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2020-04-17 /

Never waste a good crisis

They say never waste a good crisis, but I say crises of the scale and magnitude of COVID 19 pandemic can never go waste. They force a change in our beliefs, preferences and behaviour. While some may be temporary, but some will become permanent that lay the path for a new normal. For e.g. the world war II caused many women to join the workforce to fill the void left by men who went to the frontlines. Even after the war was over this phenomenon persisted and women workforce participation accelerated to reach where we are now. Similarly, according to a BCG study SARS outbreak of 2003 made consumers switch to online retail to avoid the malls in worst affected countries. Even when the crisis was over the consumers stuck to this online channel. There were many other associated softer shifts related to societal and professional attitudes induced by the above crises.

The current COVID 19 pandemic will also bring about a lasting shift in how we live and experience the world. In the initial days of COVID 19 the predominant emotion in the world was “fear” of the unknown. But after reading hundreds of reports and becoming “expert” virologists and mathematicians we’ve understood this new reality. In this lockdown having experienced new ways of living and working since and observing governments and citizens deal with the pandemic its now about accepting this new reality and thinking through what the post COVID 19 world would look like.

COVID 19 virus has forced the entire world population into their homes in a way that has no precedence in human history. The necessity of spending all your time at home is shaping new behaviours and new learnings such as “work from home”. Digital collaboration has become the order of the day. People are learning that it’s possible to do their work from home and save time, energy and money that would have been spent commuting or travelling.  Imagine the comfort of getting up every morning and taking the shortest journey / time to get to work (that too in your shorts!). Trust between employers and employees will be the key which will determine whether this shift persists and becomes the new normal or reverses. Employers might resort to a sharper focus on employee productivity so brace yourselves! Another ramification of shift to remote working is cut in business travel. As video conferences become more common, travelling for work would demand a clear and important purpose or need. Staying at home might cause some more shifts in human preferences such as home cooking, reading, gaming, streaming and even home interiors or architectural design with clearly demarcated workspaces. The millennials were already comfortable with this arrangement and now the rest of the age groups learns. Most of the above shifts are good for both people and our planet. All these shifts are also going to be blessing in disguise for the tech companies. 

I have dwelt on developing processes around working from home as it’s an essential learning for people to survive this crisis. But there are many other important learnings, for e.g.  pertaining to crisis preparedness and resilience etc both at the level of business and government, that we will take from this crisis.

COVID has also made people more appreciative in several ways. Firstly, of mother nature. The lock downs have cleaned cities air and rivers to an extent never seen before in decades. People are waking up to clear blue skies and cool fresh breeze. It’s a feeling most of us urbanites had long forgotten. Secondly of healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurses, hospital staff, paramedic staff, scientists and researchers. Doctors and nurses are working tirelessly day and night to treat the sick at great risk to their own safety. Scientists and researchers are racing against time to find a cure to Corona virus. People are realising now the value of those who seek to preserve human lives. And last but not the least of police, security agencies, essential commodity and food item suppliers, municipality workers, essential service providers who are continuing with their duties despite the risks.

We are now realizing that public good is responsibility of all of us. We should be willing to give up a bit of our comforts, conveniences and freedom for greater good of the public and the world at large. This crisis has made people think of the hitherto invisible daily wage earners and migrant workers and empathise with them in their plight. People now want to give back to the society. It’s a profound shift from pre COVID 19 times when people were largely unmindful of the needy and chose to ignore the uncomfortable truths around their misery.

This pandemic jolted the world into action. The unprecedented responses by governments, the coming together of global community of doctors, scientists, mathematicians, researchers, businesses, investors reveal the steely determination with which humanity can act when faced by an existential threat. There is another existential crisis facing us all – climate change.  I hope, once we are out if the current crisis, the threat of climate change coupled with our newfound appreciation for nature would spur governments and intellectuals to collaborate and put in place new “green deals” to save the planet.

Whether there is crisis or not Hero group has always been cognizant of giving back to society. For fighting COVID 19 Hero group companies have pledged Rs 100 Cr for relief measures. BML Munjal University located in Dharuhera (Haryana) has offered its 2,000-bed hostel for use as an isolation and treatment ward. Hero Future Energies is distributing food items and hygiene kits to people across 150 remotest villages.

This crisis has cleared the cloud of materialism & misplaced priorities hanging over us to reveal who and what is truly important to our lives. Most of us now have a heightened sense of compassion and empathy. If such values recede once life is back to normal, then that will be a colossal waste of this crisis.

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