Covid -The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
The rapid spread of the coronavirus has created an unprecedented public health problem that the entire world is dealing with. Aside from its human influence, there is a major economic impact being felt around the world.
As the pandemic of Covid-19 engulfed the globe from March ‘20, several companies went into fight or flight mode, as it wreaked havoc on the market climate shutting down many established businesses and rendering thousands jobless, it also saw the birth of several small-time entrepreneurs who added a new dimension to the WFH concept. Manufacturing plants had to consider new safety and sanitation guidelines. Unemployment rose and consumer spending fell sharply sending many global economies into recession mode.
Regardless of the havoc and sharp downtrend in most businesses, some industries like the below saw opportunities and immensely benefited from the same.
1. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has resulted in a surge in demand for personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks and shields, sanitisers as well as disposable medical gloves. For example, unprecedented mask purchases by the common public and the industry — end consumers who had never previously purchased these products in such large quantities. Face masks, coveralls, gowns, sanitisers and gloves turned out to top this list. Not only large companies such as 3M, ITC, Reckitt Benckiser, Honeywell Safety Products and others are taking charge and putting forth significant efforts to meet this demand but it also resulted in the rise of local home-grown industries which started manufacturing these products to bridge the huge demand – supply gap.
Malaysian company, Top Glove, the world's largest latex glove maker, is a perfect example of booming PPE sales during covid. It saw a 22 times increase in net profit to 5.22 billion ringgits for the first half of the fiscal year from a year ago, while revenue increased 315 percent to 10.12 billion ringgits.
2. With schools, universities & offices closed, e-learning & e-working took centre stage
As schools, colleges and universities closed, students were sent home during the pandemic. As a result, the transition to digital learning intensified. Although COVID-19 infection rates vary, more than 1.2 billion children in 186 countries are currently affected by school closures as a result of the pandemic. Distance education has replaced in-classroom learning thanks to rapid technological advancements. Online learning is a platform for making the teaching–learning process more student-centred, creative and versatile.
For people who work from home, video calling apps became the go-to for meetings. As a result, the user-base of these apps soared. Microsoft revealed that, as a result of the pandemic, Microsoft Teams has surpassed 44 million active users. WebEx, Google Meet and Google Classroom are other platforms that became common-place due to online education and meetings while Zoom App’s prevalence outshined others for corporate use
3. E-Commerce Sales Surge, aiding E-commerce packaging in turn
Consumers have been shifting to e-commerce from traditional brick-and-mortar retail for years, but the pandemic has accelerated the process. During the Lockdown, the government shut down non-essential stores, making in-person shopping impossible.
As customers started reducing in-person visits to grocery stores and other retailers due to the fears of infection, online retailers such as Amazon, BigBasket, and InstaMart posted significant revenue increases. Home-grown companies like Dealshare posed as a major challenge to these already pre-existing e-commerce retailers. Home-grown brands received investment in crores by venture capitals and investors as their prevalence skyrocketed due to the pandemic, something which would have previously taken much longer to happen. Containment policies and incentives added millions to the convenience of online shopping and encouraged experienced online shoppers to purchase more, making the Indian e-commerce industry one of the biggest winners of the pandemic.
4. Following restaurant closures, online food delivery reaches a large new audience
The restaurant industry, which has been hit-hard by the pandemic, is turning to the internet to make-up for sales lost due to dine-in capacity constraints and customer apprehension regarding dining out. The need to order from delivery apps like Zomato & Swiggy, has steadily risen in the wake of the pandemic, generating many jobs.
The internet was brought to tears by the viral story of Kanta Prasad and Badami Devi, an elderly couple from Delhi's Malviya Nagar who struggled to make ends meet and broke down on camera
Zomato, a restaurant aggregator and food-tech unicorn, followed on by adding Baba ka Dhaba to its listing as executives coordinated food distribution logistics with the elderly couple. Zomato also made a pitch for going "vocal for local" by encouraging users to share and assist many more such "baba ka dhabas" for possible listings on the app. The pair, who are in their eighties, had seen their earnings plummet as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. As the pandemic saw people staying in and avoiding street food even on outings. Social media amplified the hurdles faced by them and many such small eateries, which eventually got registered for food delivery and hopping in on the home-delivery trend.
