Profits in the Pandemic

In the interest of containing a community spread, the imposition of lockdowns on the populace not only forced people into their homes but employees out of their jobs. Furthermore, the need to work from home and accept measures conducive to maintain public health and safety tested the adaptability to the new ‘normal’ and showcased a bleak future for most industries, despite a few success stories finding their way.

  1. The immunity granted to patients by the healthcare industry was reflected in their business models as well, wherein the consumer behaviour changes and exponential demand surge for disinfectants, sanitizers and face masks registered some of the highest sales for their parent organizations. Cipla, Ipca Labs & Alembic have all reported working on drugs and clinical vaccines, slated to be confirmed soon. Investor sentiment positively manifested this in the form of rising stock prices and bullish trends between June and August 2020. India has set aside $1.3 billion to aid the domestic manufacturing of drugs after a break in the Chinese part of the supply chain carrying vital ingredients.
  2. The e-commerce industry, as reported by ACI Worldwide, registered a 74% rise in sales from March 2020 onwards as compared to the same time last year with shrinking numbers and dissatisfied board members. The shipping and logistics component posed a challenge due to the contact between delivery personnel and customer, but was almost immediately addressed by organizations through zero-contact delivery and drop shipping & doorstep delivery. The sweep in online groceries witnessed Walmart and Big Basket in India and the US respectively, surpassing the usage of Amazon for days on end. The downside of this surging demand during the ongoing workforce restrictions has caused a predictable strain with instances of inventory shortage, which was countered with a rise in employment opportunities under the logistics & delivery aspects of these businesses.
  3. With malls, multiplexes and other forms of entertainment facing closure, the existing market share and growth of Over-The-Top platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar and the like have clocked in record numbers of streams of their services. Netflix saw 15.8 million new subscribers in Q1 of 2020, catapulting their global number of subscribers to 18+ million. Similar surges were observed in Viacom’s Voot, Hungama & Zee5 among others.
  4. Online video conferencing was used mostly in instances of intercontinental communication to avoid excessive costs and attain similar objectives. The pandemic forced restrictions on global travel and compelled nearly all meetings and conferences to take a virtual stand. Zoom, the online video conferencing tool which rose to prominence, has seen the biggest growth from IPO to market performance. From December 2019 with only 10 million users worldwide, the astronomical jump to 200 million by March 2020 gave their stocks a better performance than most blue chip stocks had seen since inception.
  5. A widely discredited practice of online gaming gained immense respect of mainstream acknowledgement with Paytm First Games reporting a 200% rise in their user base within one month, translating to 75,000 new users being added. Winzo Games further registered a 30% rise in traffic in the last 2 weeks of March 2020. The contributing factor for this rise was the upholding of the social distancing norms as suggested by WHO, leading to the hashtag of #PlayApartTogether being the battle cry. The forced distance between people not only gave them an avenue like gaming to reconnect but also offered a pastime from the drudgery of work and assignments.

The notable fact of all the above listed industries is that a majority of them are digital/electronic in nature, or have a digital base as their foundation of consumer offerings. The trend observed is the need for all businesses, in any or all forms, to increasingly digitize their operations as the new rules of the pandemic and soon-to-be post-pandemic world set in. With the rise in digitization, the only question remaining to be answered is the extent unto which this transformation will be induced and continued for, with the parallel question of the end of this stark reality.

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