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Sunny Side up

Is there a Sunny Side to the current Covid-19 situation?
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The year 2020 started like any other year. Corporates set out to achieve their targets. Families were busy scheduling their vacations for the year. Individuals were deliberating the next milestones of their careers. Some of us planned to buy that little car of our liking and some planned to buy the big white apartment of our dreams. Everybody was planning. And then, without any announcement, the spikey virus arrived. He was like that dandy uninvited guest, gatecrashing the party! The planning suddenly stopped. It was moonlit-clear that the gatecrasher is here to stay. Even in the far-flung dreams we could not have imagined how unprecedented and uncertain the world would be in a couple of months.

Quarter and a month down the line, one thing is clear. Covid-19 and we are coexisting - if not forever, then at least longer than what we had anticipated. So what do we do? The reality is that we have already confronted the nastiest phase. The current and continued stalemate, with virus, has no newness to it. On the contrary we have data and we know the trend. We have a situation which is more predictable than it was few months ago. In essence - we are veterans now!

So is there a bright, if not happy, side to Covid-19? Perhaps yes.

The residual prospects are several. And these useful side effects remain to be leveraged and unlocked. The initial din around the virus is quickly fading. With waters receding what is yielding from beneath - is a fertile spirited land, waiting to be harvested!


Has the situation mutated us?

If Darwinism were to be applied rationally, one would realize that we have definitely bettered our capability to battle the virus not just physically - but interestingly at psychological levels too. So yes we have evolved. We have mutated – only to become more positive. But how?

Firstly, people who did not know how to operate internet (beyond Facebook of course!!) or had no access to internet became bona-fide ‘net-literates’. They bought newer, faster connections and better ‘RAMmed’ devices. Essentials were bought first time ever over the internet, paid for with an online wallet, all while watching “Contagion” on a brand new Netflix subscription. Many newbies climbed onto digital banking platforms to conduct their first banking transaction. Campuses across the world switched to conferencing platforms - almost overnight. Mobiles, laptops, tablets, headphones or other conferencing essentials were lapped – vanishing from the shelves of stores across the world. On the other end of spectrum, many new consumers hesitantly climbed onto gaming platforms. Many sheepishly fell for dating sites!

This league of newbies or first timers got ‘auto-trained’ and became embryonic digital adopters. They displayed exponential learning curves and agility displayed by them could have insulted a cheetah! Past couple of months have unraveled a rousing fact - if the human grit was a listed security, it would have broken upper circuit multiple times. So yes a lot of us have mutated.


Impact of Embryonic Digital Adopters

The traffic on platforms has increased manifold. It would not be unkind to say that majority of the platforms are blossoming. Despite the current climate - quarterly results declared by many of these are nothing short than remarkable. Even with rebound pending, there is a double digit growth in digital payments. Case in example is India where Unified Payments Interface (UPI) reported an all-time high payment volume. If one picks up the internet connection and traffic data, it substantiates the theory of proliferation of new users. So much so that it seems nobody had planned for a spike in traffic to a tune of 200+% in daily conferencing calls. Conferencing platforms saw a run rate of 20 times increase at minimum. On the OTT streaming side, one sees a spike of never before 55% CAGR for 2020. The end-point segment, including laptops, monitors, mobiles and other ancillary devices, saw sales jump between 40% to 100+%. Gaming traffic on the other hand soared by 75% as reported by a US gaming website. All this while the world was busy battling the intelligently programmed coronavirus on the front line. This huge amount of traffic also generated numerous alternative use cases and business journeys.

One things is guaranteed - these new digital adopters are not disembarking anytime, even in distant future.


So what next?

There is neither an ancient religious scripture nor a moral / political authority metering the time spent on internet! Though the governments are dying to tame the internet and regulate these platforms - will they be able to do so, remains to be seen. In the current context it translates into internet consumerism rising manifold. So the surge attained in past couple of months will be retained and nurtured by these platforms. This uptick is here to stay. History has taught us that the events in the world have an everlasting impact and this pandemic is one of those events. It can safely be predicted that there will be huge rise in sheer number of ‘new’ digital channels, all competing and vying to sustain and retain this new and growing volume of customers. This was to happen anyway - but the virus has pushed it earlier by a couple of years. It has also challenged us to think new use cases.

For businesses, ‘I Am Where My Customer Is’, will be the new motto. Smaller organizations will need to service customers online and deliver. They will have no option, but to onboard existing platforms and offer customized, localized and differentiated services.

The organizations that already have digital channels will too need to fortify and glamorize them, leveraging new age tech. Pandemic related journeys will need to be innovated and incorporated to attain differentiation. Keeping customers hedged will gain utter importance. A lot will need to be invested to revitalize and refurbish the existing greasy and rusty channels - after all we don’t know when another, similar, war like, situation will visit us in future. De-risking will be an enhanced business emotion. It will command, decision making & deal making, weightage.


Conclusion?

What we can say is that there will be enhanced business activity in segments. Revenge and binge buying will be seen. New digital service seekers - both end customers and businesses, will want attention.

On one side the world would need new script writers to cater to sky-rocketing demand of online OTT content – in every language! Additional nodes and network to deliver this content at high speed and zero latency would be required. Stadiums might be empty - but richer apps with telecasting rights of soccer or cricket would be required. Apps that would allow us to sit and watch the game from comfort of our sofa – yet have a stadium like feeling. Digital power packed ambience, complete with all the noise, chanting and hair raising feel of the stadium would be coded. Engaging games to keep the young and old physically and mentally fit would be churned out.

On the other side - safe models of real estate which protect the occupants from future viruses will be in vogue. Touchless townships or office complexes will be created. Existing ones will be refurbished kicking in a new type of economic activity. Even an innocent mini brewery for our homes will be created! We will brew our favorite beer, while remaining digitally connected with our friends - in a pub-like atmosphere. Vendors would bundle-in a dancing station with this mini brewery.

Needless to say - all this will be underpinned and enabled by tech. Be it Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Internet of Things, Data Sciences, Block Chain, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Touchless, 5G or Cloud – each will have its own pious and renewed role to play. More remarkably, along with this tech, we would all realize that a dollop of human optimism, as glue, to stick everything together would be an essential ingredient.

We are in a state of cautious optimism – at least that’s better than pessimism. Once this flood has fully receded and our lungs are full of air, we will be able to see the spirited fertile land. There are many waiting to harvest this new land and they cannot do it alone. They need more hands, more infrastructure, more tools, more devices, more tech, more services, more content, more energy and more of more.

So let’s pause and rethink.

Maybe it’s time to switch from a routine scrambled egg to a bright ‘sunny side up’ tomorrow morning? After all we are on the way to crank the big engine called ‘World’!

With the hope that we all be safe, have a good day and let’s get cranking.......

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