“In times of stress and danger such as come about as the result of an epidemic, many tragic and cruel phases of human nature are brought out, as well as many brave and unselfish ones.”
These lines from William Crawford Gorgas’ ‘Sanitation in Panama’ aptly sums up the present conditions that we are living in. Seeing despair and hope, foolishness and wisdom, and the animalistic nature of human behaviour on one side and the empathetic nature on the other!
The present conditions have given a fabulous opportunity to observe and assess the vast Indian middle class – both in person and using technology. It is fascinating to see the myriad of emotions, behaviour, habits and subtle differences in human nature that make us what we are.
This article is a culmination of my personal observations over the past two months, directly as well as indirectly. It is more of a 10th man attempt to understand and describe how the vast would behave about a year from now – assuming the Covid crisis is over, a vaccine would have been found and people would have adjusted to the virus now living among us. It leaves the implications for marketing and brands on you, the reader.
It is based using Trendspotting — wherein I have tried to identify trends using Secondary Research; and Disguised Naturalistic Observation techniques — given the unique position wherein I could observe people from up close in these times.
Secondary research involved social listening (including visual cues) as well as perusal of articles in media. These were not the obvious trending articles which show what is in vogue today, but the ones hidden under the radar. To give an idea — check the number of references of paani puri or pizzas on people’s feeds, the ‘then and now’ pictures of local trains and roads, news of accidents committed by people who decided to go out on a joyride, involuntary movement forward to shake hands on videos, pictures of crowds with absolute disregard for social distancing at alcohol shops, indications of masks not being ‘macho’, disregard for distancing at quasi-religious gatherings, videos of people engaged in household chores, tweets on new terminologies (ASAP: After Safai and Pochha, EOD: End of Dishwashing) becoming WhatsApp memes etc. (Thanks @ramkid!)
These are very basic examples, but you get the drift! Put together, more than two hundred of these readings show us that there is a clear undercurrent of ‘wanting to go out’ as well as an increasing acceptance of living with the virus.
I am blessed to be associated with two NGOs; and we have been working very closely on the ground along with many other like-minded NGOs across the country (except for about 4-5 states / UTs). This has given me the opportunity to watch people up close in these trying times. Here again, I am referring to the middle class who have gone out of their way to help and support the needy lower classes that we are working for. As mentioned earlier, the primary research was conducted using disguised naturalistic observation techniques on the ground; personally by me in parts of Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, and through probing of teams working across multiple locations, the vast majority of whom had no idea of the reason behind the queries; and who – over time – started observing behaviour much in line with the requirements based on our past discussions. This approach enabled us to eliminate interviewer effect and get pure observations.
To give certain examples of observations — we have observed an increasing acceptance of living with corona over time; and the fatalistic nature (remember Gita Saar) is clearly visible. Certain other — let me call them uniquely Indian — traits are also visible. The distance of social distancing at pharmacies and grocery stores is slowly reducing over time, masks are being worn under the nose or being removed at certain times altogether (the heat may have something to do with it), motorcycles and cars are making their appearance for short journeys (without approvals, mind you!), re-emergence of local markets and their usual customers, etc. On the other hand, one can also observe that notes are being exchanged more carefully, re-emergence of mobile / QR code-based payment mechanisms etc.
So, on to mid-2021, and here is what we can expect!
The more things change…
…the more they remain the same!
These are not predictions, but rather an assessment of possible trends based on compilation of several indicators.
Only time will show us if the trends spotted by me with the help of scores of volunteers across the country will translate into the points that the assessment shows. So, let’s wait till mid-2021!
That’s all, folks!
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