A challenging year for industry to say the least – and one that has forced companies to adapt by re-evaluating their existing practices and technologies. Over the last weeks we have caught up with industry figures to discuss how leading companies have reacted to and mitigated the global Covid-19 disruption in 2020 and how they will approach 2021 with a renewed mindset.
Kirsty Hazlewood interviewed Chintan Sutaria – Founder and President, CalcuQuote.
Chintan, how did your company initially react to the crisis?
Thankfully, we were already working remotely and were better equipped to respond to the pandemic. We closed our offices down and moved to 100% remote work in March. Then, we looked for ways to help the fight against COVID. For example, we helped bring together a conversation among EMS companies to build open source ventilators.
Supply chain challenges affecting production were a major consequence of the pandemic – what areas of the supply chain both regionally and product wise were worst hit and how did you overcome the disruption and manage supply chain risk?
What we hear from EMS companies is that there were some issues with long lead parts in the beginning, but not to the extent of the 2018 MLCC shortages. In particular, companies working closely with Chinese manufacturers experienced a significant disruption in their supply chain at the start of the pandemic.
How did your operating procedures change regarding staff absenteeism and health and safety? Did you implement a work-from-home policy? What did this mean for normal business operations?
We closed down our office in March and had everyone move to working from home. We already had some people working from home part time before then, so this was a relatively easy transition. Without traveling to visit customers or prospects and with most trade shows moved online, postponed or canceled, we didn’t get to meet in-person. To continue to build our relationships, we organized a virtual event (accelerateEMS) to bring together 500+ people in the industry.
Otherwise, our normal business operations did not change significantly, except that it was harder to have interactive, “whiteboard” meetings and we did not get to meet in person for our annual company retreat.
With exhibitions and face-to-face sales opportunities cancelled, how did you adapt the marketing and sales of your products?
In adapting our marketing and sales strategy, we created our own online conference to connect with current and future customers and partners. We also started experimenting with online ads to build market awareness and reach new people. Lastly, we focused on our network to help our business grow through referrals.
How did you support your existing customers during the lockdown and how successful was this?
Because many of our customers had people who were new to working from home, there was a higher volume of inbound queries from customers. To help, we organized an RFQ refresher course, and we grew our support team to continue providing excellent customer service (median response time for CQ support is still 2 minutes!)
Do you believe the COVID-19 pandemic has forced companies to adapt and invent and in fact accelerated innovation?
We are fortunate to have seen continued growth in our business (50% year over year) in 2020 as companies seek a secure way to execute their RFQ process quickly and efficiently, while working remotely. The need for digitalization continues to become apparent with each year reminding the industry of another source of volatility.
How do you foresee technologies such as IoT, artificial intelligence, robotics, and 5G future-proofing the industry against possible future disruptive events?
Future technologies will reduce the risk of human error and increase speed, which allows for more strategic decision-making. At CalcuQuote, we’re using emerging technology for component classification during the quote stage to reduce the risk of line shortages downstream.
Has your business model now irrevocably changed and will you continue with some of these changes, even once the world returns to a new normal?
We’ll most likely continue to operate as a “virtual-first” team. Hosting a virtual conference was very popular with our customers, and we will likely host another next year. Our increased investment in an online knowledge base, an interactive RFQ course and webinars have been popular with customers, and we’ll continue focusing on these types of online activities for customer support instead of in-person training.