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COVID: 1 versus eCommerce: 1?

Morgan Wee

I did not quite understand what the fuss was about regarding delivery issues until I tried to order groceries online some time back. I had an emergency at home with my stock of barista grade soy milk running low. As cold sweat was surging its way out of my forehead, one online grocer after another had the same message flashing back at my desperate clicks telling me to try my luck on another day, some even a week away!

With most of the world now primarily working from home, eCommerce sites have seen a surge in demand. Now, old hands at online purchases have to compete with first timers who have no choice but to explore the brave new world of digital consumerism. Many articles have since been written about the new normal and expected consumer behavioral changes.

I had the privilege of spending some time to chat with Easy Arisarwindha, Chief Financial Officer of Sociolla. To understand what’s really happening at one of the major eCommerce sites in Indonesia (you can read transcript of the interview at

Standing on quicksand

There is actually a tour offered for one to experience being trapped in quicksand. In a video clip, the tour guide offered participants guidance on how to sink further in and then get out. I will not be signing up for this anytime soon but I thought of this imagery when I realized Easy joined Sociolla in March.

As with quicksand, the more you panic and struggle, the further you are from freeing yourself. A week into her new career, the business environment changed and work-from-home was instituted. She had not much time to know her new colleagues, learn the new processes and forget about understanding the work culture. For most, it would have been a very discouraging start but all I heard from Easy was that how it was a blessing to have a few days to meet colleagues and how she has benefited to re-designing workflow to go online.

As with life, you can choose to stand still and lament or stay calm, thinking laterally and crawl your way out.

Every turn an Opportunity

eCommerce may be the flavor of the month but it does come with many challenges from international movement of goods, storage and last mile delivery issues. For Sociolla, it was also not spared of unforeseen challenges when a number of their physical store openings had to be postponed. By then they had already hired operations staff, trained them but there will be no stores to go to! Rather than delay onboarding or choose to lay staff off, Sociolla saw the opportunity to kick off their virtual beauty advisory service. I could not help myself from mouthing “brilliant” a few times during that segment.

Turning challenges into opportunities is a cliché but it certainly takes character to steady oneself to design and bring to life such opportunities.

New World Competencies

One of the things I am most curious about is job competencies in the new normal. Easy gave me an indication of what to expect when we discussed about this. She cited an example of her office receptionist. With offices shut, the role is no longer required. When the HR department required help, the receptionist was approached to assist and she took it up. She has taken up the role spectacularly, benefiting herself and the HR department.

Change is accelerating and with the current environment, the certainty of uncertainty exacerbates the rate of change. Beyond technological dexterity, I certainly agree with Easy that one key competency is to adapt, not just vertically within a function, but laterally across the organization.