The memory of living in Hong Kong during the SARS outbreak in 2003 will never be forgotten. The city was on lockdown and everyone was consumed by the media which counted the number of affected individuals and deaths on a daily basis. In the end, 299 people in Hong Kong lost their lives, with a further 475 across the globe. There was a palpable fear in the city, one that was unlike any other fear experienced before.
COVID-19 brings back many of these memories for me, but there are also some stark differences. First, the fatality rate is already at 3,250 and steadily climbing. This is a massive tragedy and I feel for the families who have been touched by the illness. Furthermore, since the last part of February, COVID-19 has become much more global in nature.
In thinking about my experience with SARS, for those of us who were fortunate enough not to come face-to-face with the virus, the impacts were largely twofold: the complete cessation of public social interaction, and the massive impact on business confidence. The former took a toll on everyone’s psychological state, and the latter was both psychological and deeply financial. I watched on as companies struggled with revenues that didn’t just slow but stopped entirely. Layoffs and forced unpaid leave policies were put into place and these had a domino effect on the health of the economy.
It’s the business confidence issue relating to the coronavirus that’s particularly acute for most of us right now. When economic activity slows considerably, it jolts the economy in unexpected ways. Sometimes this effect is predictable, such as the cancellation of large events, but sometimes they are secondary, such as closing production of certain components which help power the global economy. Some are easy to see. Others are almost invisible until they rear their heads. Discovering vulnerabilities in the distribution and supply chain, as quickly as possible, has become essential. This is an area where Blue Umbrella is uniquely positioned to help.
Blue Umbrella has a technology that interacts with agents, distributors and vendors in order to help assess vendor and distributor risks. For the past ten days our teams have been working hand-in-hand with some of our key Fortune 500 clients to establish a best-in-class methodology and workflow to help apply this amazing engine to the problem of COVID-19 impact on supply and distribution chains. I am incredibly proud of the team who created this solution. We believe that helping identify and assess these risks in advance will help reduce the impact of the virus on economic activity.
Blue Umbrella’s mission, Making Business Better, is sometimes confused with making business more efficient or more profitable. While these may be by-products of our true goal, our aim is to make business be a force for good. We are proud to have developed a technology and methodology that will impact the ability of businesses to foresee risks caused by COVID-19, remediate those risks and continue to function effectively, supporting their communities and employees.
Once the SARS virus began to dissipate, the economy didn’t just spring back, it roared back. By helping companies identify and deal with short term issues, it is our hope that we lead not only to a less acute economic impact, but also to an even greater recovery. We hope that this initiative is meaningful and significant.