. They do this online, and I think this is going to be the new normal. Some companies can even do consultations online without actually going to see a client. Businesses are thinking on their feet and changing the way they deliver a service.”

Some of the innovative ideas Rozanne has seen are restaurants that are now doing home deliveries. “There are also catering companies compiling online recipe books that people can buy. And personal trainers and gyms have set up online training programs people can subscribe to.”

The new face of brands

Besigheid Wat Saak Maak showcases the people behind the business – what motivates them and what insights they have to offer. And more than ever, the human face of the company matters. Managers, owners and especially workers are now becoming part of the brands through social media. Rather than just seeing a brand, customers now interact with the people behind it. “Social media drives business as people can now see who they deal with,” says Anton.

Rozanne explains that this approach has become necessary to bring products to customers in a non-traditional way when they don’t want to risk exposure by browsing in a shop. But it’s also an opportunity to humanise the business by highlighting the people who depend on it for an income. “Online marketing plays a big deal in these uncertain times. Businesses have to think out of the box to advertise their products, and most do this by using online platforms. People need to understand that behind every business is a person who needs to receive an income and feed a family. If companies do effective online marketing, it means that employees will have a job and consumers get their products.”

The new normal

Rozanne and Anton agree that there is little that companies can do to weather the storm but to adapt and use new business models. “Companies must try to save money where possible. I think 2021 is going to be an interesting year for businesses because COVID-19 is not going to go away. It’s going to be with us for a long time,” says Anton. “Social distancing is going to be with us for some time to come. There will not be meetings like we used to know – this will now be done online using Zoom, Teams or Skype.”

Anton and Rozanne are aware that the entertainment industry in particular has taken a heavy blow, since mass gatherings have been banned. But even here they are starting to see a move. “Artists won’t be able to perform in front of people anymore. No concerts or any gatherings. We’ll need to get used to that idea and adjust,” says Rozanne. She points out that their new normal might be online concerts, where customers can buy tickets to watch shows online – which stand-up comedian Schalk Bezuidenhout is already giving a try. “This is an innovative idea of making money and keeping the brand alive,” says Rozanne.

Tune in to find out how other businesses are thinking their way out of lockdown, keeping South Africa’s wheels turning and meeting the challenges of COVID-19 with quick thinking, passion and innovation.

Watch Besigheid Wat Saak Maak S1 from Saturday, 30 May on VIA (DStv 147) at 08:30. Repeats on Tuesdays at 21:30, and Wednesdays at 09:30.

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