5. Rise of OTT platforms
As films and TV content dried up during Covid induced Lockdowns, Over-The-Top apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Amazon Prime, Youtube and Spotify among others came to the rescue of homebound individuals, looking for some entertainment as they remained easily accessible Regional Apps like HoiChoi, Zee5, Sun NXT and the like have come into existence catering to large audiences as well. With the recent government shutdowns and the current state of the economy, OTT seems to be the new standard in the film industry. The content line may have dried up due to the halting of productions, but streaming through OTT platforms across the country has not. Blockbuster films like Gulabo Sitabo, Tribhanga, Tandav, Ludo starring A-list celebrities were also released on OTT platforms instead of traditional cinema halls and still had the same profit.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, OTT has offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live stream major events such as concerts, music festivals, conferences, and other gatherings that would otherwise be cancelled. Whatever the future of streaming holds, it's already being spread over the internet and is changing the world of entertainment.
1. The Migrant Crisis
The sudden announcement of Lockdown in March ’20 during the first wave, created a Migrant crisis of Himalayan proportion. Not only did it lead to job loss for millions but in some ways acted as a catalyst in spreading the infection to unexposed populations. Migrant labourers in their anxiety to return home, did not follow covid norms leading to many deaths and enormous hardships like walking for thousands of KMs to get back home without any food & water as many were evicted from their rented houses.
2. Lack of preparedness
During the second wave, the increase in case load has been exponential. India confirmed 11,000 cases on the 10th of February, 2021, and the daily average for the next 50 days was about 22,000 cases. However, over the next ten days, the number of cases increased dramatically, with the daily average hitting 89,800. In the second wave, the number of daily deaths has increased dramatically and the mortality rate remains higher as compared to 2020. On Monday, India announced 1,761 deaths, bringing the total number of deaths to over 180,000 since the outbreak started. In many cities, crematoriums are open 24 hours a day, and people must wait for hours to get their loved ones cremated or buried. According to experts, this indicates that the real number of deaths could be much higher.
There was a shortage of Oxygen, ventilators and hospital beds which have been affecting hospitals across India, with some being forced to post signs warning of a lack of supplies. According to PATH, an organisation that partners with global organisations and companies to address health issues, demand has been increasing at a rate of 6% to 8% every day. A persistent shortage of hospital beds has been recorded in many Indian cities and the urgent pleas for assistance on social media make it more apparent. Cities worst-affected, like Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad, have almost run out of hospital beds. Though many organisations, corporate and NGOs, have come forward with Aid and Free Supplies Distribution, even then many lives were lost for lack of facilities.
The government has recently started an "oxygen express", with trains carrying tankers to wherever there is demand and a shortage of oxygen supplies. The Indian Air Force is also airlifting oxygen from military bases. However, with the infection rate being high, India is still working on fixing the situation.
3. Testing times for the Young & the Elderly
Due to Covid induced lockdowns, the youth is said to be subjected to anxiety, burnouts, survivor's guilt amidst other mental health issues as all outdoor activity has been curbed and students remain bereft of the physical environment of educational institutions. The virtual space has been the only getaway. Nevertheless, as many elderly citizens struggled, a team of many young volunteers and care-givers came forward – but demand continues to surpass supply.
1. Digital Fraud
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, attempts and incidents of digital fraud have increased. Despite the positives of the pandemic in forcing customers to switch to digital payments, cybercrime such as web-skimming, malware campaigns, and phishing scams is on the rise in the region, according to a report on Fraud & Risk Management in Digital Payments. According to research, buyer side frauds such as false claims, chargebacks, and fake buyer accounts, as well as merchant side frauds such as selling counterfeit goods and non-fulfilment, are among the emerging forms of frauds.
2. Lack of Ethics
Oxygen and medicine shortage have become commonplace throughout the country, resulting in a flourishing black market where individuals benefit from people's distress. Some of whom are running scamming campaigns via social media apart from black marketeers’ numbers circulating online, as incidents reported are proof to the same. They claim to offer to deliver resources like oxygen canisters and injections. When contacted, these individuals usually demand payment in advance, and they receive it, they vanish in thin air.
The news of two men being arrested in Dwarka for allegedly duping people by selling fire extinguishers as oxygen cylinders was widely reported in newspapers and on television.
People are being administered Rabies vaccine and glucose water instead of Covid Vaccine. Navneet Kalra, a businessman accused of black selling oxygen concentrators in the capital with a foreign SIM firm named Matrix Cellular Services Ltd, was recently arrested by the Delhi Police. Authorities seized more than 500 oxygen concentrators from Kalra's three restaurants.
Though bizarre, these incidents symbolise how the pandemic has India on the ropes, as it has overtaken Brazil to become the world's second-worst-hit nation after the United States.
(Written by Siddhipriya Chatterjee)