Coronavirus: COVID-19 brings 'opportunities to rethink business', says tech expert

As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to be felt across the country, it is predicted that many businesses won't be able to survive the financial fallout and unemployment will soar.

Despite the grim economic outlook, for those companies that do survive there will be opportunities both to grow and to change how they conduct business, says Paul Spain, founder and chief executive of Gorilla Technology.

"Right now every business will be looking at what their challenges and what their opportunities are," Spain told The AM Show on Tuesday.

"Some businesses will inevitably need to choose to close down so that will generate opportunities for those that have been exited from the business and maybe there are new technological solutions to old problems, or current problems, in terms of starting new businesses, how they increase their cash flow."

Last month, Treasury released modelling that showed unemployment could rise as high as 26 percent if the Government extended the nationwide lockdown past the initially planned four weeks. Although an extra five days was added to that lockdown, the shift to level 3 last week has seen an extra 400,000 Kiwis return to work as restrictions about what businesses are allowed to open were relaxed. Current estimates put unemployment around 6 or 7 percent, though that is predicted to rise.

Despite more companies being allowed to resume trading, many business leaders have said the country needs to move to level 2 immediately if it wishes to avoid even more damage to the economy.

Spain says many companies have had to quickly pivot to allow staff to work remotely and to operate online in a way that avoids face-to-face transactions. Not only has that shift proven the importance of technology, he says, but it may also have led many businesses to rethink their way of operations.

"A good chunk of businesses have learnt that their teams can work from home, that will be part of the mix in the future - do they need as many car parks, do they need as much floor space?"

Spain said the change will bring "opportunities to really rethink business", particularly companies stuck in outdated ways of operating.

"There are definitely some good opportunities right now and I think some businesses are stuck in pretty old-school systems, and applying technology can really help bring about the efficiencies they need at the moment to drop down those overheads and to get out and sell some more."