Looking ahead to life and work after COVID-19
It has been a topsy-turvy start to the third decade of this century. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it many disruptions.
The coronavirus has significantly changed the contours of professional life: These days, home is the new office; the Internet is the new meeting room. And for the time being, office breaks with colleagues are history.
I have also been adapting to these changes. Most meetings, whether they are with world leaders, ministers, officials or colleagues, are now conducted via video conferencing.
To gather ground-level feedback from various stakeholders, video conferences have been held with several segments of society. There has been extensive virtual interaction with NGOs, civil society groups and community organizations. There has been virtual interaction with radio disc jockeys, too.
Besides that, I have been making numerous phone calls every day, gathering feedback from different segments of society.
We are seeing the different ways in which people are continuing their work in these unusual times. Film stars are producing creative videos to spread the pertinent message of staying at home. Singers are holding online concerts. Chess players are playing digital chess games that have contributed to the fight against COVID-19. Quite innovative!
The workplace is going "digital first". And why not?
After all, technology often has the most transformational impact on the lives of the poor. It is technology that transcends bureaucratic hierarchies, eliminates middlemen and accelerates welfare efforts.
Let me give you an example.
When we received the opportunity to serve in 2014, we started connecting Indians, especially the poor, with their Jan Dhan Account, Aadhar & Mobile number. This seemingly simple connection has not only stopped the corruption and rent-seeking that had been going on for decades, but also enabled the government to transfer money at the click of a button. This "click of a button" has replaced multiple levels of hierarchies in the rank and file and prevented weeks of delay.
India has perhaps the largest digital infrastructure in the world. This infrastructure has helped us tremendously in transferring money directly and immediately to the poor and needy, benefiting crores of families during COVID-19.
Another case in point is the education sector. There are many outstanding professionals already innovating in this sector. Invigorating technology in this sector has its benefits. The Government of India has also undertaken efforts such as the DIKSHA Portal to help teachers and boost e-learning. There is also SWAYAM, aimed at improving education access, equity and quality. E-Pathshala, which is available in many languages, offers access to various e-books and other learning material.
Today, the world is in pursuit of new business models, and India, a youthful nation known for its innovative zeal, can take the lead in building a new work culture.
I envision this new business model and work culture being redefined on the following "vowels of the new normal". I call them this because, like the vowels in the English language, these dimensions will become the essential ingredients of any business model in the post-coronavirus world.
The need of the hour is to think of business and lifestyle models that are easily adaptable.
Being so would mean that even in a time of crisis, our offices, businesses and commerce can get moving faster, ensuring that loss of life does not occur.
Embracing digital payments is a prime example of adaptability. Shop owners, big and small, should invest in digital tools that keep commerce connected, especially in times of crisis. India is already witnessing an encouraging surge in digital transactions.
Another example is telemedicine. We are already seeing consultations without patients actually going to a clinic or a hospital. Again, this is a positive sign. Can we think of business models to help expand telemedicine across the world?
Perhaps this is the time to think of reimagining what we defines "efficiency".
Efficiency cannot only be about how much time is spent in the office.
We should perhaps think of models in which productivity and efficiency matter more than an appearance of effort.
The emphasis should be on completing a task within a specified time frame.
Let us develop business models that attach primacy to care for the poor, who are the most vulnerable in society, as well as our planet.
We have made major progress in tackling climate change. Mother Nature has demonstrated to us her magnificence, showing us how quickly it can flourish when human activity slows. There is a significant future in developing technologies and practices that reduce our impact on the planet. We can do more by doing less.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made us realize the need to work on health solutions at low costs and at a large scale. We can become a guiding light for global efforts to ensure the health and wellbeing of humanity.
We should invest in innovations to make sure our farmers have access to information, machinery and markets, no matter the situation; that our citizens have access to essential goods.
Every crisis brings opportunity.
COVID-19 is no different, so let us evaluate what might be the new opportunities and growth areas that could emerge.
Rather than playing catch-up, India must be ahead of the curve in the post-coronavirus world. Let us think about how our people, our skill sets, our core capabilities can be used toward this.
COVID-19 does not look at race, religion, color, caste, creed, language or borders before striking. Our response and conduct thereafter should attach primacy to unity and brotherhood.
We are in this together.
Unlike previous moments in history, when countries or societies faced off against each other, we are today facing a common challenge together. The future will be about togetherness and resilience.
The next big ideas from India should possess global relevance and application. They should have the ability to drive positive change, not merely for India but for the entirety of humankind.
Logistics was previously only seen through the prism of physical infrastructure like roads, warehouses and ports. But logistics experts these days can control global supply chains from the comfort of their own homes.
India, with the right blend of the physical and the virtual, can emerge as the global nerve center of a complex, modern and multinational supply chain in the post-COVID-19 world. Let us rise to the occasion and seize this opportunity.
I urge you all to think about this and contribute to the discourse.
The shift from BYOD to WFH [work from home] brings new challenges to balance the official and the personal. Whatever may be the case, devote some time to fitness and exercise. Try yoga as a means of improving physical and mental wellbeing.
The traditional medicines of India are known to help keep the body fit. The Ayush Ministry has come out with a protocol that would help in staying healthy. Have a look at these as well.
Lastly, and most importantly, please download the Aarogya Setu Mobile App. This is a futuristic app that leverages technology to help contain the possible spread of COVID-19. The more the downloads, the more it will be effective.
Will wait to hear from you all.
The article was first published on LinkedIn on April 19.
The Jakarta Post
19 April 2020
India's response to the COVID-19 pandemic
Globally, as of April 12, there were more than 1,783,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 108,907 deaths worldwide. India, a country of 1.3 billion people, has been able to manage and contain cases of COVID-19 to about 8,300, much below the global incidence rate, with negligible community-based infection due to well-executed plans and pre-emptive preventive methodology under the leadership of the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.
Planning and execution
The focus areas of the strategy and major actions taken are as follows:
World's biggest lockdown
The effort is on, and there is a tough battle ahead.