On Thursday, 20 February of this year, I returned from India where I visited and gave a presentation at the Grand Tour CanTech New Delhi. Covid-19 and corona were terms I had already heard about and also at the conference there was a lot of talk about what the impact of this epidemic could be. For the time being, the outbreak remained in China, at least that is what we thought at the time, and the Indian government claimed that there were no corona cases in India. For me it was my first visit to India and I was amazed at how adamant a government could say that in view of the huge crowds in Delhi. President Trump had yet to visit Mr. Modi, so that may have had something to do with it.
Back in the Netherlands, carnival burst out in the south of our country and nobody in the government seemed to care about that either. In retrospect it was a 'super spreader' event but nobody really noticed that yet. It was only after a visit at the end of February to a large dairy organisation in our country that does a lot of business in the Far East, that I gained insight into the scale of the crisis, but news and media were still positive that corona would not come our way or would only come in a minor form. Then things went fast, winter sportsmen came back from northern Italy and Austria and the first corona patients reported to the Dutch hospitals.
Europe, and thus the Netherlands, went into a lockdown, although the strictness differed from country to country. We kept factories and companies open; where possible people worked at home. For Cazander a very quiet period started, that lasted from mid-March until the end of April, with almost no requests, no telephone calls, no visits, nothing at all. We had just entered into a major purchase commitment for a 4-C printing line with a British manufacturer and it was very uncertain whether the customer (from outside Europe) would or even could proceed with the purchase. As undoubtedly many other companies, we calculated the worst case scenario and everything was put in place to survive the crisis financially. A crisis of which nobody knew and still does not know how long it will last. We assumed that our turnover could halve and measures were inevitable, starting with our spending habits. In the meantime, we feverishly washed our hands more thoroughly than ever.
To our surprise, early May we received new enquiries and we were able to offer machines from our large stock. Customers could not and still cannot visit us to inspect the machines, but photos and videos gave sufficient insight into their condition; and I also think that the established reputation that Cazander has built up in the industry shows its value in this day and age and we have apparently been able to gain our customers’ firm confidence in us over the years. Sales have picked up again and this trend has continued in the second and third quarter; we have even sold machines to – for us - new customers from within and outside Europe. We are of course incredibly grateful for this, for we see among friendly entrepreneurs that things can also be very different in times of corona.
In addition, the odd thing is that we ourselves have hardly been able to travel; in the last six months, I have taken one European flight and I have only made three trips by car/boat. That is about 85% less than normal for me in the past 20 years. You start to wonder whether all this travelling has been necessary. Probably not. Because I mainly do the purchases myself (my brother Tjakko does the sales), I do not know yet if we get sufficient 'new' machines in this corona era, but of course we do our utmost to secure ample supply. The question we are asking ourselves is what our market will look like after Covid-19; the outcome is still a bit hazy. But until then we will certainly travel less and our online information provision will become even more important.
I say, not Cash is King but Trust is King