As I am sitting in a lounge at Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and getting ready for my flight to Yangon, Myanmar, it occurred to me that many people continue to ask me how the coronavirus has affected our clients and business. If I write something about this, then I don’t have to keep texting them on my phone and can instead copy/paste the link of this article to them!
As quite a few of our clients are based in the US and similarly faraway places, I thought I would share a few facts about the coronavirus issue from my perspective and as someone who has lived and worked in Asia for over 15 years.
According to the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC), coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. The coronavirus COVID-19 began in China and is currently affecting 85 countries and territories and 1 international conveyance (the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship harbored in Japan).
As of March 5, 2020, there were over 95,000 cases, approximately 3,290 deaths, and over 53,000 cases where people have successfully recovered from the infection. A further breakout by country is provided below.
And while there are many economic pundits who will gladly offer their proclamation as to what this all means economically for the world, what we can share is that many businesses are still functioning. From office workers to employees in manufacturing, aviation, retail, F&B, hospitality, education, and many other industries, people are still showing up to work in most countries and only with few exceptions (such as China). People are still eating out, though perhaps not as much as they used to. And in Asia, people are still enjoying visits to local cafes and their favourite eating establishments. Online retail sales and food deliveries are rising fast.
Yes, customer counts are down. Number of shoppers in shopping centers are down. Sales are down. A number of airline flights in Asia and around the world have been cancelled and have disrupted businesses. In some countries, the education sector has also taken a hard hit as schools of all types have been required by the local governments to close as part of their efforts to control the spread of the virus.
Many businesses have re-focused their efforts on damage control and exploring possible options to minimize the economic, health, and social impact of the virus. What this has meant is a delay in immediate investments into growing existing businesses and/or entering into new businesses. As a result, some business deals will now take longer than normal and some may not survive this onslaught.
However, as my team and I visit from country to country and throughout Southeast Asia to conduct our franchise business matching events in early 2020 and in countries such as Cambodia, Thailand and now Myanmar, we continue to see strong interest from investors and prospective franchisees who wish to focus on the long-term business opportunities. Perhaps they see this as a good opportunity to acquire new businesses and to distance themselves from the current competition as well as to grow these businesses for the next generation. Indeed, many of the investors that we have met over the years in Asia have been more focused on what they can start and build for the next generation and less for themselves as they are already financially secure.
Who knows what will happen in the next few weeks, months or perhaps even years, but from what we can surmise, many businesses are adjusting and some are continuing to explore new investment opportunities. In addition, people have become more aware of hygiene and disinfection and this will likely have staying power long after this coronavirus is gone. This may be the welcomed and much needed rainbow and unintended outcome. In fact, the increased emphasis on hygiene and disinfection has greatly benefited even one of our clients, Sureclean from Singapore.
Personally, I am always traveling with several mini bottles of hand sanitizers and taking advantage of the many establishments that have bottles and bottles of hand sanitizers for customer use. Yes, the face mask, while silly looking, is something that I am becoming more accustomed to, and given time, may prefer to use on a longer term basis, coronavirus or not. I personally use it as a way to show respect to others and to show that I understand their concerns. From what I have learned, the face mask is really only good if the wearer is the one that is sick as it limits their airborne viruses and bacteria.
Most importantly, our company continues to conduct our franchise business matching events throughout Southeast Asia (with only a few exceptions due to restrictions). Where to next? The Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore?
Yes, why not? Hand sanitizers and face masks ready to go. Hmm…maybe I should look into the Sureclean franchise 🙂
Life goes on.
Author: Sean T. Ngo is the CEO and Co-Founder of one of Asia’s leading franchise consultancy, VF Franchise Consulting. He is Vietnamese-American and is currently living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. VF Franchise Consulting currently has offices in Vietnam and Singapore. VF Franchise Consulting currently represents leading F&B, education, retail, and services franchises from the USA, France, Singapore, Thailand, Europe, and more.