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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