Evading and Emending Economic Orthodoxy during Covid 19 pandemic- An Indian Perspective.
1. The year 2020 has been unprecedented view onset of Covid 19 pandemic, biggest ever lockdown with international ramifications and its impact on the economy of each country. Prior impact of the pandemic the consumer behaviour was being analysed most conventionally, by appeasement of customer or widening of customer base through an offer of discounts on luxury products, seasonal discounts on branded products, the mall culture, emphasis and incentives on digital spending etc. The pandemic has accelerated non-conventional strategies and most conventional ones had limited relevance.
2. This article looks at consumer behaviour during Covid -19 onset and subsequent unlocking period. It also tracks the unconventional ways used by sellers and the government to boost economic activities. The article deliberates about new normal, consumer behaviour and accelerated use of digital technology. The article has been mostly concerning the Indian perspective.
3. The gap in the healthcare system in case of the rapid spread of pandemic was indicated by some research post-2009 H1N1 pandemic or outbreak of Ebola in 2018. However, the COVID-19 had engulfed the whole world very rapidly resulting in a lockdown, ban on international travels and so on. This has brought economic activities to a standstill in India like many other countries. However, gradual unlocking by government and consumer response has proved to be beneficial in few sectors. The consumer behaviour such as preference for local stuff, rapid adoption to online purchases and transactions had been few unorthodox ways. Some of them are here to stay permanently.
People’s response during crisis and change in consumer behaviour
4. During the initial days of lockdown, people managed with what they had or stocked with them. Short opening of markets for essentials resulted in people crowding the places without adhering to any guidelines. However, the government resorting to issuing rations through PDS shops to people and permissions to open shops only for essential commodities for limited hours proved to be useful to stabilize the situation. This has resulted in the customer simplifying his demand as limited was on offers during the period and continued the same even after gradual unlocking. Even the rich people also dropped their excess consumption behaviour. The surveys and newspaper reports have tracked consumer sentiments during COVID-19 and reported transformation in consumer behaviour. Consumer behaviour is taking different shapes and ruthlessly exposed the materialistic culture of buying behaviour which was not necessarily needed to be induced. This change in consumer behaviour is posing a challenge for businesses to bring strategic changes for sustainability. Many have abandoned existing conventional consumer behaviour models and marketing strategies to remain viable across consumer segments.
The New Normal
5. The disruption in normal life, slowdown of economic activities resulted in many private companies shutting down and people losing their mode of income. The new normal at home with children adapting to homeschooling, indoor life, adults managing household chores with a minimum support system and WFH has been set. Thus, pandemic not only impacted economic and social processes but also altered consumer behaviour towards various products and services. People are now spending less income on so-called nice to have items such as jewellery, makeup, shoes, games, etc. People were gripped with fear of catching an infection, its impact on the family and concerned about family welfare. This has impacted many customer behaviours in a significant manner.
The Next Normal
6. The Covid 19 had knocked out behavioural orthodox approaches that ruled in the last decade till COVID-19 banged our doors. The countrywide or global lockdown strategy has redefined the social sphere and individual orientation. The consumption levels lead it to primary needs such as food, clothes and shelter, safe indoors irrespective of socio-economic class. The new behaviour drives healthy choices, the importance of essentials and spending habits limited to live within the capacity. A household has become a small unit of production, consumption, schools shrunk to 8-inch screens, the importance of farming, supply chain, effective governance has emerged as new normal. Few new unconventional drivers of the economy and emerging models found to be the next normal.
Changes in Eating Habits and Choice of Food
7. The very few urban population was consuming health and immunity booster foods before COVID. There was a surge in this behaviour. Users realising its good value desire to continue the same post-pandemic. This has resulted in higher consumption of dietary supplements, vitamins, tablets and immunity-boosting foods. The fear of infection also made people love homemade food and many understood its value.
Physical and Mental Fitness
8. View confined to homes many have jumped to the fitness bandwagon by enrolling on online yoga classes, many have never done this earlier. Also many have joined meditation and often motivational websites through YouTube channels.
Telemedicine and Health Consultation
9. Restricted mobility and fear of visiting hospitals spread tele-consultation with healthcare providers. This has added many consumers to telemedicine markets. Many of the alternative theory professionals such as acupressure etc have been able to see a change in growth potential. Tele medicines segment has an opportunity to grow in developing into reliable service providers. The home delivery of medicines has observed to be grown many folds.
10. One of the major shifts in behaviour is the exponential adoption of e-commerce as it has the advantage of safe, economic business and a win-win situation for both producers and consumers. The sturdy logistic supply chain is the need of the hour. The penetration of this supply chain to tier 1, 2, 3 towns has significant space to grow. The Google pay, Paytm and other UPI-based payment mode has grown many folds due to fear of physical exchange of currency. This has boosted the government policy for increased digital transactions. The farmers have used this for directly selling their produce to the customer well packed and fresh, thereby finding a new way not only to sustain livelihood but also earning more profit. The famous ‘Hapus’ mango growers in the Konkan belt, formed a platform for marketing the mangoes making it a path-breaking profitable venture. Such processes are here to stay and have the potential to be adopted in many sectors such as homemade food delivery, products by artisans etc.
11. This area has seen a major change in the delivery of education and the fast adoption of an unorthodox option. Be it to upgrade knowledge, skills to boost CV, acquiring skills for switching to alternate income option. The potential of the online learning market is huge. The emergence of BYJU’s, Vedantu, and other companies aggressively expanded to national level coaching, people enrolling to UDEMY and other websites for certificate courses. Schools, colleges, universities are even conducting basic courses online till. change in the pandemic situation. There is huge potential in this sector for change in conventional pedagogy. Webinars have become the usual USP. Google meet, teams, WebEx have been in reach to each firm/corporate irrespective of size and area of business. Adoption of Work from Home (WFH) and its advantages had resulted in many corporate modifying HR policies and ways of doing business.
12. With the closure of malls, cinema halls, parks, there was a compulsion to find entertainment options at home. The biggest growth was in OTT platforms. This OTT platform has become desirable in the despicable part of a household.
Government Policies and Unorthodoxy
13. The pandemic was the biggest challenge for the government. Many schemes the government announced were to facilitate the availability of credit for borrowing to initiate business and then channel the consumption. Swift and decisive actions by policymakers have resulted in bringing the economy to an upward trend. There were many unconventional schemes such as giving LTC money government employees to spend on products with GST more than 12%, high budget allocation for infrastructure, etc. Large capital expenditure announcements by the government to support economic activities and investment is also a new normal. All of these actions have resulted in high GST collection again.
14. With every adversity come new challenges and opportunities. By evading and emending economic orthodoxy, it is possible to adapt to new trends in consumer behaviour in the new economic paradigm. New unorthodox philosophy, business strategy and social-economic trends have evolved and came into existence. It is important to constantly adapt to these new opportunities through careful evaluation of whether to change over or continue.
*submitted this article for a national essay competition.