There is an unprecedented situation which the whole world is facing right now. At present more than 300 crore people out of the world’s population of 550 crore (which translates to almost 60%) are under some sort of lockdown. The lockdown is almost total in India while in other countries, some sort of manufacturing is still going on, though truncated. In India, the lockdown is for 21 days (additionally 5 extra days in case of those of us in the state of Maharashtra). This comes to a minimum of 26 days for us. We have not faced such a lockdown for any period of our life or even in our grandparent’s lifetime. The earliest similar lockdown was in 1896, that too only for the cities of Pune and Mumbai due to the Plague. But then the economy was also very small and mostly dependent on agriculture.
Coming to the present situation, the same is very dire, not just for health reasons but also as far as economic conditions are concerned. Not just for one’s company but also for our country and the entire world. Once this problem is resolved, the timeline of which is unknown at this juncture, the world, including India is expected to go into a severe recession. This will be to an extent which we have never faced earlier, meaning that the earlier recession of 2008 would seem like a cakewalk. Hence, we need to be ready for ensuring that this does not reach us or if it does, the impact should be minimal. Else some hard decisions might be required.
All deliveries are obviously going to be delayed and everybody needs to put in more effort to complete them on priority once the world restarts. While all competitors from India might be closed, most companies don’t compete only in India and competition is also with foreign companies and quite a few of them are working. Hence, there is more pressure now to complete the orders fast. Hence, it is imperative that one should start thinking on what can be done to reduce the impact of this unforeseen situation and find ways to get over it as well as how to ensure deliveries are prioritized.
If all work together, this grim situation can obviously be turned into an opportunity as the most fleetfooted as well as those who are adaptable to change are the first ones to survive. This is the basic Darwinian principle and this still holds true.
Coming to this unexpected long break, it is said that 21 days are required to make or break a habit. This means that if we start doing something regularly for 21 days continuously, it becomes a habit and we get used to it. Similarly, if we have to break any bad habit, it is just 21 days which are required. And all of us are staying home for more than 21 days right now. Hence, it is important that one does not get into any bad habit like getting up late, sleeping in the afternoon, lazing around or procrastinating. One should use this opportunity to learn something new, it can be anything, like cooking, playing any music, reading some good books, helping one’s family members or even working in one’s farm (which is allowed to some extent).
It can even be about bad habits like tobacco, cigarettes or liquor. Those who are already eating tobacco, this is a godsend opportunity to use these 21 days to break the habit by stopping it. Believe me, it will help you in the future. Corona virus is not fatal for most people but it surely is for the elderly and those who have lower immunity. Tobacco ensures that your immunity reduces. Hence, it is important for your own health that you should stop these bad habits, if any, immediately. Additionally, one should ensure that he or she does not put in more than 30 minutes on social media and mobile. Believe me, nobody gained anything by being part of Whatsapp groups, except for lost time, which one can never gain back.
So what does the future look like?
- One thing is for sure, business or life is never going to be the same. As airline travel changed forever after 9/11, so shall 2020 be marked as the time after which there will be huge changes in the way we function or do business. Taking the next flight to meet a customer may not be the same again. There will be a lot of clearances which might be required like confirmation from customers, maybe a health certificate, who knows what else! This also might be the last nail in the coffin of Exhibitions, which are already on the wane! Online conferences and exhibitions might be the way forward. The world economy will surely bounce back but when and to what extent, is something which is open to debate. Further, one thing for sure, that a lot of small businesses, especially those in the tourism industry and retail, including restaurants are surely going to fold up as they just would not be able to absorb the rentals and wage costs during this intermittent period. Manufacturing too cannot be immune and will see a lot of blood, but that might help in weeding out the inefficient players. This is a huge opportunity for companies who can survive the bloodbath by being agile and having adaptability to change. Hence, it is imperative that one uses this period to think on how to adapt and come out of this situation.
What should one do in this situation?
- Try to innovate and develop new products, try to streamline present operations to weed out waste, increase productivity by trying to increase the per person revenue and ensure that excess manpower (especially the bottom 15%) is eased out, without compromising on work.