Showing posts with label Covid. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Covid. Show all posts

24 March, 2023

Three years after the first Lockdown!

On this day, 24th March 2020, India experienced its first ever full lockdown for 21 days. The entire country came to a halt; abrupt standstill of commercial and economic activities. The State & Central Governments imposed an extremely strict gag order that citizens were not allowed to even step out of home, save for buying medicines along with a proof of the most recent prescription from a certified Doctor. Each one of us in the country had a different story to narrate – some faced extreme medical challenges while many had other stories, such as loss of livelihood and uncertainty of the next meal, especially for the poor, the marginalised and physically challenged at that.

All forms of transportation came to a halt; flights, trains, buses and local transportation such as taxis and auto rickshaws. The retail segment was among the most impacted. It was a double whammy of sorts – those who worked in all other industries eventually spent their monies on Food, Clothing & Shelter. On the one side, shutting down the shops meant loss of business for the day; on the other hand, those who would spend at retail stores were themselves staring at a bleak present and immediate future, for many employers were not sure / clear how to pay for unproductive employees when there was no business at all. 

From the smallest kirana to large retail companies, it was VUCA in full flow – Vulnerability, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. None of us knew what would happen next. 

Slowly but surely, things started opening up from June onwards only to once again relapse shortly thereafter. This roller-coaster ride continued until May 2021, when a partial and a complete lockdown was brought back in several states. The festive season in 2020 and 2021 were muted, for, the majority of the retail sector and thousands of retailers were staring at several crores of rupees worth of stocks; unable to liquidate them to pay suppliers, in effect unable to buy new and more relevant stocks as required. Hard times, those were.

By October 2021, there was some semblance of orderliness that was back. People started to step out of their homes risking the dreaded spread of the infection. By then, most of the countrymen and women had taken atleast 1 dose of the vaccine and were now armed with the strength to face any eventualities. Whether the vaccine worked to its full or not – many had tested positive despite taking the shot – people had gained the strength to fight it. 

Three years later, as I write this note, I carry immense gratitude to the Almighty, my family, friends, former employers and colleagues, all of whom stood shoulder to shoulder with each other and overcame several obstacles. Though I too, like millions faced setbacks in the workplace, I am glad that it was this bleak period during which I could shine professionally with a few big ticket accolades to my credit. Signing up with Chennai Super Kings as beverage partner for Levista Coffee will be one of my most cherished moments along with placing the brand alongside Kamal Hassan in Big Boss Tamil. Working closely with Ad-film Directors, I co-scripted and oversaw a dozen films for Levista & Specsmakers during this time.

Joining Indian Terrain was a calculated move, but went awry due to various reasons. Some wrong calculations, despite various measures taken before and during my stint; so be it. Life moves on and keeps teaching us every other day! When we succeed, we learn; but when we fail, we learn a lot more. Wisdom is not repeating mistakes and I hope to gain from some of the key learnings I have taken during this three year period. 

Over the past 15 months, the Indian economy has shown much resilience. Retail Industry is back to its charm pre-pandemic, though there are a number of challenges ahead of us; inflation is pinching the middle class; over all cost of household has drastically increased, including fuel, power, road tolls, etc.; loan books by banks are seeing a huge surge, a sign of good times but fraught with higher risks as well. Nevertheless, I believe Indians are more hopeful now than ever before. And that matters.

PS: By the way, I am glad, that this happens to be my 300th blog article. No, it wasn't planned at all... 

01 May, 2020

Lockdown Blues!

It’s day 39 of an Official Nationwide lockdown ever since we shut ourselves at home on Tuesday 24 March on Ugadi Day!

The best thing that has happened to most of us is that we spent the last month and a half entirely at our own homes, with our immediate loved ones although many were away from their families.

There’s no bigger joy and happiness that I have had in my entire life that I could spend so many days continuously with my kids and wife. These golden days will be cherished all my life.

I haven’t seen my Sister and Mother for all these days which makes me very sad. Not the longest, since I’ve lived away from them for over 25 years. But this one is rare coz she lives two streets away and I haven’t walked that far.

