October 1, 2020

Brand, Media & Advertising

New normal for consumers and businesses after covid 19

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Image credit: Al Jazeera

Before I start this piece, I request you to view this video from a village called Bawadiyakaaji, near Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh. 

If this video is any indication, the habits picked up over the last couple of months aren’t likely to leave us soon. In fact, they might become more ingrained among a larger section of our population and that means several lessons that marketers need to learn.

Social distancing is here to stay. And there is no saying “like it or not.” This video which comes from interiors of MP is a prime example of how people have taken to it. 
This means that once the lockdown is over, people aren’t going to rush into malls, cinemas, restaurants etc. I doubt if cinema halls will be thrown open before August or September as that’s where the “social distancing” has the least chance of being observed. The only places that edge out cinema halls are public transport buses or unreserved train compartments.

In fact, the travel and tourism business will take a huge hit. People are going to be very careful about taking flights as these offer almost no social distancing, nor do trains and buses. Workshops and conferences may all be pushed back, MICE facilities will wear a deserted look, large exhibitions again may not happen very soon. As I write this, Goa and Kerala Tourism have already put a ban on all tourism activities till December 2020. 

Of course, OTT platforms have a great future ahead. But what about TV channels? I don’t see IMPPA (Indian Motion Pictures Producers’ Association) ending the embargo on shooting any time soon. It might actually be the end of May or June when they might and thus there will be a massive shortage of content. Similarly, sports channels face a tough future, with most sporting events either canceled or postponed.  

People will be more careful about hygiene and sanitization in restaurants and outlets that are negligent may lose patrons for life. And you will find a lesser number of people proudly proclaiming that they are used to eating all kinds of dirty stuff as “We are India” and thus the bread pakora at the roadside eatery may be staring at a bleak future. 

Malls will similarly see a lesser number of people coming in, even on weekends. Will this trigger an exodus of retailers from malls? Will this lead to a real estate crisis? Don’t know, but we could be looking at one.

Does this mean “happy days are here again” for home delivery and food delivery services, e-commerce sites and so on? I believe that they will need to tread with a lot of caution, as people are likely to be more careful about spending money. Food delivery apps will have to perhaps create a “please trust us” campaign that shows up more in actions and behaviors than in social media posts, print ads or television commercials. App-based taxi services will also need to create trust among customers as people may be wary of getting a cab or auto as they wouldn’t know the kind of person who used that mode of transport before them.  

Hygiene and sanitation will see a spike similar to what the security industry saw post 26/ 11. This crisis has jolted people as nothing else has or could and I have heard a lot of people say – why did it need a Modi to start a Swacch Bharat Campaign? Why didn’t anyone else start it earlier?

Yes, Hygiene shall be big in the future. Now, this may sound ridiculous, but can there be in-built sanitizers in fans, air coolers, and air conditioners? Can the mosquito repellent creams come with a sanitizer added? 

Offices and factories will also have to look at hygiene seriously. Sanitizers, masks, and temperature checks will be commonplace, handshakes and high-fives may go out of fashion and bosses would encourage people to work from home. But what happens at call centers? People sit very close to each other and that would be a problem to solve.

Since buying is not likely to get into top gear suddenly, factories may also not get into top gear of manufacturing the morning after lockdown is over. Factories may also regulate the number of people on the shop floor and we may have a job crisis to tackle as well.

If working from home is going to be a work-mode that shall gain popularity, it time our IT industry figures out an option to Zoom, as there are many questions over the encryption of this facility. Media is full of articles about privacy and spying issues associated with Zoom and an option is needed sooner than later. 

We aren’t just looking at tough times. We are also looking at different times. Its not going to be “business as usual” anytime soon. 


Author Rajshekhar Malaviya is the CEO of Promodome Communications. Brand thinking gives him his bread and butter, and he dabbles in creative sometimes out of habit or sometimes out of compulsion.  He is passionate about cricket, writes poetry in Hindi and Urdu whenever he feels like.