Corporate Innovations in Response to the COVID-19 Crisis within South Asia

Call for papers for: South Asian Journal of Business Studies

The submission portal for this special issue will open on January 10th, 2021.

Guest Editors
M. Birasnav, School of Management, New York Institute of Technology, Old Westbury, NY

Joanne Scillitoe, David Nazarian College of Business and Economics, California State University – Northridge, Northridge, CA

Richa Chaudhary, Department of Humanities & Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Patna, Bihar, India

The COVID-19 pandemic has a created a worldwide and largely unexpected exogenous shock resulting in significant implications for all businesses large and small.  Firms are struggling to deal with this crisis without sufficient insights and tools yet must continue to push forward and cope as best as possible.  However, significant disruptions, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, while they can be serious threats, also create a fertile ground for innovation.  In turbulent business environments, innovation is an important mechanism to facilitate adaptation to a changing competitive landscape and is a crucial element for firm survival, sustainability, and success. Capturing and understanding how firms are innovating in this time of crisis can provide valuable insights theoretically and in practice for businesses now and into the future.  To get a sense of the current business environment, a recent report by McKinsey (June 2020) suggests that 90% of firms recognize that the COVID-19 crisis is an opportunity for innovation yet only 21% of these firms feel they are equipped to pursue innovation successfully.

While each source of a crisis can result in unique dynamics and solutions, the link between crises and innovation has a long history.  Early research on crises and innovation dates back to Schumpeter’s (1910) work on business-cycles that acknowledges how innovative activities of organizations holistically are re-shaped by economic crises (e.g. caused by war).  More recent research reflecting upon the 2008 economic crisis resulting from the deregulation of the financial industry shows that while an economic crisis can limit the ability of firms to invest in innovations, those that did led to a greater ability to cope and grow (Archibugi, Filippettie, Frenz, 2013).  COVID-19 has also created an economic crisis in South Asia and world-wide but also involves unique issues from these prior economic crises.  Understanding how firms can and should innovate during the COVID-19 pandemic offers significant implications for research and practice. 

Innovation has often  been defined broadly as there are many facets and contexts to consider. Here, we take a broad perspective of innovation and define it as new and useful initiatives that can be administrative or technical in focus, product or process in orientation, radical to incremental in impact, architectural or component in scope, and generated or adopted in origin. In addition, innovation can involve multiple actors at multiple levels of analysis such as individuals, teams, organizations, and networks within and across permeable organizational boundaries.  Thus, innovation in response to COVID-19 can emerge from all types of firms in a multitude of areas including human resources, supply chains, R&D, marketing, etc.

The occurrence of the pandemic situation has paved a way for businesses to refocus and innovate in many facets of their business such as organizational structure, processes, and products and services. For example, non-medical manufacturing industries were able to show their product flexibility by producing ventilators, smart helmets to detect temperature of individuals, and robots and equipment to disinfect workplace.  Also, McKinsey (March, 2020) discusses adjustments needed in supply chains in response to COVID-19 including greater transparency on critical supplies and identification of alternative sources, better inventory management to bridge production gaps, management of customer demand changes and shortage buying, manage worker PPE supplies, estimations of logistics capacities including mode of transport and customs clearances, stress tests on supplier balance sheets for financial health, and ensuring worker health and work from home options.  Given that COVID-19 has touched so many facets of organizations, the types of innovation that could be instituted is wide-reaching.  However, it should also be understood that these innovations can have negative externalities such as unemployment of workers, closing/acquisitions of some firms, and resource underutilization.  This call should not only address the positive outcomes of innovation but also the consequences.

The intent of this special issue is to focus on South Asian corporate innovations created in response to COVID-19 that offer new perspectives and solutions as the crisis continues to unfold as well as for future business practice.  While the view of innovation is broad for this special issue, all submissions must address the common theme of COVID-19 driven corporate innovation.

Potential research questions may include:

  • How are firms managing stakeholders differently as their behaviors, expectations and needs have changed?
  • What new leadership behaviors and styles have emerged and how have they enabled or detracted from responses to COVID-19 ?
  • What new human resource management practices have been implemented to secure the safety and overall well-being of current and recently laid-off employees as well as the recruiting of new employees?
  • What new practices in supply chain management have been developed to manage disruptions in supplier availability, shifting needs, and logistics challenges?
  • How have firms shifted their product/service development and offerings to sustain operations due to shifting consumer demands?  How have firms stayed on track with their existing innovation development during this crisis?
  • How have practices in finance, economics and banking changed to accommodate the risks and the economic downturn created by Covid-19?

Submission Deadline: May 10th, 2021

Submissions to SAJBS are made using ScholarOne, the online submission management system. For more information and to prepare your manuscript, please refer to the journal's author guidelines.