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COVID-19: Time For The Pace Car

Formula 1 fans know about the pace car.  There is an accident on the track, pieces of a race car are littered all over the place, guys in white jumpsuits pop onto the road and frantically start cleaning up and the pace car comes on.

COVID-19 is slowing down momentum in international education. Photo: Photos by Luke/Flickr

Market followers have the most to gain as they have more "shots at goal"

While the pace car is on the track the race cars must stay behind the pace car and can not overtake each other.  If you had a 5 second lead (an eternity in Formula 1) that lead has now diminished to nothing as your nearest competitor is just behind you.  Many pole positions have been won and lost because the impact of the dreaded pace car.

This has happened to the education sector to varying degrees because of COVID-19.

This latest coronavirus has halted student recruiting in many segments of the education sector.  For example, English language programs and other short courses which recruit on a weekly or monthly basis now have months of postponed students waiting to enrol and when COVID-19 fades as a threat (i.e., when the pace car comes off the road and the race begins again) this pent up demand will flood the market in one shot.

Market leaders have the most to lose as there are far more customers up for grabs at one point in time while, conversely, market followers have the most to gain as they have more “shots at goal” (to switch sports analogies) than ever before.

There are any number of tactics that would benefit market leaders and followers and their suitability needs to be judged on a case-by-case basis.

What is clear is that a “business as usual” approach when COVID-19 fades means missing a chance to overtake the car in front.

Karan Khemka is an occasional columnist for The PIE: He was partner and head of the international education practice at Parthenon-EY for 16 years and now serves on boards at global education companies.

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