Remote biz to continue gaining traction as Covid-19 changes lifestyles

Consumers are likely to continue practising preventive measures such as social distancing and avoiding mass gatherings even after MCO ends


REMOTE businesses that provide services to consumers via digital tools are expected to continue gaining momentum at least until next year, as lifestyles evolve in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Consumers are likely to continue practising preventive measures such as social distancing and avoiding mass gatherings even after the Movement Control Order (MCO) ends, Sunway University Business School economist Prof Dr Yeah Kim Leng said.

These efforts would contribute to the continued popularity of digitally-enabled businesses that are now receiving boosters from constrained movement conditions.

“People are now getting used to being able to access online services. The change of lifestyle in reducing the risk of virus exposure is expected to continue in the next 12 to 18 months given the timeline for a vaccine to be developed.

“Online services and deliveries could sustain their traction even after the MCO,” Yeah told The Malaysian Reserve.

The MCO, which took effect from March 18, is slated to end on April 28, though experts believe the order may be extended again to curb the spread of the deadly virus.

Yeah said a change in lifestyle among senior citizens, who are at higher risk of serious infection, is expected to be more permanent compared to other segments of the population.

The pandemic has forced companies around the world to accelerate digital transformation across their operations and services, as varying degrees of lockdowns and movement restrictions have been imposed globally.

The necessity to innovate in order to survive these times has pushed more health consultations to be delivered through smartphones, while university classes are held online and events are running virtually.

On the domestic telemedicine front, the Health Ministry has collaborated with DoctorOnCall, Malaysia’s first online medical video consultation platform, to create a virtual health advisory platform providing advice to the public on the virus.

The virtual portal provides direct counselling with a family medicine specialist or medical officer via chat, audio and video over the Internet.

Health DG Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the platform would be able to reduce congestion in health facilities and provide preliminary virtual health advisory screenings or triage to clients before attending public hospitals.

The food and beverage, logistics, entertainment and education industries are also among the sectors that will see a pickup in remote services amid the new digital paradigm.

“One unintended benefit (of the pandemic) is the future is accelerated and brought forward,” Yeah said. “Convenience and cost are two factors driving the rise of virtual services as seen these days.”

Business volumes will first depend on the level of convenience and ease, then on cost. Remote services also provide flexibility and improve consumers’ quality of life.

“Consumers will compare prices of online services and from a business perspective, a remote service could save them some overhead costs,” Yeah added.

The Malaysia Digital Economy Corp CEO Surina Shukri said the data-enabled health and wellbeing, e-commerce, digital collaboration and entertainment businesses will see an upsurge.

The shift to work from home set-ups will accelerate many business functions to the cloud, Surina noted.