During this COVID-19 crisis, what measures have you undertaken to continue your own business without disruption?
This is exceptional period for all of us, and humanity has been challenged like never before. But the most important lesson for us, apart from the need to follow all safety protocols, is to look ahead with optimism, and to prepare ourselves for the new normal.
At Canon Middle East, the first steps we took following the coronavirus outbreak was to put in place stringent safety and preventive measures to ensure the well-being of our team members, partners, suppliers and customers. We followed – and continue to abide by – the guidelines set by the authorities.
To ensure seamless business continuity, we rolled out a series of virtual working support sessions to ease the transition to work-from-home. We continue to update our learning and development portal to enable our team members to be more effective at work. We recognise that mental well-being is a real issue, and have introduced online weekly sessions on personal wellbeing.
Alongside the precautionary measures and the efficient ways of working we put in place, we also ensure that our internal and external communications is authentic, positive and transparent. We have ramped up our internal communications not only as a tool to engage with our team members but also to keep them motivated and inspired.
We have also strengthened initiatives, such as our ‘Frontiers of Innovation’ virtual series, hosted on our LinkedIn page, which discusses key evolving trends and the impact of the pandemic on individuals and economies. At the leadership level, we are spending more time together, hosting virtual meetings twice a week to define how to address the situation in the days ahead.
What measures and initiatives have been taken to provide uninterrupted service to customers?
Our focus, more than ever, is on ensuring continuity of operations for us as well as our customers and partners. This means having to deploy our resources judiciously, ensuring that any customer pain-point is addressed instantly – and any challenges they may face addressed proactively.
For example, we have increased the number of engineers in our remote technical support team; they are equipped to deal with the issues our customers may face. Additionally, we ramped up our e-commerce services and secured next-day delivery of products and supplies such as printers, inks and papers; this further eased the transition of our customers to the home working environment.
Offering our customers the option of connecting with us through our digital platform and continuing to receive the same seamless level of service was essential to maintain within this past period. Another important initiative for us is our door to door recycling programme which we have continued to operate within the past period.
The programme was launched to collect Canon consumables from customers’ homes including ink, toner, batteries and paper as well as electronic waste such as old printers, cameras and scanners. This initiative is a significant and feeds into our ongoing sustainability efforts and conscious approach to the manufacturing and recycling of our products.
Our aim is to stay even closer and connected with our customers. Now, as countries such as the UAE, transition to the new normal with the reopening of the economy, we see the need to be agile and flexible in meeting customer needs. Wherever the need be – be it homes, commercial establishments or offices – we are fully geared to offer seamless customer service.
Which top industry verticals and markets have you seen the maximum traction? How has COVID-19 impacted business with existing customers in those verticals and markets?
While the COVID-19 has impacted all sectors of the economy, there are a few that were particularly hard-hit, such as travel, tourism and hospitality. On the other hand, several government departments and the education and healthcare sectors have continued to operate albeit in new ways – and therein, newer demand patterns – such as a more structured and reliant digital network to facilitate work- and learn-from home.
In our industry, there has been a noticeable increase in demand for document scanners, home printers, ink toners and paper arising from the customers need to stay connected and have seamless workplace functions even where they live because more people now work from home as well as school their children from home.
Homes have become a space as well where we try to push our frontiers of knowledge and skills exploring new ways of working and new pursuits of hobbies. As more people built a stronger online presence, we have seen demand for vlogging equipment increase. With malls and stores now reopened and welcoming visitors, we are optimistic about seeing positive traction in demand for our products from in-store customers soon.
As for commercial print market, we believe that the outbreak provides a display platform for digital printing technology. Digital printing complements traditional offset/ analogue printing to build a flexible, dynamic, and cost-effective ecosystem that brings more benefits to service providers and end users.
As companies are increasingly perceiving the importance of digital transformation, they can consider enabling mobile printing for employees so that they can print from any device or anywhere. By introducing mobile printing solutions, employees can not only easily scan files to the cloud, but also retrieve documents from the cloud and easily print.
