BUSINESS INSIDER

Crisis Innovation: Business Exceptions That Prove The Rule

Throwback ideas and the next big thing are working for some, even as many other parts of the economy slide into recession.

Watching a movie at a drive-in theater
Watching a movie at a drive-in theater
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

The coronavirus pandemic is the largest economic disruption in memory, with millions of job losses and rising rates of poverty striking virtually everywhere. Still, the changes to the way we live and work have also been the spark for many innovative entrepreneurs, who are taking the unprecedented health crisis and its side-effects as an opportunity to offer new products and services.

Rise of the Work-cation: Tourist hotspots around the world have been hit particularly hard by the near total shutdown of leisure travel. What's the next best thing? Business travel for leisure.

  • Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley has announced a 12-month Barbados Welcome Stamp for visitors to work remotely on the Carribean Island. "You don't need to work in Europe, or the U.S. or Latin America if you can come here and work for a couple months at a time; go back and come back," Mottley said.

  • French vacation chain Pierre & Vacances is offering a similar package: to "work from home" at one of their resorts. Twenty locations in France and Spain will offer a package that includes Wi-Fi and 4G. "This crisis has taught us to be ever more agile, to find business opportunities and teleworking is clearly one of the best examples," said Grégory Sion, the director of the brand wrote in a press release. "One of the challenges for Pierre & Vacances is to conquer new targets with new uses for tourism, and we are counting on this new service to achieve this."

  • Others in France are turning their extra space into guest bedrooms, hoping to make cash from regional travelers. While many are using new platforms like Airbnb to rent their rooms, Réjane Mortreux, who has spent almost 20 years providing guest houses, told Les Echos, "This love for one's neighbor is the very foundation of longevity in this profession."

Bicycle boom: With fewer people willing to get into a stranger's car, ride-hailing apps like Uber have seen their profits shrink dramatically during the pandemic. But some are switching focus.

  • Estonia star transportation platform company Bolt is launching an electric program in Paris, with plans to expand to other European cities.

  • Shared bike programs have skyrocketed in popularity. Public bicycle sharing service Vélib measured twice as many daily trips in Paris during June as the same period last year. Rides are also getting longer, meaning more money per minute of travel.

  • In Latin America, Cosmic Go has cornered the bike and scooter market and also provides shared cars and motorcycles. The Colombian-based firm has expanded to 15 countries and more than 70,000 users. During quarantine, it recorded around 1,000 trips a day.

Shared bike programs have skyrocketed in popularity — Photo: Aurelien Morissard/Xinhua/ZUMA

Return of the drive-in (So vintage!): Globally drive-in movie theaters (and other car-driven activities) have seen a resurgence as a safer alternative to enjoy (sort of) being together.

  • In Germany, drive-ins have become popular not only for films but also concerts and church services, with 30 new outdoor theaters popping up around the country since the beginning of the pandemic. Many shows are selling out in advance, with some spaces able to hold hundreds of cars.

  • In South Africa, locals in Cape Town will soon be able to go to a drive-in theater featuring an LED screen allowing for daytime viewing. While some have faced government setbacks, other drive-in businesses are thinking about expanding to film, including a mall in Johannesburg that built a restaurant where diners can order from a variety of restaurants and eat in their cars. The Drive in Diner hopes to add films to the meal experience.

India's startup surge: Despite being one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, in India, many startups across industries are thriving, particularly those that make life in quarantine just a little bit easier.

  • E-pharmacies like Medlife and PharmEasy have grown to provide contactless delivery of medicines as well as online prescription services supported by doctors. Many of these services also allow users to keep track of their health data and receive reminders about renewing prescriptions.

  • E-learning businesses including Unacademy and Vedantu are also finding a larger audience, filling in education gaps with schools closed. Engagement by students and professionals on these platforms increased 8.5% during India's lockdown period, with heightened use by both current and new users.

  • E-grocers such as Grofers and Big Basket have seen their daily orders doubled, with many having their delivery spots completely booked. During a time of rising unemployment, both companies are increasing their workforces and developing partnerships with manufacturing partners and brands.
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Geopolitics

A Dove From Hiroshima: Is Fumio Kishida Tough Enough To Lead Japan?

