Following the Money and How COVID 19 Reconstructs Logistics and Consumer Behavior

We all know the drill

A smoke screen goes off! Emergency Response Team members calmly escort their fellow employees out to the open area where a team from the Bureau of Fire protection gives a briefing on evacuation protocol and the use of fire suppression equipment. Similar drills are practiced when it comes to earthquakes and similar calamities. Living in a country like the Philippines, everyone ought to be ready when disaster strikes. Within a lifetime we’ve had major earthquakes, devastating typhoons that have wiped away lives within hours off the face of the planet. Within the 1st quarter of 2020, we’ve been hit by a volcano eruption and while  people have just literally started to rise from the ashes, along comes COVID-19 that had Luzon under lock-down up to now. The faces of the population remains covered by N95 masks since January. Will things ever go back to normal? Perhaps Not. But what we’ve learned will shape how we adapt to “The New Normal”. There will be winners, but even more losers.

The Connected Society

Beyond our mortal lives we have our Faith, Family and Friends. We take inventory of our basic necessities. Water, Food, Energy and Communications. What the past calamities have taught us is that there are varying degrees to its effects. In January, we spent days without energy and with such, the ability to store food was compromised thereby affecting our cycles of procurement. Having spent a few years in the logistics sector teaches you a lot of things on how to manage crises. We live in a connected world and these connections far exceed ICT. During a time of crisis, the hierarchy of needs tend to shift its focus towards the lower tiers of the pyramid. So when we are talking about “networks” we need to see this on a more physical plane. The term “Humanitarian Logistics” is fairly new. It probably wouldn’t have gained traction in relevance if it weren’t for society’s  response to Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda in the Philippines) in 2013, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 or the Banda Aceh 2004 Tsunami. Ironically, “logistics” has never been a sexy word, but logistics science and know-how is life and death.


Logistics is Life and Death

A “network interruption” within the context of transport and logistics would mean people cannot report to work. Supply chains will be interrupted. Food and other basic necessities cannot get through. It’s not a matter of inconvenience; This is the very substance of many Business Continuity Plans (BCP) and it comes down to the survival of our society. A network interruption of large scales where transportation, airstrips, waterways and highways are impeded can kill a nation. As we’ve been started to be aware, the control of waterways such as the South China Sea where an estimated $3.2 Trillion in trade is valued, is a legitimate International Security Issue. The issue of logistics strategy needs to be seen both from the largest scales to the micro. Just as it takes logistics for a woman to give birth in hospital, it also takes logistics to take a dead body into the ground from the deathbed. Logistics is cradle to grave.


Granularity and the Last Mile

The painful lesson from Haiyan is that tons of relief goods rotted away in warehouses near Tacloban. From a logistics perspective we can see that it wasn’t a supply and storage issue but a problem with distribution at the “last-mile”. You obviously cannot park a C130 aircraft in front of someone’s house, but you can use a motorcycle or a small van. We need to break down logistics to smaller granules in terms of weight breaks and use a multi-modal strategy.

As an adaptive response to the Enhanced Community Quarantine, communities have organized direct purchases from producers and suppliers, delivering directly to homes or organizing scheduled pick-ups from village common-areas. The “hub and spoke” network has been operationalized only with staging points (receiving and dispatching) being democratized by communities all over the country. The logistics framework applies, and it works! Even to the last mile and to a granularity of not more than a 5 km. radius. We’ve seen unprecedented reconstruction of supply networks direct to consumers from as far as Benguet to Batangas (a distance in excess of 433 kms.) within 2-3 working days sometimes using refrigerated vans.

Orders are usually consolidated using Viber or a Shared Spreadsheet. Could this be the new normal? Maybe? But the possibilities are out there and the models have been proven. It begs all of us to reconsider buying locally and “eliminating the middle man”. Logistics make it possible. And while fuel prices are at an all-time low and shipping fees remain unchanged, the industry could enjoy an arbitrage where their unprofitable runs or backhauls all of a sudden make money during this period. Logistics can still win in certain segments.


Where the traffic is, there the money is

As we venture outside our homes physical traffic has dramatically decreased. The malls have zero foot traffic therefore: “where is the money”? The grocery lines have gotten longer due to decreased frequency of trips and social distancing, but the cart checkout transaction sizes could be increasing as well. Online traffic could be a clue pointing to the money. eCommerce checkout carts give a clear indication of pent-up demand and transaction sizes (delivered or undelivered). What are people looking to buy? Online grocery sites have reported upsurges of up to 84% since brick and mortar stores have started to close. The traffic however is directed towards “essential items” to fill in the gaps left by physical stores. According to the New York Times Netflix traffic has seen a 16% increase in traffic, Zoom has had a drastic surge of conference sessions and CSGO has breached more than 1 million players overtaking DOTA for the first time. Clearly business is good for some. A quick snapshot of the internet’s gainers and losers are in this link. Where the traffic is, there the money is too.


