As businesses address the challenges faced by diverse communities during the pandemic, it is up to banking institutions to help them respond in a timely fashion.
In business, the ability to react quickly is an invaluable attribute. With Covid-19 shifting paradigms rapidly, never has the need for proactive action and future-proofing been stronger. As key drivers behind the economic development of many countries, companies around the world are applying their expertise to distinct challenges presented by the pandemic.
In Hong Kong, demand for facemasks has outstripped supply leading to chronic shortages. Seeing an opportunity to support the community, Bright Diva International Limited, a distributor of international beauty brands, leveraged its vast supplier network to procure approximately 500,000 surgical masks from Korea, selling them at cost to local retailers. The Tsuen Wan-based network also partnered with Unilever to import personal care products from the UK.
Over in India, moves of a different — but similarly decisive — kind have been taking place as a nationwide lockdown brought economic activity in the country to an abrupt halt. One of these saw the Ola Foundation — the social welfare arm of Ola, the subcontinent’s largest ride-hailing platform — join forces with DBS to distribute packs of essential goods to some of the millions of drivers who had their earnings severed as India shut down.
Responsive solutions to on-ground needs
Extraordinary times call for exceptional measures. Bright Diva International Limited and Ola are examples of how businesses in Hong Kong and India have been impelled to act with agility to cope with the rapidly shifting sands of the “new normal”.
With situations as fluid as they are on-the-ground, financial institutions such as DBS are eschewing catch-all fixes for businesses in favor of a more collaborative approach. These responsive solutions can better help businesses negotiate the uncertainty of the post-pandemic world. It’s a strategy that speaks of the integral role that banks can play in supporting real people, real lives, and real economies.
“The fact is that corporations are ‘living beings’ for all intents and purposes and have an obligation to the common good, just as all other living beings,” agrees Piyush Gupta, CEO, DBS Bank. “This requires them to look after the interests of employees and customers, as a start. It also places an obligation to address other community imperatives as part of their charter.”
Such an opportunity presented itself when Bright Diva International Limited sought to do its part to support the local community in Hong Kong during the pandemic.
Wearing a surgical mask in public places was only mandated in the Special Administrative Region in July 2020. But the practice has been socially expected for residents of one of the most densely-populated urban areas on the planet since the first outbreak of Covid-19 struck in January. However, booming demand led to a run on protective face-wear, forcing locals to turn to either homemade versions of often questionable quality or to pay a premium for imported masks.
Bright Diva International Limited was able to address some of this demand through its procurement drive thanks to a temporary funding solution from DBS at preferential interest rates. In addition to bringing crucial supplies to the people of Hong Kong, the company also donated part of the proceeds to the Hong Kong Cancer Fund. To give residents a further boost, Bright Diva International Limited is importing US$4million worth of sanitizing supplies, including rubbing alcohol, antibacterial hand washes, and body wash.
In India, millions of drivers across the vast nation are among the communities facing tremendous economic uncertainty due to the lockdown. During the lockdown, DBS contributed to the Ola Foundation 'Drive the Driver' fund, an initiative designed to empower drivers and their families during contingencies. As India’s shutdown took effect, the partnership acted quickly to help the driver community sustain.
With DBS sponsoring relief kits, Ola used its networks in the driver community to distribute the packs to drivers and their families. Each kit typically contains enough groceries and household staples to support a family of four for two weeks. The program benefitted not just the drivers on the Ola platform but also auto-rickshaw, cab, and taxi drivers.
A stronger tomorrow
These examples prove that businesses worldwide are rising to the challenges caused by the pandemic, reacting swiftly to the needs of the market. By utilizing a solutions-based, collaborative approach, DBS is driving efforts to help businesses prosper.
“To get the economic engine revving quickly, we have to ensure that when demand returns, companies can quickly activate their businesses,” adds Gupta. “This means giving them the wherewithal to weather the next few quarters, to keep workers on the payroll and supply chains intact. The liquidity, lines of credit, and support that banks are giving, serve to protect jobs and markets.”
Robust and sustainable growth is the overall goal. By empowering businesses and communities during the pandemic, DBS is helping to lay strong foundations in the here and now.
This content is produced in partnership with CNN International Commercial.