There’s no question that the vast majority of companies and organisations have been adversely affected by the pandemic. The International Labour Organisation has estimated that as many as 400 million jobs have been shed in the second quarter of 2020. Additional data shows that many G7 countries are experiencing their sharpest recessions since records began. And yet, there are a number of businesses and public institutions that are bucking the overall trend by rapidly transforming and accelerating amid the most challenging public health and economic conditions in living memory.
Below are ten examples of organisations who have adapted and prevailed successfully over the pandemic:
The global COVID-19 outbreak has forced organisations’ activities online. Local on-site servers have been replaced or at least complemented by agile cloud technology, allowing employees access to vital files and information regardless of their location.
However, with increased flexibility, comes increased risk. With minimised human interaction or authentication in the accessing of files, the propensity for cybercrime goes up. Cybercrime is expected to cost the world $6 trillion annually by the end of 2021. That’s a doubling of cybercrime-related costs since 2015 ($3 trillion). Thus, organisations are doubling down on the Zero Trust security protocols provided by companies such as ZScaler.
The cloud security company (based in San Jose, California) has made impressive strides, increasing year-on-year revenues by 46% to $125.9 million. Calculated billing also shot up 55% year-on-year to $194.9 million. As the world increasingly relies on secure cloud technology to facilitate flexible and remote working, the future looks bright for ZScaler.
Another company benefiting from the increased demand for cloud-based infrastructure is Cloudinary. The visual media manager, which provides its services to companies such as Mediavine, Fiverr and the dating app Hinge, also witnessed a boom in demand for its services.
Unlike many other companies, Cloudinary retained all members of staff throughout the pandemic, which is impressive given that they are an entirely self-funded organisation with no outside investors. Cloudinary now serves more than 6,000 customers and over 600,000 users across a variety of key verticals, including media, entertainment and travel.
As a profitable, self-funded software company that generates more than $60 million in annual recurring revenue, Cloudinary has distinguished itself as one of the most successful SaaS businesses in recent memory. Their current move into AI-powered video management is set to provide the stepping stone to even further growth during 2020 and beyond.
Optare, the English subsidiary of India’s commercial vehicle manufacturer Ashok Leyland, is benefitting from the global demand shifting toward greener technology. The manufacturer has secured first-mover advantage on the hydrogen fuel cell double-decker bus in cooperation with Arcola Energy. The first Optare Metrodecker H2 buses are already scheduled to go into service in 2021.
This success comes off the back of winning a significant order for their ground-breaking electric fleet of buses, with orders placed for 37 Metrodecker EV buses from London operator Tower Transport. This order was swiftly followed by another placed by FirstGroup for a further 21 buses. Since the Metrodecker EV launched 18 months ago, Optare has secured 107 orders.
The company have also delisted themselves from the London Stock Exchange in order to re-prioritise research and development as part of their ongoing growth strategy. As the world places its focus on reducing carbon emissions, Optare are undoubtedly well-positioned to take advantage.
Ocado is a company that is a far cry from its beginnings as an online supermarket. Today, Ocado is a global technology company with a £1.6bn turnover that builds everything from consumer-facing websites to robot-operated depots for other food retailers.
They have benefited enormously from the boom in demand for home grocery deliveries, signing contracts with Marks and Spencer in the UK and Coles in Australia to become their outsourced delivery partner.
However, the growth of its technology arm may give the most cause for optimism. Ocado is leading the way in warehouse optimisation, investing significant sums into further developing their cutting-edge, machine-learning driven software that handles everything from optimising supply chains to predictive maintenance on their warehouse robots. It’s this commitment to technological development that allows Ocado to assemble an order of 50 items in just six minutes, leaving even Amazon behind.
Valerann is making world-altering strides in the world of road-based technology. The company offers an end-to-end system that utilises different sensors, a unique AI-powered algorithm, and a communication system tailored to the road’s unique requirements to provide real-time information to both drivers and road operators.
By leveraging machine learning to decipher Big Data gathered at road level, Valerann has already managed to enhance traffic flows by 20% and reduce accidents by 30% when in operation.
