India in Indonesian Media

India in Indonesian Media

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

  • With the information available to the world since early January, both in the public domain and from authoritative international sources, India has taken several proactive measures. This has ensured that India stayed ahead of the curve as the crisis evolved. The Government of India organized a meeting of the Health Crisis Management Group on Jan. 8 and constituted a Group of Ministers (GOM) to plan, monitor and review the situation regularly and to ensure inter-ministerial coordination.
  • States and provinces were provided with guidelines for surveillance and contact tracing, laboratory sample collection, packaging and transport, clinical management protocol, prevention and control in healthcare facilities and discharge guideline for passengers under quarantine.

The focus areas of the strategy and major actions taken are as follows:

  1. Surveillance at the country’s points of entry

The first travel advisory was issued on 17th Jan (before the first case was detected in India) along with the initiation of screening on flights arriving from China and Hong Kong at 3 Major Airports. Screening and graded travel restrictions were increased step by step from mid-January until March 11, when the World Health Organization finally declared COVID-19 a pandemic. As of April 6, 1.5 million passengers had been screened at the airports, 44 thousand at sea ports and more than 2 million at land borders. 

  1. Community surveillance of all passengers through the Integrated Disease Surveillance Program (IDSP) Network

Passengers are monitored in the community through the IDSP network on a daily basis. At present 621,000 passengers have been brought under surveillance, of which 33,249 were found to be symptomatic and referred; 5503 have been hospitalized so far. This has ensured that not a single positive case has been able to mix with general population.

  1. Laboratory testing

A network of labs across the country has been set up to facilitate early and timely sample testing. The WHO has identified the National Institute of Virology in Pune as the referral laboratory for the entire Southeast Asia Region. From one laboratory in January 2020 to 223 labs nationwide (157 public labs, 66 private) now, over 190,000 samples have been tested to date. India is also developing indigenous testing kits to meet higher demand for more extensive testing. 

  1. Ramping up production and procurement of medical supplies

The Indian private sector is being fully involved in the quest to make affordable local alternatives. For instance, there are now 32 Indian companies that have started work to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) kits. A six-fold increase in the supply of oxygen for medical purposes has also been ensured, since Feb 1. At present 727,494 beds, 171,317 isolation beds and 74,450 confirmed COVID-19 beds have been identified. Up to 40,000 extra isolation beds have been prepared by converting 2,500 railway carriages. The production of pharmaceutical supplies, like anti-pyretic tablets and Hydroxychloroquine, has been expanded to meet domestic needs and to export to other countries.

  1. Public communication

One of the biggest ways to prevent community spread of the infection is through communication. Press ads about the basic do's and don'ts of COVID-19 management were released, and more press ads dealing with other aspects are being developed and released as the situation progresses. Regular press conferences with the Health Minister have been carried out, and daily updates by designated officials have been issued and relayed across all media channels. Daily press releases about the number of cases, travel advisories and other COVID-19-related decisions are being issued. 

  1. Ensuring safety of Indians abroad

The government has taken every step to ensure safety of its citizens. There have been evacuation operations from Wuhan, Iran, Japan, (from a cruise), Italy and Malaysia. The evacuees were brought to quarantine facilities which were set up on a real time basis on a war footing. 

World's biggest lockdown

  • By mid-March, there was substantial global spread of the disease. On March 24, Prime Minister Modi announced a total lockdown for 21 days until April 15. This lockdown was truly unprecedented. For example, it has included stoppage of over 13,000 railway passenger services a day and, for the first time in India’s history as a Republic, stoppage of all flight services and most public transport. And yet, continuity of essential services – the power supply, water, energy, food products, banking and delivery of essential goods – was ensured.
  • After the lockdown, a lot of migrant laborers from NCT Delhi started migrating towards their home states. Many people started pouring into interstate bus terminals and the interstate highways. Many started walking on foot and many were stuck at different interstate borders. The government of India swung into action and the around 500,000 migrants were safely transported to their home states. 
  • A detailed protocol was established to manage the migrants; guidelines were issued to ensure essential supplies; rations for stranded people were ensured. Nearly 28,000 relief camps and shelters have been set up, with relief being provided by state governments to 1.25 million people. Nationwide, 20,000 food camps are being run, with up to 7.5 million people being fed every day.
  • During the lock down, the Government accelerated its efforts for effective management strategies and future planning. The Prime Minister’s Garib Kalyan (Welfare of the Poor) package sets out US$ 22 billion to alleviate the situation of the poor and vulnerable, including farmers and laborers. This includes insurance for 220,000 health care workers. 
  • Food relief measures are being implemented to provide free grain and lentils for 3 months to 800 million people. LPG cylinders are being provided to 80 million poor households. Funds are being transferred through direct cash transfer schemes to poor senior citizens, differently-abled people and to indigent widows.

International partnership

  • The Indian prime minister invited all SAARC countries for a video conference to manage the COVID-19 situation on March 15 and set out a series of measures including a commitment to provide up to US$ 10 million toward health assistance. India has been able to deliver medical supplies and assistance to the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan, and it is in the process of preparing packages of medicine and other needed commodities for Nepal and Afghanistan. Medical commodities have also been provided not only to Myanmar, the Seychelles and Mauritius in our extended neighborhood but also to Italy, Iran and China at the height of the crisis in those countries. 
  • And in keeping with India’s standing as a major and responsible provider of pharmaceutical products to the world, commercial and aid supplies of key pharmaceutical products were made to the United States, Spain, Brazil, Israel and Indonesia, as well as countries in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The effort is on, and there is a tough battle ahead.


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