Moving forward to the New Normal

Retail, Entertainment and Travel has been greatly affected by this pandemic and a crisis of fear prevails around the globe. But we all have to eat. We all have a need to be entertained and remain on contact, but how we do these things will change. One of the greatest challenge many marketeers have is “inducing a trial” but once we are past that hurdle, we build new reinforcing habits for consumption. Try shopping online! It’s good for business.

Many of us have learned to cook and bake. I’ve only started to buy all-purpose flour since I started preparing pizza from scratch. I’ve been taking classes from YouTube.  This has implications on our next shopping carts. From the gym to buying exercise equipment. I’ve even learned how to cut my own hair again!

What’s next? Follow the traffic. Follow the money! Take things to the last-mile! There might not be any traffic on the road but there probably is more of it online.





Life Management

10 Inspirational Movies to Watch during Covid 19 Quarantine

It’s one thing to be occupied and entertained during the quarantine and it’s another thing to come out uplifted, motivated and somewhat better than before. As Her Majesty said in her message “Better Times ahead”. We can also say things are just about to get worse before it gets better. This is a statistical reality. Another one is that some of us will come ahead before others. Better Times ahead for those who instead of getting defeated, will use this as a staging point to reinforce their will. We have to look at this situation as a transition of something else. A next phase and hopefully a better one! Things will not return to pre-Covid normal as we know it but feeding our hearts hope and inspiration instead of gloom will fuel our desire to get ahead for the changes ahead. So, here is my top 10.

  1. “Company Men”- A must watch for those facing retrenchment or redundancy. This happens to the best of us, including myself. A shipping executive finds himself laid-off. Their family had to make some brutal adjustments. He had to swallow his pride but learns to make himself useful despite the new realities facing him. This is how it feels, and this is how we must press on. Life is a series of transitions. There is a purpose to our suffering, and we must help each other through similar journeys. The sooner we humble ourselves, the better we are in moving forward.
  2. “The Pursuit of Happiness”- A heartwarming story of a struggling salesman and his son trying to get back on their feet after an eviction. The story makes our momentary sufferings seem trivial and delivers a lesson on how perseverance through trials eventually lead to breakthroughs. If you can’t find work, Learn! An internship eventually led to a job where he exceled. Success is never overnight. We are sometimes brought low; we have to keep our heads up. Show up for work, no matter what!
  3. “Up in the Air” – A thought provoking satire that points to the ironies that we often accept as truth. Is the executive lifestyle all that it is cracked up to be? Are we truly free when we are alone? You reach some of your aspirations in life and then what? A sardonic and humorous tale of life’s paradoxes. The characters will keep you entertained towards a thought-provoking ending.
  4. “The Social Network” – The engaging backstory of Facebook. See how it started with this movie. Entertaining and inspiring.
  5. “Wallstreet” (1987) – “Greed is Good” was one of the most memorable lines from the film. I first saw this in high school and I wanted to be a stockbroker afterwards. If you grew up in the 80’s the soundtrack is sure to bring back memories. It may not seem like it, but this is actually a good guy vs. bad guy movie but we are often fooled to be the latter with our desires. The later version was good, but you’d have to see the original first.
  6. “Forrest Gump”- A classic American tale that takes you through its most interesting times through the eyes of a lovable idiot. It’s heartwarming and emotional in the right places. Keep Running! We’ll be OK.
  7. “Big Fish” – A Story Teller’s Movie. Absolutely fantastic and enchanting. Larger-than-life depiction as it should be told. One of the greatest stories ever told in film of a life well lived. Good story telling always straddles the fine line between fact and fiction. Colorful exaggeration being its secret sauce.
  8. “A Walk Among the Clouds” – This story starts out with a tragedy upon tragedy ending with a tragedy which later twists into a hopeful ending. What could be the end is only the chapter in a new beginning. This romantic story takes you through condemnation and redemption. It ends with our values intact. Set in the California wine country, its treatment of love against the backdrop is reminiscent of “Como Agua por Chocolate”.
  9. “La Vida es Bella” – A father struggles to shelter his son from the brutalities of being in a concentration camp. Through humor, an Italian Jew keeps his son’s eyes towards a beautiful ending. Life is Beautiful, depending on how you look at it! Hopes do turn out to be true if we survive long enough. This movie is paralleled by The Pursuit of Happiness with good Italian humor and animated exchanges.
  10. “Slumdog Millionaire” – An Indian Muslim gets a break from being a contestant in “Who wants to be a millionaire?”, but right before he answers the grand-prize question he is abducted by the police and is riddled with other riveting challenges. He punches through with a loving devotion to his childhood sweetheart.

These are not all my favorites but some of the more “inspiring” ones from the top of my head. I also have a list of Netflix favorites which I will be posting next, along with some of the most disturbing and thought-provoking things I’ve ever watched. Do leave a comment and tell me what you think.



