Yes, I know that pretty well. You all might have been fed up with this word “Covid-19”. However, this never seems to get away because we have to accept that it has taken up a heavy toll upon the lives of people in the whole world. This name bears just a small number- 19; but it's outspread has made a devastating effect upon the lives of people, with a death toll of more than a million and still counting. Not only on the health of the people but also on the economic progress of the whole world, Covid-19 has posed a threat that the recovery of the recession seems unlikely to appear soon, as the vaccine we all need is yet to be discovered. Well, fingers crossed! Hope that the wait for the good news would end sooner.
Covid-19 has taken its toll in Nepal too. From the beginning of the year 2020, we had been anxious, if this disease would just enter into our country and outspread like an epidemic. No wonder, this obviously happened. And we went on till the second phase of lockdown to curb the further spread. Many people returned to their home, leaving their work. This led to the slowdown of economic activity for more than 5 months. Even I had been working remotely since these nearly 8 months, encroached at my own room. The work-from-home concept has spread even faster than Covid. Fortunately, I belong to the service industry. However, for those toiling hard for factories and manufacturing houses to solve daily hand-to-mouth problems, their lives seem difficult.
News of people not getting able to feed their families due to job losses is just painful. At some point, watching the news, looking at daily media briefing about the disease in the country, keeping updates about WHO guidelines felt too hard to resist. You might also have felt the same. On the other side, the economic downturn had just started. More than 15% of SMEs were on the verge of shutting down. With the toppling effect on “Visit Nepal Year 2020”, the pandemic hit hard on our tourism, hospitality and airlines at large. This seems a long way, but there’s a ray of hope in every living mind that this will soon be over.
Okay, let’s not keep you under the melancholy for long. I’m not here to just focus on what’s gone. Let us look towards what’s coming up. No doubt Covid-19 has been the worst nightmare for businesses like hotels and tourism this year but some businesses boomed during this period. Yes, you got it right! As you must have known that everything has its own pros and cons, this disease too has been a boon for some businesses in Nepal, which fortunately have made greater deals amidst the crisis. Here are some of them based upon my observation.
- Online Learning
Video interaction for meetings or study purposes has been a part of our lives these days since the social distancing protocol has been implied in many countries under the WHO guidelines. Online meeting platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams have made work-from-home as well as study-from-home easier for us. Among all, Zoom has been the most used video interaction app when Covid was at its peak in the whole world. Within a time span of 4 months (Dec 2019-Apr 2020) Zoom’s meeting participants skyrocketed from 10 million to 300 million, which made its valuation more than the world’s 7 biggest airlines!
This posed a threat to other companies too and we can now experience screen sharing, and meeting room options in Facebook messenger too.
Similarly, many colleges and schools have adopted the new norm- online learning. Gone are the days of waking up early to college for a time being! I personally feel that because I had to wake up early to catch a bus at 4:45 AM. What a relief! And most importantly, “webinars” has been the talk of the town. By the way, how many webinars did you attend during these 8 months?
- E-commerce and Fintech
The concern of people towards their safety while making purchases has led the e-commerce businesses to thrive for new things, more of a comfort to the customers than to look for merely their profit. This one has really got the hype during Covid in Nepal. E-commerce platforms like Sastodeal, Daraz, UG Bazaar etc. have got an increase in both sales and customers in this time frame. This year, many of the e-commerce platforms have been doing wonders in the country. (Ignore the news of custody of some entrepreneurs!) Some of the achievements are:
- UG Bazaar became the first social E-commerce platform with its mobile and web app.
- It seemed both sad and amazing at a time that on 13th of October, the website of Sastodeal crashed due to huge orders. Similarly, India’s popular Flipkart entered Nepal through Sastodeal.
- Again, Sastodeal has received 1 million Dollars in funding from Dolma Impact Fund, which is supposed to be used towards reaching Sastodeal’s target or achieving Rs 1 Billion in annual revenue by the end of the year 2021.
- Online food delivery platform like Foodmario started its unit FoodPlus to deliver raw foods and other essentials.
- Ride sharing platform Tootle has started its new product “Tootle Cabby”, to serve their customers to ride by car as well.
- Daraz’s 11.11 sale is going on big hits.
Besides that, using digital wallets has almost been a commonplace for many financial transactions, be it with top up recharge, utility payments or banking transactions. Digital payment services like eSewa, Khalti, IME Pay etc also got an increase in their customers. According to The Kathmandu Post, eSewa’s customer base surged by almost 35% percent between March to August. Now they have a total user base of 3.5 million. Similarly, during this time IME Pay got an increase in its customer by 25%. This wonder has been possible due to lockdown and the recurring awareness regarding digital payments instead of cash transactions.
- Urban and Rooftop Farming
The threat on our lives due to Covid-19 has once again celebrated the evergreen saying “Health is Wealth”. Both the prices and safety concerns during groceries purchase have increased dramatically. The price of vegetables inflated more than expected during this time. According to the New Business Age, the price of potatoes increased by 100% since last year. Not only that, the prices of food items skyrocketed after Dashain by 25%. Urban farming installation and consultation services have been provided by some startups like Metro Kheti and Hydroponics Nepal. This could grow more even post-covid because why would anyone prefer to choose free pesticides over fresh and organic veggies?
- Self Care Accessories
Can you count how many masks you’ve used in these last 8 months? Well, for me, I have no idea. Similarly, some personal care accessories like PMS masks, gloves, face shields and sanitizers have been among the dress code nowadays. The prices of masks were so fluctuating that at some point some speculators got to gear up their profit. Moreover, working from home has brought health consequences as eye weaknesses and joint pain. However, this has given a rise on the sale of blue ray cut glasses. Are you considering buying that also?
- Stock Market
This is the most interesting one. From the beginning of lockdown, economic activities of the country just slowed down and the GDP growth rate is forecasted to be 2.3% in the year 2020, while it was 7% in the year 2019. But the stock market has just been making records and has entered the Bull Run amid the crisis. There was a prediction that it would decline like that of the Financial Crisis of 2008. However, in comparison to a decline of 30-35% on an average of the global indices, Nepse experienced about 25% of decline. Since the market opened on the 15th of Asadh, it is gaining momentum and has been doing wonders in both the price and volume.
Recently, the news of companies like Pfizer and BioNtech making a huge breakthrough to discover the most awaited covid vaccine with an effectiveness of 90% and 95% respectively has added some hope and thus, it made a whopping increase in their prices. Even Warren Buffet is shifting his investments towards these companies.
These have also affected the Nepalese capital market and the result is among us. The Nepse index has already crossed the 1700 mark and is further expected to reach the landmark of 1800 points soon. It has been possible because of these things:
- The decline in bank’s interest rates has led investors to shift their concern towards stock market investment.
- Increment of online users in Nepse trading has made it convenient to place orders and settle the transactions.
- There’s more liquidity in the market.
In a nutshell, Covid-19 has given us time to rethink and redesign our own way of living. No doubt, the world would not be as it was back then. But it is also true that humans are born to thrive. Soon this tough time would be over and when it’s gone, it would leave many more opportunities in the world. Moreover, who else knows it better to turn every challenge into opportunities than entrepreneurs? In your view, which one among them could prosper more? Or did I miss out to mention others as well? Please let me know.Share to Timeline