Life Post COVID – 19 Pandemic: Challenges or Opportunities
The worldwide pandemic of COVID – 19 has put the professional and social lives under lockdown throwing almost all economic activities out of gear. Life in the Post- Corona era will never be the same again. At the time of writing this article the whole world has summoned up their all might and courage to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and the citizens of the countries across the globe are experiencing an unprecedented scenario of recent times. It’s a war against a single cell organism capable of bringing death to people and causing disaster. In the past we have seen, every single disaster had taught us a lesson and we have learned to prepare for fight similar situations; be it an outbreak of Ebola virus (EVD) in West Africa during 2013 - 16 or Indian Ocean earthquake and Tsunami of 2004, every single such incident has prepared to tackle the unforeseen. Immediately aftermath of the bombing in the World Trade Centre in 2001, industries operating out of the WTC or dependent on the services offered from WTC suffered a major jolt in terms of business disruptions thereby a new term was coined in the block i.e., business continuity. The economic activities are a continuous affair and any disruption of the supply chain of these activities is enough to throw the economy of the country or the world out of gear depending on the magnitude of the spread of disruption. In 2001 many IT companies based out of USA took a hit, the Tsunami in South East Asia disrupted the tourism industry besides destabilizing human life, and the subprime crisis in the USA has a spill over to many countries where the economy has to spit severe financial crunch.
Although we are going through a nationwide lockdown and the detailed post facto analysis of the financial implication is yet to come but the impact of COVID – 19 will be visible from April end onwards. According to the doyens of financial reporting, India’s economy is looking at a loss of staggering USD 120 billion or almost 9 lakh crore rupees which is almost 4% of GDP (Economic Times, 29th March 2020). The slump is visible not only in the primary sector but also in the service sector as well. We should be ready for the after-effects. Sectors like agriculture, aviation, organized retail are among the major ones to face this economic shock. The real estate sector is the largest employer of the unorganized labour force and it is going to find difficult to complete the projects particularly after the mass migration of labourers to their native villages amid lockdown. Yet, as we brace for difficult times ahead, the non-relinquishing spirit of 130 crore populations is showing a silver lining of hope.
“When going gets tough, tough gets going”. This famous proverb has resurfaced again with all its might to resurrect the trust of people in humanity and human potential. When the entire country is expected to stay indoors we have to wring our wishes and focus on primordial activities i.e., introspect and reflect on our conduct and find avenues to contribute to the wellbeing of the citizens of the country. Factories didn’t stop production rather working on a skeletal workforce in the production line while the rest contributing from home. Technology and consulting service providers are keeping the ball rolling virtually thereby keeping the traffic on the road congestion-free for vehicles of essential services to move freely. Time has come now for India to move ahead with the protocol of Industry 4.0 and embrace virtualization. The lockdown period has shown us that business continuity can be ensured if we augment to discard unnecessary travel and cluttering the office space by the non-essential workforce. Some naysayers may argue on the contrary, but for a greater good to the environment, we could evolve to productivity-based performance measurement rather than counting the number of hours spent in the office space.
As a teacher, I deem the students as the main citizens of any academic institution and their academic loss due to nationwide lockdown should be minimized. At any given point in time, the teachers working in various institutions have exhibited excellent man making traits to churn competent talents for the nation. In my opinion, this is the perfect time for all of us to utilize this lull period and develop ourselves using various online courses. It could be seen that the classes across sectors of education are the worst hit. Professionals cutting across service sectors are trying to extend their services to the consumers through online platform thereby making lives a little easier. Walking the same line of action, many academic institutions have taken the online route to conduct classes which is quite encouraging. Although the caveat of internet bandwidth in the various nook and corner of the country may work as deterrent still one mustn’t forget that India ranks second in the world in terms of internet penetration with 451 million monthly active users after China (IAMAI, 2019) with the majority are below 30 years of age. Online learning has set sail in India many years ago the fruits of the concept are now being harvested particularly under trying conditions. One must admit that this is high time to shun adhoc use of technology and rather develop a policy framework across the primary, secondary and tertiary education sector to use a blended learning model harnessing the advantage of self-paced learning within the virtual place thereby mitigating the scope of disruptions under unforeseen situations. There are multiple platforms available online free of cost ranging from Zoom meeting application, Google classroom and Hangout or Microsoft Team Meeting which provide an excellent facility to conduct meetings and classes online. I remember that in the post-demonetization era the share prices of Paytm online wallet service went up almost exponentially and I have reasons to believe that a similar fate is going to dawn upon these virtual classroom applications as well. Even the good old Whatsapp application for that matter is serving a noble purpose of facilitating both synchronous and asynchronous learning. Therefore, offices and academic institutions who feel constrained due to lockdown scenario may exploit these tools while staying indoors.
[The author is an Associate Professor and Head, Department of Business Management, Tripura University (Central University). Email: [email protected]]