Adapt to change, build strong foundations

Hakim Hayat

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to look at the world from a new perspective and presented them with opportunities to adapt, strive and be resilient amid challenges and adversity, said Chairman of Baiduri Bank Group of Directors Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Muda Dr Abdul Fattaah, in his opening address at Transform 2020, a townhall forum on business survival and opportunity in the time of the pandemic, at the Radisson Hotel yesterday.

This year’s townhall forum was themed ‘Coming Out Stronger: Business Survival and Opportunity in the Time of COVID-19’.

During the session, some 80 to 90 local business leaders from domestic and regional industries participated. Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Muda Dr Abdul Fattaah said, “During these uncertain times, there are benefits to be found when we take our time to assess our own business, our own industry, and our country’s economy. Only by analysing strengths and weaknesses can businesses take full advantage of what makes them strong and take action to overcome weaknesses and deficiencies. We can devise new business practices to respond to evidence-based research studies, which provide clear descriptions of consumer behaviour relevant to our industry or line of business.

“I also believe that, in the current situation, there is a continuing need for trust and greater degrees of collaboration. Human beings are instinctually social creatures; we need to trust each other if we are to build communities of commerce and industry.”

He noted that more collaboration presents greater opportunity to thrive and prosper, although with challenges expanding abroad in this testing time, “businesses can use this time to build strong foundations and form strategic partnerships”.

Earlier, Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Muda Dr Abdul Fattaah said, “The new normal shows just how fragile human society is, and this does not just include our public health systems but also our most advanced systems such as food supply chains, education infrastructure, cyber-security, job markets, information networks, electoral machinery and more.”

“The next few decades will probably bring more crises… and many if not most countries are not fully equipped to meet and overcome these future pandemics.

Chairman of Baiduri Bank Group Board of Directors Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Muda Dr Abdul Fattaah at the Transform 2020 Townhall Forum. PHOTO: BAHYIAH BAKIR

“Under these new conditions, business leaders and owners are concerned about the future of their businesses, such as profit figures and cash flow, as well as job security.”

He also warned, “In this current situation, we may never be able to go back to the so-called normal conditions of the past. That’s why it’s popular to say we must accept the new conditions of life, and we must each adapt to the new normal.

“Amid challenges posed by the pandemic, we should not underestimate our ability to think enterprisingly about how to thrive and prosper in the new conditions prevailing in our society.

In one way or another, all aspects of human life have been affected by the pandemic, in every country. Yet I remain confident in our individual ability and our collective capacity to triumph over these adversities.

“This confidence is founded upon historical record. There is ample evidence that humans are adaptable, resilient, creative, imaginative and purpose-driven.

“On this foundation, I believe that business leaders will overcome these adversities. Business owners will contribute to the building up of societies where entrepreneurship and the spirit of enterprise will lead to increasingly better conditions of life. Social enterprises will grow and develop. Start-ups will flourish. Disruptive innovation will continue to shake things up and make things work better. The Fourth Industrial Revolution will continue, and we will adapt and overcome these adversities with resilience.

Despite the less severe impact in Brunei compared to other nations, Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Muda Dr Abdul Fattaah said, “We had our ups and downs, and some sectors of our economy have been hit much harder than the others. This, in some way, highlights the strengths and weaknesses in different aspects of the country’s economy.

“The pandemic highlights how the business community needs to be resilient in times like these. There are many difficulties when there is a downturn in the market, and these difficulties may look worse because the community is small and close-knit. If there is a down-turn, those affected are familiar names.

“What is imperative is that Brunei business owners must be quick to adjust and adapt to changing conditions. Nowadays, we are using technologies in ways that could not be imagined or anticipated. Due to governmental regulations, the recent widespread acceptance of track and trace technologies in the country was quite remarkable, and, personally, I am amazed by how Bruneians of all ages adapted so quickly.”

Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Muda Dr Abdul Fattaah said the pandemic offered a gamut of hidden opportunities. Citing Brunei as an example, he said, “The turmoil in the global oil and gas industry could, for instance, be seen as a crisis for the local economy – but it could also be regarded as an opportunity for business leaders to search imaginatively for new opportunities and make entrepreneurial efforts to diversify the economy, to adapt to the current realities confronting the fossil fuel industry, and seek new ways to make the Brunei economy more resilient and less dependent on petroleum and natural gas.

“Whenever a crisis appears, we can loom purposefully for opportunities to engage in business experimentation. Brunei Darussalam’s business and social ecosystem can provide the ideal environment for experimentation. We should not think of Brunei as a small economy; if we know our business and have the correct partners, when we are reaching the right consumers, we can still thrive and prosper greatly in the country.

“Today, Brunei Darussalam has seen more and more virtual stores popping up, and there has also been an increase in delivery services set up to take advantage of the current conditions. Online retail is also growing and thriving in some countries, and Brunei Darussalam has also got into the act with business owners developing an online presence as part of their promotion and marketing efforts.”

In concluding his remarks, Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Muda Dr Abdul Fattaah said, “In order to become truly resilient, business owners need opportunities to do business across national borders, and therefore need governments to collaborate with each other to conquer COVID-19 and to ensure that global economic recovery is not held back by the onset of new waves of infection.”