Though many of us perform household work regularly at home, the lockdown meant No Maids, so we did additional work. Whenever I washed vessels, I felt bad for my elderly maid who washes vessels without a grin. Always. And the mopstick is oh-so bad to handle.

Friends - missed their company the most for I haven’t seen a few for long. Makes me realise how much more important they’re to me. Thanks for being there for me over phone calls!

I ran out of 2 months’ stock of After Shave Lotions so ended up using Savlon. They both do the same job, similar chemicals. But our minds are conditioned to use branded ones than generic ones. Sigh.

We lost choice of many other day today utilities. We used / use what we get. We’ll get used to this.

No outside food. No shopping, visitation to Malls and Cinemas. No hospital / Doc visits. Our body consumed only home cooked food. Bizarre that we could actually survive this.

My Credit Card Bill (mostly official, a bit of household) was the lowest in about 14 years - only FOUR figure bill. Unbelievable. ICICI must be in a state of shock. Also, lost out majorly on my Payback Points.

No new movie releases for 6 weeks, no FDFS. Life moves on. Awaiting OTT releases and FDFS in May 2020.

I never imagined all my life that sales professionals like me can ever work from home. This has been a reckoning of sorts on how we are conditioned to think, act and behave repeatedly on the professional front.

Missed human interactions all along, ironically. Shows why humans are social animals and need socialising. Am quite sure that this too shall also pass and we will come to terms to the new world order, soon.

Indian PM and Tamil Nadu CM have led the Country and the State impeccably all along. Not fair to compare how other countries fared, especially the usual suspects of USA, China, Japan, France & Germany. But our men in Kurta and Veshti have rocked.

We clapped hands on a balcony, lit lamps in the night in solidarity without expecting any miracle. They said, We did. Some didn’t. Many mocked the idea. So be it.

Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor passed away. Many felt bad for them personally. So much of noise on social media for the departed souls. Rishi’s daughter saw the cremation on a Video call. Like how Indian migrant labourers working in Middle East, Africa and South East Asia see the last rites of their departed ones. Just that mostly they don’t have a choice to fly back.

But the same ones who mourned Irrfan and Rishi didn’t condemn on their FB Walls when Dr. Simon’s last rites were disallowed in his preferred Cemetery at Kilpauk, Chennai. The vehicle was vandalised and destroyed with the corpse in it by members of the same community whom he loving served all along. Two men dug the grave for a Doc who saved so many lives all his life.

Priorities. Ignorance. Impatience. Human race, I say.

As always, Bollywood (and Hollywood) comes first. Our own local heroes - Nope.

Of the two drivers who took a corpse to Mizoram in an ambulance from Chennai driving for three straight days, one has tested positive yesterday. Mizo Minister rewarded him ₹2,000 for the trip. No, we will not celebrate this Driver as he was not the original Romantic Hero or a Really emotive actor. Just another labour fellow and driving an Ambulance is his job, after all. Not sure, if he was singing “Hum tum, ek kamre mein bandh ho” along with his co-driver. Very very sad.

Economic Stimulus - Instead of catchups at Cafes and benches at Tea Shops, social media is abuzz on this. From Raghuram Rajan to Raghu Thatha, everyone is advising, Xi, Trump, Modi and Merkel. Nice to see the world has 5 billion Economists. Wow. I should have taken my Class XI and XII Economics Lectures more seriously.

Some people want to urgently open shops, malls, cinemas and salons. But I wonder if Customers are willing to walk outside.

E-Commerce is here to stay. Dot. As I always say, E-Commerce is not a new business, rather it’s just a new channel of distribution.

Lastly, Hyperlocal ECommerce is the way forward. My startup Oyethere did this 5 years back. Potential Investors scoffed and mocked at me then. Today, they are cribbing that Dunzo doesn’t deliver at their Pin code at Bangalore, Bombay or Delhi. The Chennai Investor Mamas still believe it’s best to walk up to the neighbor hood shops than invest on Hyperlocal StartUps. Sigh.

Lastly, I haven’t been to a Temple Precint - longest ever in my life. Missing this aspect the most.

Do share this article if you feel this perspective interests you.

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