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India: Kerala positioned to thrive post COVID-19

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India: Kerala positioned to thrive post COVID-19

Varghese Chandy speaks at WAN-IFRA's Digital Media India 2019 Conference in New Delhi.


One always predicts the future based on a precedent – something that has happened in the past and how the world responded to it. There has never been a case like the COVID-19 pandemic in the history of humankind.

There may have been cases where more lives were lost, but never has the world come to a standstill like it has now. Owing to the ferocity of the virus and the fantastic speed at which it spreads, making historical and geographic divisions irrelevant, Thomas Friedman may have to rewrite Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, where nations are desperately trying to flatten the curve.

Consumer confidence and business growth had been low in India, even before the pandemic hit, because of macro-economic factors. The current situation presents a far greater challenge to the global economy than the financial crisis of 2008. Multiple sectors and businesses are in a predicament at the same time.

Rapid response to first local case

Will Churchill’s enduring optimism prevail during this calamity? Much has been written about Kerala, globally, for the way it has handled the challenges of this pandemic.

The first case of COVID-19 in Kerala was reported on 30 January. It was diagnosed in a family that had returned from Italy. In no time, the state machinery went into action, prepared a route map of the family’s travels and quarantined everyone who had come into contact with them.

The rest is history. Today, Kerala has not only flattened the curve but has managed to reach a downward trend; there is a higher number of cured cases than positive ones.

The state has only reported two deaths. Kerala has a robust health management system, at par with the best in the world, and has, in the recent past, dealt with the spread of the Nipa Virus and the annual flooding in a similar controlled manner. 

Opportunities across a number of industries

This unique position provides a great opportunity for Kerala in the following fields:

  • Medical tourism, with the added attractions of alternative medicines such as Ayurveda.
  • Retirement in Kerala for non-resident Indians (NRIs). Non-resident Keralites who have been considering settling down abroad can now consider Kerala, as real estate, construction and allied industries will bounce back.
  • Domestic tourism, especially to safe places likes Kerala, could thrive.
  • There may even be other short-term trends such as people wanting to travel more using private rather than public transport, which could positively impact the passenger vehicle market.
  • Consumers may also stock up more, which could have a short-term positive impact for the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) segment.
  • Specialty kitchens will emerge with focus on clean, healthy and variety food. This will save on buildings and ambience, investment on digital backend and delivery.
  • Digital entertainment and OTT platforms will prosper.
  • India will emerge as the manufacturing hub of pharmaceuticals. 
  • India could also become the manufacturing hub for products taking advantage of the trust deficit in China.
  • Online education will become a reality, and companies providing platforms and virtual classrooms will fare well.
  • Organisations will become lean, resulting in increased productivity and efficiency.

Kerala is set to be the first state in India to open up the economy after the lockdown, with social distancing and other necessary precautions in place. We expect the state to revive soon after, much like it did after the 2018 floods, the worst natural calamity to hit Kerala in more than a century.

Print circulation staying steady

Media and newspapers were declared as an essential service by both the central and state governments, which went a long way in keeping our print circulation numbers steady during this crisis.

Kerala’s newspaper distribution system is perhaps one of the best in the world – more than 95 percent of the copies are delivered to homes, and the distribution did not get affected due to the pandemic.

There are two reasons for this: the credibility of newspapers as a medium and the safety precautions media houses took to ensure that the readers get safe newspapers, which was communicated via front pages of newspapers, TV and digitally.

In the short term, there may be an immediate trend for consumers to save more and spend less. Brands and advertisers will also look at how they can achieve higher Return on Investment (ROI) and conserve cash.

Monsoon this year is forecast to be normal. A good agricultural yield will also mean higher rural spending.

Finally, as and when a vaccine is found for the virus, consumers are likely to jump back to the 'old normal' where there will be a burst in economic activity and spending.

Social scientists say that the world will never be the same again and people will slow down on consumption for they have learned how to survive with the bare necessities. I do not subscribe to this viewpoint. It is only a matter of time before people get back to their indulgent behaviours and start buying with a new vigour. After all, that is what will revive the economy.

As newspapers, we are ready to reach these indulgent consumers in large numbers.

Author

WAN-IFRA's picture

WAN-IFRA

Date

2020-04-22 08:36

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