By Pierre Poignant
SINGAPORE — Many words have been bandied around to describe 2020, which started with the slow but determined spread of COVID-19. My take on the year that many will remember for a long time to come - transformative.
The world as we know it has changed, and even 12 months later, it will never be the same, as governments around the world are stepping up border controls, locking down cities, urging people to stay home and even implementing global travel restrictions.
Now, more than ever, our mission of helping merchants and consumers with our technology and platform is being put to test, as we all navigate this challenging environment together.
The coronavirus pandemic meant we have to change the way we do things. This included changing the celebratory plans for Lazada’s eighth birthday today.
In Singapore, we spearheaded a huge technology campaign when the proposed offline event was postponed due to health concerns. We knew that many of our sellers and brands had been preparing for it – some even had booths for the show, so we moved the tech show online, allowing these brands to showcase their deals and promote sales, as they would at the offline event.
In Thailand and Vietnam, our teams moved our recent mega seller conferences online and used our livestreaming technology to broadcast tools and tips to equip our sellers, as they “trained” and learned from the safety of their own homes. Local well-known personalities hosted the event virtually, and in Vietnam, attracted more than 3,000 views in two and half hours.
Typically, in past years, such events would be attended by more than 2,000 people. Moving the conferences online showed how technology can be used in innovative ways to ensure that even as people are avoiding public events, the show – and life – can still go on.
Working from home is becoming a new norm. Home-bound, people are turning more to online services, such as food delivery and buying necessities and groceries online. Interestingly, this has created a new “Shop from home, Ship from store” trend.
Despite surges in demand from online shoppers during this period of uncertainty, thanks to the integration of Alibaba’s technology, our platform withstood the unprecedented increase in order volumes. We did not have any downtime, and are committed to keeping it this way.
To ensure we can deliver, we are working closely with the respective authorities to keep our logistics function and services going. Across several markets, we have been gazetted by authorities as an essential service, which allows our logistics trucks to be on the road despite strict restrictions on movement.
Equally helpful is the logistics network that we have built up over the years and the relationships we have with suppliers and brands that we can count on during tough times to supply the daily essentials our consumers need. Most importantly, our front-liners — the warehouse and delivery personnel — keep the flow of logistics going during this difficult time.
Keep employees safe, healthy and productive
The well-being of our employees and their families comes first. We cannot help our sellers and serve our consumers’ needs without taking care of our office, logistics and delivery staff — some who are locked out of the office, some who cannot go home due to border restrictions, and many who face uncertainties at home.
With our Alibaba knowledge in SARS, we adopted a regional approach in protecting our staff across the markets. We are heartened that many, if not all our measures have been adapted by various businesses and are on par with government guidelines. Again, technology is an enabler here, and it has also helped us to stay connected with colleagues and external parties working from home via video conferencing, calls and messages.
When we emerge from this global pandemic, we will find ourselves in a more digitally-driven world. Sure, we will wash our hands more, be more conscious of personal hygiene and appreciate walks in the parks more. But we will also have realised how technology has helped us to survive this, and how we have become more adept at it.
As a technology company, we embrace this shift and this opportunity to make a difference in the digital economy for our merchants and consumers. I am extremely proud of our 9,000 Lazadians. Eight years on, they show the same resilience, creativity and passion that this company was founded on. Even though we might not have the big birthday party that we had planned, we still have a lot to celebrate.
The writer is Group CEO of Lazada, which he also co-founded in 2012.