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What if 2021 is a bigger disaster?

Shivaji Dasgupta, Managing Director, Inexgro Brand Advisory, explains why 2021 may well be as nightmarish as 2020, or maybe even worse, and why we need to have a Plan B ready

Shivaji Dasgupta

If social media projections are to be believed, the world will change at the midnight hour of December 31, 2020. The Covid drama will end suddenly and normalcy as we know it will reappear magically. Truthfully, this hypothesis is farthest from the truth as we have sufficient evidence to believe that 2021 will be an abnormal year as well. Exactly why, we must have a Plan B for the year to arrive soon, as individuals and businesses.

There is actually abundant evidence to believe that 2021 will certainly be a logical extension of the virus stricken 2020 and potentially a more potent version. Bill Gates, the prolific soothsayer, has professed that the impact of the pandemic will not cease till September and that must be a cause of reasonable worry. The UK has identified a more potent strain of this debilitating malady and thus the country must be isolated lest the strain restrain the entire universe. While even the most optimistic scientist has confessed that the efficacy of the vaccine solution is still unproven and thus patently unreliable. In sum, all available data points cannot exonerate the coming year from grief most damaging and thus we must be ready with a ‘happy unhappy’ strategy that works for civilisation.

Brands must consolidate and refine their direct-to-destination channels and ensure that the kiranas too come under the hyperlocal tech-enabled delivery models. As the strain increases and a direct connection to market exposures is established, well-heeled folks will refrain further from visiting supermarkets. In an era of reducing brand loyalty, already proven, brands that are able to reach customers effectively will win and technology will play a stellar role. By creating direct channels with sellers and brand owners, the buyers will be able to take greater control over transactional processes and will thus also dictate pricing preferences. Whichever company is able to get the tech-led distribution piece right will be able to win the customer’s pockets.

Equally, brands across categories must increase their presence in the WFH scenarios, which also includes the Home Schooling segment. This includes furniture, F&B, technology devices, exercise equipment, VC fashion apparel and so much more. Those in the tourism business must reconcile to the domestic ‘Drive segment’ to become the avenue for growth and build a service experience accordingly. Which will happily include Google Maps assistance for the journey, flexible check-in, facilities for child nannies or drivers, enhanced safety protocols and all inclusive rates. Movies will continue to thrive on OTT platforms as the PVR is a feared destination and sports will possibly thrive through TV as well, the Australia model not sustainable. As homeschooling continues for a younger audience, employers will have to consider tutorial leaves for parents, to balance the present demands.

But the biggest challenge will be faced by individuals like us, as we struggle to manage the new equilibrium in a socio-economic sense. Plan B must contain isolation zones in the home where folks can enjoy enough alone times as relationships get stretched and strained. Personal growth ambitions will have to be curtailed as offices offer limited promotions and we have to further develop interpersonal skills that allow for long-distance interactions. As family and work lives get merged, the pressures will undeniably increase and this will lead to greater need for wellness and self-development. Those accustomed to long-distance holidays and work trips will have to suspend the same for the collective good and focus on a more diminished existence, also a great time for improving professional skills.

The migrants who are now in villages will not return in a hurry and thus a buoyant rural economy will certainly emerge and this can lead to transformational entrepreneurship as they will seek a living beyond agriculture. Those retrenched from hospitality and travel will quickly enter horizontal job markets as skill sets will be lapped up by e-commerce providers. The healthcare business will get severely rattled as elective surgeries get postponed by yet another year and those who can combine telemedicine with physical visits can find a sustainable and scalable growth. A similar pattern will emerge in aviation with thousands of pilots laid off and not much joy in sight as is already the case with parts of the world. All of this will lead to phenomenal cross skilling, the transition of skills to safer avenues of employment.

The simple point I wish to make is that 2021 may well become the nightmarish second innings in a test match with a terrible first innings, and there is enough proof to support this thought. We seem to be in a state of wishful denial and are pretending that January will be a messiah overruling the ailments of 2020. That is unlikely to be the case and we all need a workable Plan B very quickly as both corporate and personal cash reserves may dry up rapidly.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of and we do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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