Pivoting business strategies amid pandemic

By Chow Tuck Mun


COVID-19 has taken a huge toll on us all. For businesses, in the early months of the pandemic, talks about transformation were rife.

However, transformation even in the most ideal of times can prove difficult, let alone during a pandemic. As such, these talks gradually gave way to more realistic goals of pivoting.

Pivoting isn’t about wholesale changes, it is about reviewing current value propositions and then determining the most efficient way to share said propositions.

During the pandemic, businesses must ensure that the customers’ willingness to pay remains higher than the company’s willingness to sell. This means uncovering new ways to provide value to the customers while lowering cost.

In pivoting a business, there are three aspects that we must consider:

Understanding core competencies & differentiating

Brands need to know what already works for them and then figure out how to make it work in a different environment.

Take Singapore Airlines, they know they excel in service and customer experience so when the pandemic hit and flights were grounded, they tossed about the “flight to nowhere” idea which led to the Singapore Airlines Restaurant A380 with 900 seats on the in-flight meal experience selling out within 30 minutes.

Chow Tuck Mun

Adopting the customer journey though digitisation

Every industry can pivot and can go digital. It just takes a bit of ingenuity and courage. For instance, you would never dream of buying seafood without seeing or feeling it.

Now come COVID-19 and you see seafood sellers pushing their products over Facebook Live and it being delivered fresh to your doorstep.

While the ‘touch’ aspect is compromised, it is made up for in the convenience of the product delivery. They’ve successfully pivoted the entire journey and witnessed increased revenue and that value can then be passed on to the customer.

Marketing in the new norm

There’s no denying that the digital sphere is where consumers are today – particularly during COVID-19 and MCO times. Naturally, businesses need to pivot to where the eyeballs are, and this means digitising.

From your tapas joints to hawker centres, they started posting their dishes on food delivery apps or pushing sales over WhatsApp. But marketing in the new norm isn’t just about digitising that physical presence, presentation through packaging is still important.

For Yoodo – Malaysia’s first truly customisable and 100% digital mobile service, the above aspects also applied, although possibly we had less to pivot.

This was all down to our digital approach which allowed for almost the entire consumer journey to be completed through our app. And it truly is quite a journey as Yoodo offers more than two million combinations for high-speed data, unlimited capped speed data, lifestyle-based data, voice minutes and SMS.

By being 100% digital, a Yoodo customer doesn’t need to go to any retail outlet to get their services, which sets us up well to ride these rough waters of COVID-19. While many in the industry struggled, Yoodo grew 17% over the initial MCO period.

Going back to the three major pivoting aspects, this is how Yoodo stood out. We beat the pandemic to the punch by pivoting from the very beginning with a fully digital product that meant we were ready to deal with the MCO.

Our value proposition of customisation allows users to get exactly what they want. We saw an increase of data usage by 41% and customers doesn’t need to come back to us to change their plans. All they needed to do was to go into the app to buy more data or change their data combination.

Of course, we continue to innovate by launching new product features which offers even more user control. But we didn’t just pivot early in our business propositions; we equally did so in our efforts to engage with our community.

I believe this was pivotal in differentiating us from other telcos by not only literally connecting users through data but also emotionally connecting them through our initiatives. This was an important driver to our success during the pandemic.

Speaking from experience, as we wade through another wave of the virus, it will be critical for any organisation looking to weather the storm to integrate these three key aspects together with their unique approach to business. – Oct 31, 2020


Chow Tuck Mun is the head of a Malaysian digital mobile service, Yoodo.

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