Innovations That Matter

7 Bold Pivots By Businesses During Coronavirus Pandemic

Innovation Snapshot

The following examples show how some were able to quickly adapt to the unprecedented disruption caused by COVID-19.

Of all the potential business lessons to be learned from the current health crisis, none may be greater than the importance of agility. For some larger companies that have been slow to embrace change, this lesson has been learned the hard way.

As James Bidwell put it during a recent interview for the Lead With Levity podcast, many “big businesses just don’t have the ability to pivot fast enough, or the cultural flexibility to pivot.”

For those still seeking inspiration through innovative ideas, the following examples show how some were able to quickly adapt to the unprecedented disruption stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

Photo source engin akyurt on Unsplash

1. RECYCLING COMPANY PIVOTS TO FACE SHIELDS TO SAVE JOBS

When the cardboard recycling and paper export business dried up, with borders closing around the world, Tanzania’s Zaidi Recyclers quickly created a new stream of work. Located in the port city of Dar es Salaam, the company had a thriving paper export business. Much of its recycled cardboard and other paper waste was sent to China and India. Once quarantines came into effect, company CEO Allen Kimambo had to act quickly to keep the company’s employees in work.

Read more about Zaidi Recyclers.

Photo source Martijn Baudoin on Unsplash

2. RESTAURANT RESERVATION PLATFORM PIVOTS TO GROCERY SHOPPING

One effect of the coronavirus lockdown is that grocery stores are being swamped with shoppers. People are buying more food because they can no longer go out to eat, and to reduce the number of times they shop each week. But the need for social distancing also means there are long waits just to get in the door at most supermarkets. Restaurant reservation platform, OpenTable, is trying to help. The platform has expanded its offering to let users reserve timeslots for grocery shopping.

Read more about OpenTable’s pivot.

 Photo source Mr. Homes Bakehouse

3. BAKERY PIVOTS TO CREATING HOME BREAD-MAKING KITS

At the start of the coronavirus lockdown in California, Mr. Holmes Bakehouse founder Aaron Caddel was trying to decide how to stay in business and keep his staff employed. Within the space of 72 hours, his bakeries had lost all their wholesale customers – around $3 million in business. 

However, Caddel also noticed that the interest in home baking was soaring, at the same time as ingredients such as yeast and flour were becoming scarce. In response, he decided to pivot his entire business to start supplying home baking kits. Although he had no experience in e-commerce, Caddel did have a huge warehouse, a large Instagram following and a commercial supply chain. He turned all of this over to creating baking kits.

Read more about Mr. Holmes Bakehouse.

Photo source Mohamed Hassan on Pixabay

4. CHINESE JEWELLER PIVOTS TO LIVE-STREAMED ‘STORES’

In China, Shenzhen-based multi-brand jeweller Ideal converted its business almost overnight from a traditional, bricks-and-mortar-based shop, to an eCommerce model that uses live streaming. Ideal dubbed the initiative, “Thousand People, Thousand Stores”. The company’s in-store sales staff became live broadcasters, with each one managing their own live-streamed “store” as a type of franchise.

Read more about Ideal’s transformation.

 Photo source James Tye / UCL

5. MERCEDES F1 DEVELOPS BREATHING AIDS

Clinicians from University College London Hospital (UCLH) and Mercedes F1 worked with engineers at UCL to develop breathing aids for the NHS. The devices work by delivering oxygen to the lungs without the need for a ventilator, which should help to get coronavirus patients out of intensive care.

Read more about Mercedes F1’s pivot.

Photo source Air Company

6. VODKA MAKER DEVELOPS CARBON-NEGATIVE HAND SANITISER

After launching its carbon-negative vodka last year, New York City-based technology and lifestyle company, Air Co., has shifted its production to hand sanitiser, in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The company captures CO2 pollution, combines it with water to make alcohol, and then distils the final product using solar-powered equipment.

Read more about Air Co.’s pivot.

Photo source Kriskad

7. DECOR COMPANY REPURPOSES CHAIN CURTAINS AS DINING DIVIDERS

Spanish metal chain manufacturer Kriskadecor is proposing that its décor chains could be a perfect solution. The company develops “curtains” made from anodised aluminium chains, to “manage the flow of people, signpost common spaces or create different environments” without the need to use bulky structures. The chain partitions can be customised with different colours, shapes, and dimensions to suit any space. 

Read more about Kriskadecor’s solution.