The Day After COVID-19

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Dhirendra Newar

India is hit hard due to the spread of this pandemic situation which has called for a sudden and extended nationwide lockdown and has put India into a standstill. Be it business, economy, communication, commerce, industrial production, including e-businesses and e-commerce, all are pushed behind a dark cloud. There are several news and information coming into the feed that several companies and business giants like OYO, airlines establishments, etc. are calling for a pay cut of its employees. All these might lend the whole world, including India, in an unprecedented situation that has never been seen or dealt with before.

With the International Labour Organisation predicting that there would be around 2.5 crore job losses globally for an economic slowdown due to this pandemic, the employment scenario here is one of the worst affected. Even before the pandemic outbreak, India’s unemployment rate was one among the highest in the last several decades. Due to the corona outbreak, millions had to leave their jobs and others were forced out of their employment. Several experts believe that overall about 136 million non-agricultural jobs are at immediate risk, the estimate of which is based on the National Sample Survey (NSS) and Periodic Labour Force Surveys (PLFS) data. Also, these are people without a written contract and include casual labourers, those who work in non-registered nano businesses, registered or unregistered small companies, and even the self-employed. Most of them have suffered immensely, which can be estimated from the fact that the nationwide lockdown has impacted nearly 40 million internal migrants, as estimated by the World Bank. This has impacted the livelihood of a large number of population. How they cope up with the situation and the government response in this regard will be a matter of wait and watch. But whatever be the scenario, the employment impact will be a long-affected one.

Nonetheless, in recent days, some important developments in India have also caught the sight of several people around the world. Facebook has recently announced a 5.7 billion dollar investment in Reliance Jio Platform for a 9.99% share and it is being viewed as a powerful alliance which many experts feel would change the commercial and business scenario in India post COVID situation. Many see this move would take on some bigwigs like Amazon, Flipkart, Google in e-commerce and payment space. This would certainly call for taking big moves by these commercial giants, from announcing big discounts to every purchases and payment gateways and other lucrative give aways. However, whoever may be the winner in this competition, but surely there would be a surge of changes in the approach of small businesses and commercial establishments. The local businessmen have to either come under the umbrella alliance of these giants or face the wrath of competition against these giants. Massive digitisation would be the only answer to them, post COVID 19.

This would be coupled with the fact that commercial behaviour is something that will change post lockdown. There are several speculations by many experts that more consumers will shop online instead of depending on traditional means after the lockdown is over. And many believe that within e-commerce, online grocery will see a huge boost. According to Hari Menon, CEO of Bigbasket, “Grocery is a 700-billion-dollar industry and e-commerce forms only 1 percentage of that. The expectation is that 1 percent will become 20 to 30 percent. That is the kind of scale we need to build.” Given the forthcoming situations, the local businesses and enterprises have to surely go digital and try different artificial intelligence procedures to survive this cut throat competition.

Moreover, the rural and village economy has been hit hard in this lockdown due to COVID 19. Small and marginal farmers constitute more than 85 percent of farm household, cultivate about half of all farmlands, as per Agricultural Census 2015-16 and produce about 60 percent of farm goods, critical to India’s food security. Under the aegis of these statistics and given the fact that a number of migrant labourers who fled the big cities might prefer to work in their marginal farmlands, rural India and village economy will see a sharp change in its produce and productivity. Therefore, there must be well preparations to productively absorb these additional labours. It has another associated emerging situation. Experts opine that the big cities and big firms might feel the shortage of their labour and skilled workforce, resulting in a different shape of the urban economy. As the labour shortage would force them to either pay some lucrative amounts to lure their workforce back or result in a forceful shut down of their activities.

Apart from economy and businesses that will be worst hit, several other departments will also see a sharp change and development post COVID 19. And this change will require the procurement of a technological boom in every sector of the government. To cite a few, the education sector is one among them. With all sections of students and academic population being homelocked, the scenario will be the same for many days to come post lockdown is over. Instead, several new methods are being talked about to deal with the education scenario to respond well. The discussion about the use of artificial intelligence and internet accessibility to all sections of the academic population is in progress, resulting in the surge in the use of technology in the education sectors.

Whatever be the date and time for COVID 19 to be over, it can definitely be said it has taught a great lesson to mankind to adapt and assimilate in future unprecedented situations. And all must bring up the necessary rebooting, today or tomorrow. And India and Indians should not be left behind in the game of adaptability, accessibility, and admissibility in the near future.

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