Six Feet Apart to Six Feet Together: AUC's Pandemic and Post-Pandemic Research and Innovation Initiative
AUC’s Pandemic and Post-Pandemic Research and Innovation Initiative awarded funding to 10 different research projects that are aimed at creating an impact both during and after the global COVID-19 pandemic — contributing to the scholarship and innovation in the fight against it. In this series, we are highlighting each of the 10 projects to learn about what they are and what impact they will have on society.
Project 5: Transitioning From 6 Feet Apart to Working 6 Feet Together: An In-depth Analysis & Roadmap to Business Growth in the Realm of COVID-19
Principal Investigator: Mohab Anis, professor, Department of Electronics and Communications Engineering
Co-Principal Investigators: Sherwat Ibrahim, associate professor, Department of Management, and director, MBA and EMBA programs; Nouri Sakr, assistant professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering
How It Began
The project was inspired by the economic and social repercussions of Egypt's economic shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic. The country's economy witnessed losses of jobs and business failures that had a number of negative impacts both on the large scale and on personal and social levels as well.
"Losses of jobs means that you will have financial constraints with people in poverty, and that can probably create reasons for crime and then really create social unrest," Anis said.
Looking at this situation, Anis and his team wanted to find a way to advise businesses on how to quickly reopen in a safe manner in order to mitigate these negative impacts.
So that was really the main ride. The second drive the second drive that was interesting for me that I was part of a global think tank with the Global Innovation Management Institute, and we have been, I have been a member of, you know, maybe 30 other members around the world who were actually looking into the impact of COVID-19 on different sectors and different industry trees and identifying ways to help businesses, revive their products through advisory services and make making changes to their business models in order to be able to survive and to grow.
What It's All About
The goal is to put together a roadmap of "innovation principles" detailing the different kinds of strategies and actions businesses in the service sector should do in order to get up and running again and withstand the cashflow issues they are having right now.
One of these principles is based on a touchless economy. The touchless economy involves economic activities that don't require physical interaction between people like online shopping and grocery delivery. Anis and his team are looking at how businesses can fit into this type of economy and still be culturally sensitive. Another principle is expanding the power of virtual and digital in the economy.
To do that, Anis and his team broke down the services sector into different industries, including hospitality, restaurants and the tourism industry.
"For each one of those, we're going to analyze how strongly each industry was affected by the pandemic and what were the main forces affecting these industries," Anis said. "And then from there, we will be able to deduce the best set of recommendations as how businesses need to transform."
Anis added that it will be necessary for businesses to change their operations because the precautionary behaviors people adopted during the pandemic will continue for a while.
The Research Process
Working with four research assistants, the team is currently collecting secondary research, which involves looking at business articles, business reports and academic reports to understand the impact that the pandemic has had on different businesses. These will be coupled with interviews from people in the different industries.
The research is expected to be complete within one month from now after which the team will begin developing the roadmaps, which should be complete by the end of the year.
"We're thinking of doing a webinar or some kind of like a small conference where we invite members of the services sector from industry to attend a seminar so that we are able to give them the tactics and the implementation limitations and the roadmaps that we created so that they can very quickly apply them to their businesses," Anis said.
What's the Impact?
The goal of this project is to help businesses survive through and after this pandemic and then to grow. The services sector constitutes a great amount of GDP in Egypt, according to Anis, so reviving them by finding a way to go back to business safely with the trust of their customers can help millions of people working in these industries.