Project Week: "The Impact of Pandemic"
Rijn Platteel is currently the Managing Director of Change in a real estate company providing affordable housing and community building for young professionals between the ages of 20-35. He shares his valuable insight about housing sector in the Netherlands during the period of COVID-19 and how students can benefit from it.
How has COVID-19 impacted your business and other businesses that you know?
The impact is enormous. Our facilities involve 1,100 inhabitants who are all locked down in the buildings. They are required to keep mainly to their rooms. All communal areas such as living rooms and working spaces are all closed due to government regulations. This has changed the way people live their lives and stress-related symptoms are emerging. Secondly, a lot of people lost their jobs and they were not able to pay their rent. As for our employees, we are all working from home via email, telephone, video calls and all means possible, while normally we are on location and in direct contact with all the people in the building; so it's different and they all feel that it's an awkward situation to be living in.
Were you prepared for this situation?
We were not prepared. But we started to write down protocols about what would happen if the lockdown will be intensified or if we are going to go into another form of crisis. It works quite well to try to establish what the risk factors are within the company. And this has helped figuring out what we should do next, to see dangers we might encounter in the future and how we should deal with them. It's also interesting to see the speed at how we counter measure all the things that we did. People are so intelligent and so creative in finding solutions.
How long lasting and what kind of impact will COVID-19 bring?
People will still need housing, especially young professionals, and we have not seen any decline. And it's not likely to decline in any form especially for this target group. In the non-residential area, we have been offered to take over a hotel chain at 70% off the normal price because they could not seem to get a new business model going. I also spoke to companies who are trying to reduce the amount of office space because they forecast that people will be coming to the office less and less. Working from home will be a trend that will continue.
Could you pinpoint long-term opportunities out of this situation?
Anything that involves connectivity, internet solutions and automating services. Less physical and more online is an extreme growth area; in my company, we have been developing a lot of tools to create a platform for all of our tenants so that they won't need to have any direct contact anymore.
Any advice to our students who will be participating in the project week?
Keep thinking outside the box. This is the time where companies fail because they can't cope with the changes. The key is to keep developing and evolving the business model, keep looking ahead and looking for ways to use the change to remodel the business model. Any person who can think along these lines and look into the future, take these elements and implement them in the current situation will come out ahead. These are the people that I'm looking for.
by Sylvia Effendi