Nationwide lockdown a bold move but needs economic boosters

The marketing, advertising industry welcomes PM’s action

NEW DELHI: The highly-contagious and lethal novel coronavirus, Covid-19, has got the whole world on its knees. With 435,382 global cases and 19,620 deaths (at the time of writing, the virus has forced governments across the globe to take some challenging decisions like locking down whole cities and countries. Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, on Sunday announced a complete lockdown across the country, which has got praises from industry experts.

According to Dentsu Aegis Network CEO APAC and chairman India Ashish Bhasin, the move, which has jolted several Indians into action, will definitely promote Modi’s image as a strong and decisive leader. He notes, “There were countries like the US that were in complete denial but all of a sudden, there were 50,000 cases, half of which were in New York, and there the life continued normally for a long time. But later, they were forced to go into a lockdown. It’s better that we do it now and flatten the curve. It actually saves lives.” 

Publicis India MD and CCO Ajay Gahlaut, however, feels that the decision could have come a little earlier. “In hindsight, a little earlier would have been better. But I feel that he came at a very keen time and let people know that the virus is very serious as what is more important right now is the application of social isolation. Now it is to be seen how effectively will it be implemented.”

Brand-nomics managing director Viren Razdan says that there are some inadequacies that this bold move might be trying to cover right now, but will surface soon. “With the global chaos and confusion around the COVID-19, India’s move to lockdown would perhaps be seen as bold and decisive. But as we scratch the surface, one shudders to think the inadequacies this bold move is attempting to cover up. We have taken a huge economic gamble - if it saves us the health hit, that would be great but if we are left exposed despite this bold move, we would have very little to help us cover."

He adds, “Tough times require tough action. While PM Modi has asked of the country ‘a few weeks of your lives’, it's imperative to reciprocate with economic boosters which would travel down to all levels of our society. Repeatedly the government has been requesting enterprise to support their staff - but in the downturn we were already in, it's the enterprise that would need an arm around their shoulder with some solid actions."

Bhasin also feels that government will have to come ahead and help the marginalised section of the society to deal with the pandemic. “The impact on the economy will last much longer, with the production shut down. It is not like we will just switch the factories on and it gets normal the next day. A number of people in India are living at the marginal level and consumption has virtually stopped beyond essential items. It is not a good news for the economy. I am hopeful that this government will bring some stimulus, particularly to alleviate the suffering of the lowest strata of the society.”

Despite the economic consequences, businesses are following the lockdown as health comes first. 

Shopclues CEO Sanjay Sethi says, “We fully support the prime minister’s decision to lockdown the nation for 21 days to avoid a surge in the spread of the novel corona virus pandemic. We are following all advisories issued by the government and are working closely with our teams to provide goods and services that our customers need at a time like this. We are able and ready to provide contactless daily essentials to the Indian public.”

He also welcomed the tax and other benefits introduced by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman just ahead of Modi’s address. “In view of the current coronavirus pandemic, we welcome the steps taken by our finance minister to allay the rising concerns of the business community in India. Extending the March-April-May GST returns and composition returns deadlines till 30 June, postponing e-invoicing and new returns announced earlier, reduction in interest rates for delayed deposits of TDS — all these steps will enable companies to concentrate on restarting their business processes once the dust settles in the future.”

KidZania India marketing director Tarandeep Singh Sekhon said, “Difficult times call for difficult decisions. And, I completely stand by this lock down initiative. We need to act now for a better tomorrow. We should understand that it is for our better, and at the same time do not panic. Prevention is better than cure.”

New York Burrito Company founder Senil Shah adds, “On the business end, everything will be shut. So there will be a complete loss.  Two major fixed costs are rentals and salary. On rentals, we are trying to reduce it. On the salary front, we are not firing any of our guys, as we believe to stand with them in this crucial time. But overall we are positive on the front that when the restaurant industry opens up there will be a spike in sales as so many people who are addicted to eating out are waiting to eat out.” 

Teabox founder-CEO Kausshal Dugarr notes, “The current situation has affected us as it has many other businesses as well. We see this more as a supply disruption rather than it disrupting the demand side. However, our category is perennial and we do not see a huge dip in demand. Given the unpredictability and uncertainty that is laid before us, we are taking the necessary steps to reduce overheads and extend our working capital among other things. Embracing an optimistic attitude, we believe and we see ourselves coming out much stronger once the dust settles."

Ontological coach and author Geeta Ramakrishnan says,  "This I assume must be a difficult decision for the prime minister and I am in total agreement. COVID -19 pandemic is not to be taken lightly. Especially we have examples of countries like China, Italy and the US to learn from. This 21-day lockdown will hopefully break the exponential growth chain and help our health care resources and system to be better prepared and manage the virus outbreak much better. Yes, it will not be easy and can cause a lot of inconvenience and an economic turmoil which I can’t even fathom.  I pray that all my fellow citizens respect their safety and that of all Indians and think this is a small price to pay for the sake of the safety of all our lives."

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