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...