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Navigating the COVID crisis

The coronavirus has negatively affected businesses all over the world. For startups, this is a make-or-break situation; only those who can adapt their business model and innovate quickly enough to meet new demands will survive.

Startups are trailblazers by nature. They fill underserved niches and enhance existing procedures, making them attractive to potential customers looking for more efficient solutions to their problems. However, during times of economic crisis, clients and investors often default to more conservative spending and slash unnecessary budgets, which puts startups – many of which operate on revolutionary models and technologies – at risk.

We have seen this happen during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The ramifications of this unprecedented event are understandably a cause for alarm among startups. On the other hand, this also represents an opportunity for entrepreneurial minds to rise to the occasion and differentiate themselves from the competition by employing innovative strategies and optimizing limited resources.

At a time where everyone is searching for the best way forward, those earliest to embrace flexibility and responsiveness will set the examples that everyone will look to follow. Due to their inherently dynamic nature, startups are well-placed to demonstrate both sensitivity to the current situation and adaptability in revising offerings to cater to changing customer needs. However, winning customer buy-in is just the first step: the next will be to convince them to implement your solution, and this can be achieved by making its application as simple and seamless as possible.

Understand your customer’s pain points

For startups, the first thing to do in a crisis is to understand the problems of your customers as clearly as possible and determine how your solution can support them in these difficult times. Hotels comprise a major part of our clientele at SensorFlow, and we are well aware that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed them in a precarious position. With countries controlling movements and closing their borders, as well as airlines canceling their flights, these have irrevocably affected travel plans and resulted in a significant drop in room occupancy rates. As a result, hotels are doing their best to stay afloat by cutting costs wherever possible.

With energy comprising the second largest operating cost for hotels, hoteliers will naturally be looking for ways to ease that burden and we saw a way that our offering could help them address that exact need. Our wireless smart automation solution uses sensors and a proprietary network that leverages IoT and AI to help hotels monitor, analyze and automate energy consumption for better operational productivity and energy efficiency, which also translates into cost savings - a key factor of the hospitality crisis strategy at the moment.

Be flexible with your solutions

We needed to raise awareness of the advantages that our solution could provide for our clients. We also wanted to encourage them to explore its adoption as part of the hotels’ business continuity plans - not just to sustain short-term growth, but also for the long term when business resumes after the crisis ends.

With the understanding that hotels would require cost-saving measures at this time, one of our strategies was to devise a new billing model, where we only take a cut based on the hotel’s energy savings each month. This floating-payment model allowed hotels to enjoy a zero upfront cost for our solution while being able to reap immediate energy and cost-saving benefits. At the same time, we introduced new features like ‘housekeeping view’ that uses live occupancy data to help hotel staff optimize cleaning routes, as part of our new solutions suite to help hotels continue maintenance operations despite low-staff availability.

Our quick response in devising and introducing new solutions for our clients allowed us to showcase our flexibility and responsiveness to current issues. We wanted to be acknowledged as part of the solution. The hope is that this will help maintain a higher level of retention among existing clients and further place us top-of-mind among new hotels as they look into cost-cutting measures.

Working smarter, not just harder

Reduced budgets and restricted travel have understandably resulted in a business slowdown globally. However, at SensorFlow, we are using this time to revise and improve our internal processes, as well as focus on developing new products that better address our clients’ requirements. Innovation is a continuous process, and we are constantly striving to enhance the quality of our offerings and ensure that we can continue to meet our customers’ evolving needs.

While catering to our clients during this time of crisis is important, we also believe that business-as-usual should not come at the cost of employee health and wellbeing, especially amid an already stressful period. Since the pandemic and the resulting travel restrictions began, SensorFlow has created a new work-from-home policy that caters for a 100 percent remote working arrangement. We are also holding more virtual company activities weekly to boost employee engagement.

Managing crises with a growth mindset

Startups must not look at a crisis as a disaster but as an opportunity. Try not to dwell on the problem; instead, focus on finding a solution. Demonstrating a thorough understanding of the problem at hand and being flexible in providing solutions keeps startups relevant to their clients and minimizes potential business loss. Meanwhile, open communication and responsiveness help build trust and goodwill towards your startup among customers and employees alike, especially during times of uncertainty.

The ongoing pandemic has brought unexpected challenges to the fore and with it, the opportunity to evolve, adapt, and transform. I am confident that SensorFlow will grow stronger as a company by mitigating through this crisis and simultaneously position itself as the go-to partner for hotels to turn cleaner, greener, and smarter. I am also sure that this period will allow young entrepreneurs to develop a stronger mindset and skill set which can empower them to offer more innovative solutions that meet the ever-growing demands around the world.



Saikrishnan Ranganathan is the CEO & Founder of SensorFlow.

Sensorflow is a part of our Batch 1 Travel & Sustainability Program in Singapore.

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