Technology—key to embracing new normal

WHEN the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce partnered with telecoms leader, bmobile, to introduce a new category in the Champions of Business awards, there was no indication that a pandemic was on the horizon.

The bmobile Business Technology award was designed to recognise the creation of innovative, disruptive technology-based companies or ICT based solutions that had a significant impact on their target users or industry as a whole.

The award has since been copped by two FinTech start-ups: WiPay in 2018 and Term Finance Holdings in 2019. Three years after joining the award line up, the relationship between business and technology has risen in prominence. The coronavirus outbreak not only presents a twin threat to lives and livelihood but it has caused a seismic shift in the way we live, work, learn and connect; deepening our collective reliance on technology.

Companies and entrepreneurs the world over have re-evaluated traditional approaches and turned to technological solutions as their north star. In six months, we have seen mass adoption of technology as businesses go digital in their quest to survive. While the pandemic maintains its grip on the economy, it has also been a driver of innovation and creativity as businesses and entrepreneurs explore opportunities that either didn’t exist before or saw a surge in demand in recent months. Though only one company will be crowned the Champion of the bmobile Business Technology Award on November 15, many other deserving entities are navigating this uncertain time by being agile, solutions-driven, people-centric and leveraging technology. Simply surviving the last six months was no easy feat.

No shortage of Innovation

In 2008, the financial crisis in the US gave rise to several successful, period-defining, companies that disrupted age-old industries.

TSTT’s general manager Enterprise Services, Ian Galt, says, “Covid-19 has decimated several industries and left others badly wounded. As expected, the primary focus for many is survival; we all want to make it out of this pandemic intact. It is important to remember, however, that companies like Uber and Airbnb emerged either during or shortly after a crisis. Periods of crisis not only accelerate digital transformation, but they fuel creativity and innovation.” Galt added that whether a business is focused on survival or starting up, bmobile has already invested in the necessary technological infrastructure and offers a range of solutions to lend support every step of the way.

If one were to look at online grocery shopping before the pandemic, there were but a few contenders in the e-grocery space locally. In addition to several new entrants recently, we have seen supermarket juggernauts respond appropriately by offering an in-store shopping experience, curbside pickup, or ordering through an app or online portal. On the heels of the Carnival 2021 announcement, Galt noted, “Carnival is both an immersive cultural experience and big business. It would be interesting to see how the industry taps into technology and the new world of virtual events to re-imagine the experience.”

Looking to the future

From the seemingly simple; the up-tick in online grocery shopping and vending machines that dispense masks and personal hygiene supplies to sophisticated video conferencing solutions and inventions like MIT’s robot that can disinfect a warehouse floor in 30 minutes, there is no shortage of innovation amid the crisis. “Even at TSTT, we began using a robot, fondly called ‘Sheldon’, to support the data centre team and limit the number of people physically at the location,” stated Galt.

The pandemic has catalysed the interconnectedness between the ICT and business worlds. In the manufacturing sector, companies are levering Industry 4.0 solutions to improve their agility and transform their operations beyond the factory floor. Leaders are tapping into machine learning, the Internet of Things, and exploring the application of Artificial Intelligence to increase efficiency and agility, improve productivity, reduce risk, and improve their time to market.

“As I’ve said before, Trinidad and Tobago has the minds and technology infrastructure to rebuild while diversifying our economy. This crisis has shown that technology is the key to both survival and success. In years to come, it will not be a surprise if the Business Technology category is inundated with applicants that successfully emerged from the throes of the pandemic,” said Galt.

The Champions of Business Awards is one of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce’s three Annual Signature Events. It highlights the contributions of some of Trinidad and Tobago’s finest minds while recognising their performance and excellence within the local business sector. Established business leaders, emerging entrepreneurs, and high performing companies are nominated by peers and members of the public from which award recipients are subsequently selected. This year’s award ceremony will take place virtually on November 20 2020, when it will be broadcast live on television and live-streamed.

The Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce thanks Signature Platinum Sponsor bmobile for contributing this article.

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