As the COVID-19 outbreak worsens, companies around the world are facing fresh business challenges with every passing day. One such company is Ireland’s Cubic Telecom which is based in Dublin. The country’s government has announced emergency measures to tackle the health emergency with schools, colleges and childcare facilities closing until March 29.
Gerry McQuaid is Cubic’s EVP Commercial and a board member. He describes the impact of the outbreak on his company that has global partners such as Audi, Etisalat and the UK electric vehicle maker Arrival. He says the company is lucky as almost 90% of its staff are based in Dublin and most of its operations there.
"Despite being based here however, we are still feeling the effects of the global outbreak and the need to be cautious. As our solution is global, and our customers are dotted across the globe our planned meetings with them have been seriously disrupted. Several important meetings and workshops abroad have now been cancelled, which could potentially slow down some projects we are working on,” says McQuaid.
Like most companies, Cubic has put in place its own measures to combat the virus. Its team members are free to work from home and, if they have been abroad recently, they are encouraged to. As Cubic is a tech company, remote working is not a problem and doesn’t impact productivity. Also, they are used to utilising video and teleconferencing extensively to communicate with overseas employees.
“Our team travels regularly, it is the nature of our business. It was a difficult decision to come to but two weeks ago we imposed a business travel ban until further notice. We are compensating with teleconferencing which is working well so far. However, I must admit nothing can replace the importance of face-to-face contact with our customers and partners. Technology helps however it does not completely overcome the need for travel and face-to-face communication.”
Cubic attends many trade shows around the world to showcase its solutions and discuss business with potential clients and new partners. However, it recently had to respond at speed when Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was cancelled at short notice. “We booked out our boardroom here at Cubic HQ for the week the show was supposed to be on and set up video calls from there with the contacts we were supposed to meet. Unfortunately, one or two key meetings were cancelled. As I said, nothing can replace the value of face-to-face communication.”
Dublin is known as a convivial city with a great social scene and a lively interest in sport. So how has the outbreak hit living, working and socialising in the city? McQuaid says: “I have noticed fewer people on the streets and restaurants are taking a big hit; however, the supermarkets are alive with hustle and bustle. Airlines such as Ryanair and Aer Lingus have suspended all flights to Italy and I am surrounded by colleagues who are unsure of whether to take the flights they had booked for weekend St. Patrick’s Day breaks.
“Both of Ireland’s final two matches in the Six Nations rugby tournament have been postponed to most likely October which is disappointing. The upcoming UEFA qualifiers between Republic of Ireland and Slovakia for Euros 2020 will be played behind closed doors. One of the largest universities here, Trinity College Dublin, is closing its campus and moving all lectures online for the rest of the semester.
“This will be a testing time for all industries across the country, especially for businesses in the tourism and catering sectors.“
Cubic is in the business of helping the world's leading automotive, PC, telecom and retail brands connect and monetize their devices on a global scale. McQuaid explains: “With our solution, we enable our customers to remotely monitor devices, providing diagnostics and making Over-The-Air software updates. This eliminates the need for drivers or device users to travel to garages or support centres for the software updates to be carried out.”
He says that the coronavirus and the resulting reduction in travel in Europe has had a major impact on mobile operators who have seen a drop in data generated from roaming traffic. “As operators experience a drop in both inbound and outbound roaming, revenues for the period could be negatively impacted. Interestingly, Telecom Italia is offering free data for a period to anyone in badly affected areas of Italy.”
With every challenge comes an opportunity, especially in the business world. Cubic’s local solutions may in fact be a godsend to Europe’s mobile operators. “We can in fact provide the mobile operators with a steady flow of data traffic onto their networks generated by Cubic connected vehicles. The Cubic automotive solution is not dependent on drivers crossing into other countries, even though we are known for enabling this feature. Therefore, we are assisting the operators with a steady revenue stream during this challenging time.”
It seems necessity really is the mother of invention.