Partnerships have become an important business strategy for businesses to adopt in order to survive. As the trends in the marketplace change, increasingly, businesses have been driven to consolidate, collaborate, and build together. To this end, we have seen collaborations within industries, even between “competitors”, as they begin to see themselves more as collaborators than competitors – each partner focused on growing the overall pie, rather than just a small piece of it.
Partnerships have also flourished across verticals, where complementary service providers come together to identify common needs and behaviours of their shared customers, to enable them adequately address these needs, leveraging on partnerships. These forms of collaborations have brought about disruptions, new opportunities, increased revenue for the businesses, and enhanced customer experiences.
The aforementioned partnerships have all been focused on increased financial returns for the businesses, leveraging their core capacities. However, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen an emerging trend in partnerships. Partnerships between businesses with little or no common grounds coming together to fight a common enemy – COVID-19.
In Nigeria, like in other parts of the world, businesses are partnering governments, health institutions, research institutes, and so on, to fight the pandemic. On Thursday, February 27, 2020, as the first case of the novel coronavirus was confirmed in Nigeria by the Federal Ministry of Health, a new wave of partnerships took hold in Nigeria. First, we had the CA-COVID platform initiated by the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN). Then came the Presidential Task Force constituted by the President. Afterwards, individuals and corporate organisations embarked on private initiatives to partner the government and relevant health institutions to fight the pandemic.
One of the outstanding, privately-driven initiatives, is the Interswitch Group’s concerted intervention efforts to support the fight against COVID-19. The company, in an effort to lend its support, raised N305 million through combined donations from its employees, board and management.
Leveraging its partnership with some state governments across the country (about 23 of them), the company is utilizing the raised fund to support the local initiatives of its partner state governments. Part of the funds have been used to set up isolation centres, procure and donate rapid diagnostic testing kits, deploy its COVID-19 pathway platform, pay the allowances of health workers, donate raw foodstuffs to indigent communities, provide security personnel and procure other medical equipment and consumables.
In another strategic alliance, Interswitch, through its card payment subsidiary – Verve International – partnered with PAX technology, a leading international provider of Point-of-Sale (PoS) payment terminals, to donate facial masks and infra-red thermometers to Nigerians as part of the efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. In furtherance of the partnership, Interswitch has also underscored commitment by the partners to promote the adoption of contactless point-of-sale payment solutions across Nigeria and the larger West Africa market. The partners unanimously agree that the widespread adoption of contactless payment solutions has a greater propensity to better mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Other efforts through which Verve International is leveraging its strategic alliances include: its collaboration with the Lagos State Feeding Program (Eti-Osa Local Government Area) and the Young President Organisation (YPO) to set up four Verve Food Banks. The Verve Food Banks is Verve’s response to alleviating the hardship being experienced by the indigenes and security personnel within its immediate community – Eti-Osa Local Government Area of Lagos.
Interestingly, while some of these partnerships were forged purposely to fight the pandemic, others were already existing business alliances that are only now being leveraged for a common goal. A goal that is obviously beyond their core business objectives, and partnerships that offer no direct financial gains.
While these efforts by Interswitch Group, Verve International, the organized private sector and good spirited individuals, might seem to be more ethical than financial, we know that they strengthen the sustainability potentials of these businesses. These intervention efforts drive up trust and brand equity indices for these businesses. So, while these initiatives were not born with the objective of driving sales or return on investment, we know that, in the long run, it could positively impact the bottom line.
So, as we all begin to rise from the ashes strewn around by the COVID-19 pandemic, as businesses begin to re-evaluate their business models, perhaps we should also begin to rethink how we leverage anything at our disposal, be it our core competencies or our partnerships.
We should deliberately evaluate how we can leverage these beyond us because in the long run, it is still about us.