While the health emergency is being handled by state authorities, the economic emergency must be managed by public-private collaboration. Businesses must apply imagination, innovation and wisdom to ensure that serious damage is minimised — sincerely co-opting the customer as a valuable ally.
The Corona Vow can be defined as an initiative by the private economy to maximise normalcy in daily commercial life, through the responsible stimulation of demand. To seriously soften the impact of this current catastrophe on jobs and toplines and thus build a healthy foundation for the normalcy to follow. It means breaking traditional norms of strategy and operations as an experiential approach towards consumption is astutely pursued.
The first chapter of the Corona Vow is Price Normalcy, operating from the basic premise that consumption is suffering for a health scare and not buying prowess. Which means that prices of hotel rooms, airline tickets, restaurant buffets, raw chicken and all else must be maintained at standard profitable levels. Unlike the temporary practice of breakdown rates for Bombay-Delhi flights or chicken available at Rs 40 a kilogram. Such desperate measures will doubtlessly destroy entire industries, without doing anything much to restore demand, stunted for more fundamental reasons.
The second chapter is to do with Experience Alliances, those with access to customers at home now offering a bundle of solutions. If a whole host of goods which were purchased from direct retail can be home-delivered, then both brands and delivery networks can stay profitable. So Zomato can now deliver condoms, medicines, fresh fish, toiletries and so much more in dynamic alliances with stand-alone retail stores, located in Galleria Market or New Market. Thus combining the captive customer base of such outlets with the last-mile prowess of the direct-to-home specialists — an unusual combination for unusual times.
The third chapter can well be termed the Gig Rejig, borrowing from the principles of freelance deployment. So, if beauty parlours are running empty due to the infection scare, then surplus labour can be temporarily aligned to Urban Company. Thus, ensuring that at-home demand is satiated by the familiar beautician and new revenue streams open up for the brick-and-mortar establishment. The same is true for those with academic tuition skill sets (perhaps laid off from regular jobs) — a huge demand for home guides as India moves towards online live schooling.
The fourth chapter is about Location Relocation, a possible innovation for those in the hospitality business. For those offices still functional, a boardroom lunch product by a fine dining joint laid out by trained service staff, without fear of infection. Or perhaps a Swiggy tie up incubating a Video Conference lunch — basically the same meal delivered individually to home locations for consumption when the call is on. Else hotels offering their super-sanitised facilities for corporations seeking a common workspace that can be monitored — executives using guest rooms as work places without necessarily physically meeting each other.
The fifth chapter is about Proactive Purchasing, an act of wisdom and not speculation. Driven by traditional savings habits, Indians are adept at monthly stocking and now we must be urged to stock essentials at 2X levels. This will lead to a successful month of March for manufacturers and traders and give them the economic cushion to weather a tough period while the customers are also relived. Such stimuli must originate from bundled packages derived from past behaviour (AI), suitably customised for each constituency. Even celebratory indulgences like liquor can easily feature, as motivators during tough times.
The sixth chapter consists of Skill Escalation, as our trained workforce find themselves with extra time on hands. It can be about cultivating a musical instrument like violin or sitar, or even gardening and yoga — providing employment and developing self. Or even enrolment in on-line or live professional development programmes, so that a version 2.0 is ready to rock the job market when the coast is clear. If retrenchment becomes a reality, then counselling and re-placement services out-of-home can also become a scalable business.
The seventh chapter can be described as Content Disruption, an enormous opportunity for advertisers and platforms. More people staying at home and more family time effectively increases the volume and nature of content consumption, from TV to Netflix to even newspapers and magazines. This could well be the comeback that print was seeking, as more reading time is freed up, exciting Amazon as well. While viewership eyeballs increase dramatically in Non-Primetime slots, compensating somewhat for the IPL delay. Quite simply, more people will be consuming more content than ever before and if the eco-system is sufficiently smart, then businesses continue making money.
The eight chapter is all about Job Sharing, a culturally-sensitive way of managing the pay cut culture unfamiliar to India. It is inevitable that cutbacks will happen and instead of some people retaining employment at maximum levels, many more can have jobs at say 80% CTC levels. This needs to become a self-generated movement in corporate India for a six-month period possibly, so that all kitchen fires are burning till normalcy is restored. If must ideally be user-generated emanating from intra-corporate conversations that propel a collective consciousness culture, as opposed to classical self-orientation.
The ninth chapter details the Hollywood Reload, wherein brand new releases are now available online for an advanced fee. Universal will be releasing their movies online to combat the theatre ban while this can certainly be emulated in India as well. A captive audience enjoying quality entertainment at home base with family in tow, the business will seamlessly shift theatres as soon as normalcy is resumed. This can be emulated by theatres, music concerts and the like – studio recordings circulated digitally in a live format.
The tenth chapter is Manufacturing Reimagination, as followed currently by LVMH in its decision to make hand sanitizers. All applicable manufacturing units with surplus capacity can be utilised by the state machinery to make masks, test kits, liquids and all other necessary prevention tools. These can be distributed in a white label format online or physically, with standard margins for manufacturers who can convert idle capacity to profitable production. A fine combination of ensuring the continuity of jobs while serving the cause of the nation, voluntary actions equally welcome.
The tenth chapter emulates Wartime.
To ensure that the future is indeed protected, businesses must take the Corona Vow today, inviting members of the general public to participate with equal intensity. The ten chapters mentioned are purely illustrative — many more can organically follow suit. Together we will be able to fight this nagging devil, while playing by traditional rules may lead to unmanageable debacles.
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