10 Things You Can Do During the COVID19 Quarantine: An Inside-Out Approach

It has been more than three weeks since the Presidential announcement of Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ). At the onset of the announcement the restriction of movement hasn’t really dawned upon most people until the few days after. It was then that people started scrambling for adaptive measures forced upon by the quarantine. It almost seemed like implementing rules were being created as days went by. Work from home took on a new meaning. Zoom meetings were intense and drawn out during the first few days, as this was when managers have started strategizing based on the situation, but after the 2nd week we have found ourselves somewhat “Time-Rich”. The usual two to four hours a day spent in Metro Manila commute has suddenly been left to be allocated for some things that most people wouldn’t know where to apply. Add on top of that at least 6 hours spent outside on leisure and sports which versus the clear message imposed upon is to “#StayHome!” The question is, what can I do now? We’ve unlocked at least 18 hours a week of our time and productivity. Here are 10 things that have helped me in the past three weeks.

  1. PRAY! This might sound insensitive to other people’s beliefs but this is mine and it works for me with very practical benefits. Praying feeds my mind and my spirit. It encourages me and fuels my Will to slay the challenges of the day. It provides hope in a desperate situation. Much of The Bible was written under extreme circumstances and tribulation. It is a written history of mankind’s experience with God, in many times similar situations to what we have. We are in a plague but praying with the following verses has helped me through tough situations.
    1. Psalms 91:7 “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.”
    2. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I believe in a Force and Being that is greater than my fears. I believe that someone hears my prayers. Praying and meditating allows me to be honest and truthful to myself; my fears, insecurities, my concerns and my hopes. It allows me to be authentic and in touch with my value and purpose despite this crisis. Praying allows me to be vulnerable in communicating with my God and aligns my personal will with something greater than myself. Prayer readies me to fight and serve. Start with a pure heart.

  1. Always have a goal of coming out of this crisis stronger spiritually, mentally and physically. Use this time to train all three things. I planned for times similar to these and have a stationary bike, a kettlebell, a bench-press, a few dumbbells, resistance bands and a yoga mat. Not having these things is not an excuse. Use bodyweight exercises! My wife joins a Zumba and Yoga session with her friends via video conference! No excuses! Train! If you’re in between jobs this is the perfect time to get yourself “Fit-to-Work”!
  2. During the same period last year, I’ve read “Pivot”, “Tuesdays with Morrie” and “Animal Farm”. Thanks to the gift of technology I’ve finished four books via Audible. These were: “Unfuck Yourself”, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck”(Yes, I was grabbed by the F word), “Atomic Habits” and “Outliers”. I hyperlinked Atomic Habits by James Clear as I found it exceptionally helpful and implementable. Same with “Pivot”. I am currently reading “Cant Hurt Me” by David Goggins. Feeding your mind allows you to share what you learned and build more meaningful conversations, positive connections and prepares you for what is beyond this crisis.
  3. Connect and Serve. Put down the phone and stop entertaining the trolls! You’re making them rich! Have a conversation with your loved ones. Give the best of yourself by serving them. Cook! Do their laundry! Bathe the dog! Learn a new recipe. Use that excuse to go on YouTube. Give to a cause.
  4. Take Inventory. This goes with both physical inventory, skill inventory and network inventory. Balance your accounts by doing personal accounting and financial planning, take an inventory of your assets (including supplies you have in the house). There might be unused things you might need to dispose or give to charity. You might need to realign your budget. Being in quarantine opens our eyes to people and things that matter most. Reflect upon your knowledge, experience and skills. Assess the value of your connections. Are these positive connections? When you scroll through your Facebook feeds, do a clean-up or hit the snooze button! If they’re just fueling your ire or jealousy, unfollow them or take a break. Know what you have! Evaluate. Leverage your value later on with people who matter.
  5. Plan your Next Move. (Post Crisis, and In-Crisis). Build a Task or Goal statements for outcomes you’d like to achieve Post Crisis. It could sound something like this: “At the End of This Quarantine, I will be ready to embark on a New Career in a Publicly Listed Company”. This may be wordy, but specific and descriptive. It has to be “outcome or output based”. Many of the moves that you make should support that statement even while preparing during the crisis.
  6. Keep a calendar and log your activities. Note your challenges, achievements and learning.
  7. Polish your resume. Align the contents with your goals. You might have a few target industries so you might need a few versions. If you’re an entrepreneur, focus on your achievements. Make yourself bankable and investment worthy.
  8. Suit Up! It’s important to dress the part. If you see yourself going for another round of interviews after the quarantine, get your closet ready. Shine your shoes (this is somewhat overlooked) make sure your clothes are neat and ready for the role you want to fill. I often get asked how to dress for an interview, and while each industry could be different, the easy answer is to dress for your best day at work! Look the part that you want to fill!
  9. Connect! By radiating from within connect with those who matter. Family, friends and contacts. Be authentic. Add and create value in other people’s lives. Solve problems and be a solution. Give.

There’s a cliché that goes: “You can’t give what you don’t have” and it is true. By employing an Inside-Out approach as described above, you can ensure the value that you deliver into the world around you. You can live a life of purpose when you’ve invested in your personal R&D. Use this quarantine to invest in your wellbeing.

Proverbs 21:31

“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD.”