For some people and companies, near-term survival has been the only agenda. I, for one, am trying to seek some way through the fog of uncertainty, thinking about how to position ourselves, once the crisis and lockdown has passed and things return to normal. The question is, ‘What will the new normal look like?’

This disruption has changed everything including our understanding of normalcy. While no one can say how long the crisis will last, what we know is that questions outnumber answers when it comes ascertaining the COVID-19 impact. There are no plans, no playbook written for this crisis by anyone. Hence how much longer do we have to live like this? – The most honest, direct answer from experts is ‘We really don’t know!’

Saving Life and Livelihood

First Step: Faced with the choice of saving Life and livelihood, we all rightfully chose to first save life. Starting with the Lock down – work from home for everyone using the following key principle for a rapid action plan

  1. Safety and wellbeing of employees and their families.
  2.  Business Continuity of all functions in a distributed work environment

Sacrifice to Save

Second Step: Building resilience in the business plan to save costs – and for that, one has to create and plan across various scenarios. What started off as a health crisis is now a humanitarian crisis of epic proportion. The next stage of this battle will be a financial one where liquidity & cash management with the aim of remaining solvent will be the key focus. We have entered this phase where decisions have to be made between what to sacrifice and what to save. Tough choices to be made, at every level, across every organization. . For that matter at the macro level by the government and at a micro one by every individual as part of daily routine.

Plan for the New Normal

Third step: is to plan and prepare for post lockdown phase, re-starting businesses with its optimum operational efficiency. This is the most difficult task where one has to manage the downside and simultaneously look for upside – this is of course going to be very challenging. Key dependency to manage this dual responsibility would be in our ability to foresee what changes are going to happen and what can we do to transform our business model to adapt. This is going to be complex and overwhelming to say the least.

I have been able to formulate some valuable insights from industry-wide webinars and through many stimulating discussions about what a, post COVID19 world would look like:

  • Consumer behavioral changes in many areas will drive online adoption across categories – a shift that is likely be permanent as a large, new segment of consumers in India get used to transacting in the comfort of their home.
  • The top sectors are groceries, general commerce, gaming, entertainment, education and healthcare.
  • People are understanding the inherent VALUE in savings. People will save more. We need to understand where those savings are coming from. And, where and how they will deploy their savings, which to my mind is an Opportunity.
  • Entertainment & Dining moves inhouse with more Dine-in vs Dine-out: maybe exclusive experiences created and delivered at your door-step.
  • Public events for social gatherings to hangout will be muted and would not exhibit demand pattern seen before lockdown, for quite sometime.
  • As a marketer we need to watch out for how the share of wallet changes.
  • Trust – this the biggest casualty in this crisis and this will also create tremendous opportunity.
  • A lot of people will start preferring personal space over co-sharing: this will impact sharing economy to some extent however, economic realities and frugal mindset may still force people to choose differently over a period of time.
  • Low ticket consumer items will be preferred as there will be no guilt – remember the sachet revolution – it’s going to be back, only this time it will be across sectors and not just to FMCG categories
  • Commercial Real Estate will be under stress as many businesses, because of local health protocol, may require to follow work practices to de-congest space (most Indian offices & work places are cramped) hence WFH (Work from home) would become a norm (more later on new normal)

How vs When

So to in order to think ahead and plan, firstly, we need to look for what this crisis would do to our business, and then, it is important to reframe our current situation and get into a mental zone to stay optimistic, not just positive. And stop fighting Science with Stupidity. Hence the next logical question is How are we going to come out of the Lockdown and not When?

So, let’s consider few looming questions surrounding the current state of lockdown, so that we can plan ahead accordingly. My going assumption is that the Virus is out there and without a vaccine the only option for us is to: Maintain social distance, Test. Trace and detect infection & its carriers to isolate and stop the spread.

  1. How do we learn to live with virus simultaneously making efforts to be aware to protect our life? Who is educating on this aspect?
  2. How ready are we make changes in our daily routine to continue with our life to restore broken livelihood?
  3. How ready are we to accept a state imposed protocol and the subsequent changes to lifestyles that may come in form of such as wearing masks at all time while in public spaces, offices and factories?
  4. How many people can be together especially where density of population is high?
  5. How fast we are able to build capacity for testing at mass scale, to detect, and isolate and create Zones to seal and contain the spread?
  6. How ready are we to accept and adopt tech to monitor our health and whereabouts? Tech can play a pivotal role – AAROGYA SETU app and many more ideas around public health platform under India stack. It would take some time and but will go a long way in containment.
  7. How to test, detect and report in fair manner devoid of any bias or fear?
  8. How to link and create a new medical passport with your Aadhar.
  9. Lastly how ready are we to adopt these changes many of which may be enforced?

So now by you know why it’s going to be very difficult and complex to answer When? Therefore in my view a simple approach would be to create a 3/6/9 month plan considering the above questions in the various scenarios. After all we are trying to predict when do we return to normalcy. Hence, in my approach I would first start to define & analyze what is going to change.

Most people just need 4 weeks for new habits to become muscle memory. Therefore, I can say with confidence that we are heading towards a new world order where what we find on the other side of this Lockdown will not look like the normal of the recent past. So the real question is how ready and prepared are we for this New Normal.

I used the some of the above narrative in our first virtual townhall with all InterMilers. So, for me the following quote best describes what we need to do to come out of this situation.

“When fishermen cannot go to sea, they repair their nets.” — Nabil Sabio



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