As the COVID-19 emergency seems to finally ease, we are left with a global economic crisis of unprecedented magnitude. However not all evil comes to harm. A lot of new opportunities are being created daily for existing and new startups that are able to catch up with the technological wave of innovation that the pandemic spread has forced us to embark on.
For instance, the supermarket panic-buy created peaks of sales ranging between 30 per cent and 60 per cent when governments around the world announced the first lockdown measures. However such spikes in sales rarely lasted for more than just a few days. In fact they counterbalanced often with drops in sales up to 80 per cent in the following period. On the other hand, online sales have experienced organic and stable growth during this transition. The overall growth in web traffic averages at 150 per cent globally. In other words that has never been a better time to start an online business.
In Oman we are used to warm and friendly human interactions, hence imagining cold and dry business being conducted outside such culture might sound strange and unusual at first. But as we move towards a society that might as well experience such unexpected business interruption occurring routinely, some have already started thinking of business in the post-COVID era.
The core difference between a SME that the Omani government has advocated passionately, and the Startup scene that the investment world is projecting onto millennials, is that SMEs tend to embrace a culture of “bootstrapping” while Startups take oxygen from investment capital.
Given the uncertainty of the global economy for this year, yet a positive projection for the years to come, new entrepreneurs in Oman can choose to either look for clients (bootstrapping an SME) or looking for investors (funding an SME).
Many investors were burned in the stock markets recently, so they took out money from their stock portfolio and they are looking for down-to-earth businesses to invest into. Hence launching a startup now could be well timed.
On the other hand, as many SME were forced to close due to the pandemic lockdown, new businesses can look at the future with a positive mindset, as the economy is hot ill, it was just paused for a while, and now it is ready to bloom again.
Sectors like travel and hospitality, which were among the most damaged during COVID-19 have still a great opportunity to grow over the next few years. It just required the human capital and the will to make it happen despite the negative trend of the past few months.