Positives of the lockdown and its impact on our lives and way forward
It has been a very strange experience. A virus that is not visible to the naked eye has devastated so many lakhs of people around the world. The massive number of people dying every day is so sad to hear. In India, crores of people have learned to live within the confines of their homes. What are the positives of the lockdown and what impact has it had on our lives? What will be the way forward? This article attempts some answers to this vital question.
Introduction One of the biggest positives of the current lockdown is the increased time on the hands of millions of young people. Yes. They do work from home and thanks to the internet revolution in India and a good power situation in most cities, this has become possible. The immediate fallout of this is the increased time that we have now to understand our own wives or husbands and our children. We also have the second major positive of lesser pollution and far better air quality.
The positives can be broadly classified under different headings. These are a) Personal impact on individuals and their work/non-work lives; b) The environmental impact; c) Attitudinal changes at individual/society level; d) Emergence of the new normals; e) Better tolerance of ambiguity and f) Innovation in products and services on a much larger scale.
Personal impact on individuals and their work/ non-work lives As already mentioned the commutation time has become zero. This has made husbands and wives to understand each other and both of them understanding their children far better. The individuals have now accepted work from home so naturally. Once the lockdown ends, the work from home arrangements mat not be gone immediately. There will be an increased emphasis to keep the senior managers at home; the lower level staff might be asked to work but under severe conditions. As far as the non-work life is concerned, since the expenditure on things like petrol has already come down, this positive aspect will continue to remain in the minds of people. Carpooling may become more common and this will also increase co-operation between people at work and even between people who work in different offices or companies in the same area.
Furthermore, since people have now been used to work from home for such a long time, the companies may also encourage such arrangements. They do not need to spend on transport, water and canteen facilities. The cost of electricity will also come down. Even if the wives go to office, the men may even start liking to work from home and this will enable them to have more time to spend with their children. The IT companies will benefit a good deal from the work from home arrangements.
Environmental changes at individual/society level Since it is estimated that the virus will disrupt our lives for another 18 months, the increasing number of alternate arrangements to work from home or even work by turn will mean far better air quality and far better health of individuals. This might even increase the immune system of individuals far better than what it has done thus far. To find deserted streets is a rather strange thing. But it is the order of the day. We just do not have any choice.
At the societal level, perhaps the public will be motivated to grow even more trees thus increasing the quality of fresh air. People will now start believing Ayurveda and Siddha firms of traditional medicine far better than what they have done thus far. Yoga is already back in business. But its reach is expected to be even far greater and a far greater of youngsters will embrace Yoga as one sure method of staying fit.
This will increase the bigger pact of the already positive impact of lesser pollution. When electric cars and motorcycles and other forms of transport arrive in India, they will be welcomed with both hands. The whole world will become interconnected even better. Google will come out with far better innovations. For instance, when we never go to a bank where we have accounts and can happily use Google pay to transfer money, it will actually reduce the pollution on Indian roads. This can save money at the individual level. The scope for saving money will only be enlarged by the likes of Google.
Attitudinal changes at the individual/society level Empathy for the poor is a good positive. To give one example, the State Government of Karnataka was forced to run the special trains to some North Indian destinations, only after a big hue and cry on social media by the middle-classes. This is one instance. The second positive pertains to the voluntary efforts of several NGOs, actively supported by the comparatively richer people at various cities like Surat, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and so on. The Kerala Government has itself organized community kitchens and this has been supported by thousands of rich people.
This kind of empathy will also spill over to new areas. To give one example, the better standards of living in slums will result from voluntary donations from the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds of corporate organizations. At the society level, spitting on roads might be punished with fines and this will become a turning point for better attitudes in cities where people think it is their birthright to spit on roads. This positive change is also a welcome fallout of the lockdown.
Emergence of the new normals Folding one's hands to say hello is a new normal. Following social distancing norms is a new normal. Making drastic changes in lifestyles is a new normal. For instance, even the IIM guys who are above forty might be wondering when they might lose their job. Expenditures on foreign holidays will go. Expenditures on luxuries will go. Eating out may be drastically reduced. All this will become new normals. No middle-class family can go on spending amounts like what they did on previous occasions. They would rather save money and buy gold when the prices come down a bit.
When that will happen is largely a million-dollar question. For instance, only when the equities start booming once again and the FMCG companies are able to show increased sales and profits, will the stock market hum with the previous optimism. If IT spending is reduced in the Western markets, we will face the music here in India as well. Even now, the IT majors have announced that there will not be any fresh recruitment at all. In the post-COVID phase, many private Universities will once again woo the rich students from India. The countries that will keep on tapping this market are Australia, Singapore, UK, and Canada.
Hence, the new normals will keep on increasing and several "new normals" will emerge over the next 18 to 36 months. Of course, if the vaccine is introduced to prevent any fresh virus from spreading to any human being, the "new normals" will change dramatically.
Better tolerance of ambiguity Those who survived the toughest period of the Second World War and are still alive are over 87 years old or even more. They would recall how they managed such difficult times. There are others who recall with deep regret the communal carnage during India's partition.
Yet, today's virus scare is making people more tolerant of ambiguity. Everyone is just praying for better times. We are getting used to hearing news. The ones that help us feel more optimistic are now being talked about far more than ever before. Today, the entire nation is reacting in ways never seen before. The average man is contended to living through this crisis. This is a new positive. People will now be more tolerant of ambiguity as that itself is becoming a new normal.
Innovation in products and services on a much larger scaleThis is already happening. Innovation seems to be taking new forms. Entrepreneurs are having a field day. I have the freedom to walk around to a nearby area on any day and go to anyone's house in the same locality. So, if my wife manages to make a good pickle out of the smallest mangoes ( this is a South Indian delicacy) and I sell it to friends with a good 20% profit margin, who can stop? Yes. I am fine and no virus has touched me. This is exactly what an entrepreneur has done in a gated community of Chennai. The good variety of such smallest mangoes came from her native place prior to COVID. She put on her thinking cap and made a good business our of it. Today, she makes tomato pickles as well. Such instances of service sector entrepreneurship keep on increasing day after day.
At least four dozen different YouTube videos ( many are totally new) are there on how to make a big variety of snacks and the tribe is growing day after day. They are finding too many likes and subscribers as there are millions now holed up in their homes, nationwide. This wave of entrepreneurship will come to things like tuitions for the standard IX children in Mathematics, for example. The scope of innovation is so high.
ConclusionBased on common sense observations, any sort of trying to figure out how the new order will pan out is always welcome. And positives, all the more so. A few of such positives have been discussed above.
A good article from the author. He tried to bring out the benefits we got because of COVID 19.
The unnecessary expenses by people have comedown. The people understood their limitations. People who were thinking that they can do anything and they can get anything at their doorsteps if they have money were proved wrong. Nature has shown us its power. We understood that unless nature cooperates, we can't do anything.
India as a country gained a good name and the whole world appreciated the way we handled the virus. It was proved that Indian culture and customs are very well designed keeping the health and hygiene issues in mind. The whole world is trying to use our ways and means. It is a really big gain to the country,