Users can also extract data from scanned documents with document management software and turn it into searchable and usable information. Printing devices will gradually become important cloud data input ports. Printer manufacturers and solution providers will have the opportunity to introduce existing solutions to more customers or develop more solutions that meet user needs based on the actual pain points caused by the current epidemic, thereby achieving faster business growth.
Have you put in place any contingency plans if this crisis persists or gets escalated?
A crisis such as this tests the resolve and capability of organisations – how agile and resilient they are and how they prioritise the well-being of their people. We reacted to the changes swiftly and with agility, and we are ensuring that our teams have all the support and help they need to work remotely.
As with most organisations, we embarked on a well-structured crisis response and evaluated contingencies for immediate/possible cost savings, even before entering the ‘recover’ and ‘rebuild’ phases. We also focused on streamlining our systems and further enhancing our digital transformation initiatives.
We are working on plans – for the near-term and medium-term – that will ensure we collectively come out stronger in the new normal.
What sort of business and financial impact do you expect for your business as a result of COVID-19?
This crisis will no doubt have an effect on all businesses. We are doing our best during this time to support our customers and the communities we operate in. We do not want to speculate on the business and financial impact; on the contrary, we want to see how we can add value to our customers and partners even as we all navigate the crisis.
That is why we have strengthened our external communication strategies – such as through the Frontiers of Innovation series mentioned earlier, to engage with all our partners, and enable us all to think ahead and prepare for the new normal.
We have been engaging with our customers through online webinars and photography masterclasses and we continued the tradition of Hakawaty, story-telling sessions for young people.
We also have rolled out an internal volunteering programme to support those impacted by the current crisis.
Have you kick-started any initiatives for your employees to better handle this crisis?
Yes, we already have a strong internal engagement programme in place to ensure that our team members are motivated. We believe that it is important, more than ever before, to engage with your team members. You must be transparent to them, discuss with them the market condition, explain the steps we take to address the challenges, and inspire them to bring out their best.
We see this as a phase that can help us all to be more resilient and to tap into our true potential by looking at innovative ways to do our work as well as to support our customers. Through this transparent process, we all realised that with each day the situation became better, and we were moving forward as opposed to being held back.
It is also equally important to maintain a continuous engagement with your partners and suppliers. We are all in this together – and we must emerge stronger through mutual support and inspiration.
Among the many initiative we have launched, especially for our team members, are the Weekly Managing Director (MD) live updates where we provide information on new ways of working and how we can more effectively serve our customers.
In fact, every day of the week, we have an activity for our team. We devote Mondays for Well-being where members join on a rather informal session to keep their spirits up. Tuesdays are devoted to sharing helpful tips, while on Wednesdays, we have learning and development sessions, and of course, in the spirit of the weekend, we mark Thursdays for fun activities.
Where do you see new opportunities emerging from – either industry sectors, jobs, markets?
We maintain a robust outlook about the new normal; after all, we have witnessed economic cycles in the past, and we have all emerged from them stronger. An ideal world is where all the economic sectors gain traction fast, leading to more job creation and all-round growth.
But, as is only natural in an economic recovery cycle and more so with the implications of the COVID-19, certain sector such as hospitality and travel will be slower to return.
The fact of the matter is that new ways of working have made us realise the tremendous value of digital tools, and as an organisation that meets personal and business needs – be it through our extensive range of photography and video equipment or printers and document scanners – we expect it all to gain momentum in the coming months.
For example, according to a report, global document scanners market is projected to grow to $4.6 billion – as more people work-from home. This is just but one opportunity: As I mentioned earlier, we are also seeing a demand for vlogging products, and for supplies for homes and offices, such as toners and printers.
The key is to stay positive, identify new opportunities as they arise, and to serve the requirements of your customers to the best possible standards. That is what we strive to deliver at Canon Middle East, and that has been the driving force of our resilience and success.