Japan's new prime minister is facing the twin challenges of COVID-19 and regional tensions, and some wonder whether he can even last as long as his predecessor, who was forced out after barely one year.

Japan's new PM Fumio Kishida in Tokyo on Sept. 29

Daisuke Kondo

-Analysis-

TOKYO — When Fumio Kishida, Japan's new prime minister. introduced himself earlier this month, he announced that the three major projects of his premiership will be the control of the ongoing pandemic; a new type of capitalism; and national security.

Kishida also pledged to deal with China "as its neighbor, biggest trade partner and an important nation which Japan should continue to dialogue with."

Nothing too surprising. Still, it was a rapid turn of events that brought him to the top job, taking over for highly unpopular predecessor, Yoshihide Suga, who had suddenly announced his resignation from office.


After a fierce race, Kishida defeated Taro Kono to become the president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and pave the way for the prime minister's job.

Born into politics

A key reason for Kishida's victory is the improving health situation, following Japan's fifth wave of the COVID pandemic that coincided with this summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The best way to describe Kishida is to compare him to a sponge: not the most interesting item in a kitchen, yet it can absorb problems and clean up muck. His slogan ("Leaders exist to make other people shine") reflects well his political philosophy.

He is an excellent actor.

Kishida was born into a political family: His grandfather and father were both parliament members. Between the ages of six to nine, he studied in New York because of his father's work at the time. He attended the most prestigious private secondary school — the Kaisei Academy, of which about half of its graduates go to the University of Tokyo.

However, after failing three times the entrance exam to , Kishida finally settled for Waseda University. Coming from a family where virtually all the men went to UTokyo, this was Kishida's first great failure in life.

An invitation for Obama

After he graduated from college, Kishida worked for five years in a bank before serving as secretary for his father, Fumitake Kishida. In 1992, his father suddenly died at the age of 65. The following year, Kishida inherited his father's legacy to be elected as a member of the House of Representatives for the Hiroshima constituency. Since then, he has been elected successfully nine straight times, and served as Shinzo Abe's foreign minister for four years, beginning in December 2012. A former subordinate of his from that time commented on Kishida:

"If we are to sum him up in one sentence, he is an excellent actor. Whenever he was meeting his peers from other countries, we would remind him what should be emphasized, or when a firm, unyielding 'No' was necessary, and so on ... At the meetings, he would then put on his best show, just like an actor."

According to some insiders, during this period as foreign minister, his toughest stance was on nuclear weapons. This is due to the fact that his family hails from Hiroshima.

In 2016, following his suggestion, the G7 Ise-Shima Summit was held in Hiroshima, which meant that President Barack Obama visited the city — the first visit by a U.S. president to Hiroshima, where 118,661 lives were annihilated by the U.S. atomic bomb.

Photo of Shinzo Abe, Barack Obama and Fumio Kishida with their backs to the camera, in Hiroshima in 2016

Shinzo Abe, Barack Obama and Fumio Kishida in Hiroshima in 2016

commons.wikimedia.org

Japanese cynics

In September, 2020 when Shinzo Abe stepped down as prime minister, Kishida put out his candidacy for the first time for LDP's presidency. He didn't even get close. This was his second great failure.

But reading his biography, Kishida Vision, I must say that besides the two aforementioned hiccups, Kishida's life has been smooth sailing over the past 64 years

When one has had a happy and easy life, one tends to think that human nature is fundamentally good. Yet, the world doesn't work like that. And Japanese tend to believe that "human nature is vice," and have always felt a bit uneasy with the dovish Kishida diplomacy when he was foreign minister.

Leftist traditions from Hiroshima

Hiroshima has always been a city with a leftist political tradition. Kishida's character, coupled with the fact that he belongs to the moderate Kochikai faction within the LDP, inevitably means that he won't be a right-wing prime minister.

How long will a Fumio Kishida government last?

Kishida would never have the courage to be engaged in any military action alongside Japan's ally, the United States, nor will he set off to rewrite the country's constitution.

So after barely a year of Yoshihide Suga in office, how long will a Fumio Kishida government last? If Japan can maintain its relatively stable health situation for some time, it could be a while. But if COVID comes roaring back, and the winter brings a sixth wave of the pandemic as virtually all Japanese experts in infectious diseases have predicted, then Kishida may just end up like Suga. No sponge can clean up that mess.

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