No industry is immune to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic—including China’s robotics industry, which has been severely impacted by the country’s changing venture capital funding landscape. Following the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020 the number of deals and deal volume contracted by 50-57%, and investors are slated to remain risk-averse moving forward.
However, the industry is subverting expectations by leaning into the “new normal” and incorporating robotics technology into the different areas affected by the pandemic. Many robotics start-ups pivoted by apply these strategies to show the value of their cutting-edge technology:
Be Customer-Centric in Identifying New Revenue Streams and Capturing them with Existing Resources
In this approach, robotics start-ups need to be more attuned to the changed needs of their customers by adapting their business’ core competencies to address these issues quickly and through high-quality solutions.
- XAG Technologies repurposed their agricultural drones and robots as air disinfectant dispensers and unmanned disinfection vehicles, securing contracts with the governments of South Korea, Vietnam, and the United Kingdom.
- Insight Robotics applied their core competencies of computer vision and long-distance thermal sensing technology to create detection and monitoring systems for COVID-19, now used by Hong Kong’s government institutions, NGOs, and other companies.
Be Sensitive to Co-Creation Opportunities with Other Corporations
Robotics start-ups should be receptive to co-creation opportunities with other corporations that align with their values, principles, and overall work strategy. Corporations value the agile and innovative thinking of start-ups and can provide them with the needed resources and network to implement positive transformation.
A good example is DBS’ partnership with food service start-ups Oddle and FirstCom to set up online food ordering and delivery systems during the national lockdown. This allowed F&B players to reach a larger network of consumers via DBS’ extensive network. Oddle established a branded e-menu, order management, and payment system for DBS clients while FirstCom handled social media services. All three players were able to create an efficient network that allowed them to benefit from each other’s strengths and core competencies.
Be Socially Responsible
As the world slowly but surely recovers from the pandemic, being socially responsible is now more important for businesses. They can choose to offer their resources, lower compensation, or select strategic partners to not only help their own bottom line, but the state of the country’s economy.
- Prenetics, a genetic testing company, worked with start-ups and insurance company Prudential to launch Project Screen, an initiative that sold home coronavirus testing kits to Hong Kong families at more affordable prices. This allowed more of the population to get tested without worrying about the cost of an expensive private hospital.
- Gulu, a queueing app, repositioned their business from helping restaurants handle long queues to supporting Hong Kong’s elderly as they line up for masks amidst a city-wide shortage. Gulu worked with pharmacies and mask vendors to apply their system for free and attracted a range of new clients with users growing two million in just three months.
Traditional funding may have declined, but robotics players are now enjoying expansion to new markets by utilizing their strengths to help curb the effects of COVID-19 as the world slowly reopens. To learn more about the different areas of the robotics industry and how they are driving post-pandemic growth, download the full white paper here.
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