However, the company believes they have merely scratched the surface concerning the use of their advanced IoT-powered solution. Valerann hopes to transform all road networks into a future-ready, data-generating infrastructure. Using the information gathered by wireless sensors, the Valerann system can provide real-time information to drivers and self-driving vehicles, such as alerts of merging vehicles, upcoming risk factors, and navigation recommendations with lane-by-lane specificity. There is no company better positioned to innovate and infrastructure which has remained largely unchanged since the 1970s.
With disposable income always squeezed during an economic recession, the luxury goods sector is expected to contract by as much as 25-30%. While many luxury goods manufacturers have been slow to adapt to market conditions, Burberry has shown poise and agility to retool some of their factories to manufacture PPE crucial to the frontline effort to tackle the virus. For instance, its Yorkshire trench coat factory now produces surgical gowns and masks.
With fashion shows and similar in-person events put on pause indefinitely, Burberry has also left competitors on the hop as they’ve invested heavily in digital channels, even as stores continue to reopen across the globe. The rapid shift to online platforms has paid dividends, with digital now providing the luxury brand’s fastest-growing sales channel. The 22% increase in online sales was described as “transformational” by CEO Marco Gobetti in Burberry’s Annual Report back in June 2020.
With demand for private transportation increasing in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the airport car-sharing service Car & Away set up Karshare, a peer-to-peer community car-sharing network in Bristol to help keep essential workers on the move. The success of the beta launch has seen the community car-sharing app spread to London and much of the South East.
What stands Karshare apart is the ability for the renter to pick up a car without needing to exchange keys with the owner. Thanks to the technology contained within the KarshareGo app, those who’ve booked their car can merely locate it and drive it instantly. As cities look to reduce the number of vehicles on the road to improve emissions and air quality, Karshare may be one of the best-placed companies to ride the wave of seemingly unstoppable momentum towards micro-mobility. This is especially true if they can solve the puzzle of providing an all-electric car-sharing community.
The long-established UK bicycle company is taking a similar path by expanding its hiring business within the UK. Once again, as individuals look to avoid the virus threat that public transportation now poses, consumers are turning to transportation options that are both positive for their fitness and the planet.
In fact, interest in Brompton’s hire services was sparked by their Wheels for Heroes campaign. Back in March, the company approached St Bart’s Hospital and NHS London to provide bikes for their frontline NHS workers so that they could avoid cramming into buses and trains during the peak of the outbreak. Within days, 500 NHS workers had signed up to the free rental scheme, depleting much of their hire stock. A crowdfunding campaign was subsequently launched, and over £318,000 was raised via public donations to fund bicycles for those that needed them within the NHS.
The interest and subsequent investment in the hire services arm of Brompton Bicycles could pave the way for a US launch. An increasing number of Americans have avoided ride-sharing services and public transport, with Uber reporting a drop of as much as 85% in rides booked in major cities. Brompton could be well-poised to take advantage of an increasingly health-conscious and climate-aware population.
The professional and educational course provider Experience Haus has launched online versions of their events in order to meet the demands of those looking for online career development programmes during the pandemic. Dubbed “OpenHaus” the company is hoping to grow their online approach to professional development alongside their in-person COVID-secure teaching of in-demand subjects such as product management, user experience (UX), and (UI).
Department for Transport
The pandemic has rapidly changed the composition of demand within London for public transport. Commuters have actively avoided crowded and cramped public transportation options such as the Tube dropping to as little as 4% of usual demand in April and May. By contrast, so-called “Boris bikes” boomed in popularity, with May exhibiting demand increases as high as 384%.
In fact, the month of May saw the highest ever number of hires in a single week – with 362,925 hires made between 25th and 31st of the month. The record for the highest ever number of hires in a weekend was also broken with 132,979 made between the 30th and 31st of May. The breaking of these records during May was symbolic as the month marked precisely ten years since the start of the scheme.
Once again, Transport for London, in tandem with the Department for Transport, is looking to adapt to the growing micro-mobility trend by legalising e-scooters, e-cargo bikes, as well as trailing on-demand services for traditional buses and similar public transport options. The DoT has announced funding of £90 million ($112 million) for three new Future Transport Zones to trial these new services moving forward.