First identified in December 2019 in China, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown a sweeping effect in almost all the sectors and industries from health, films, business, travel to many more. We are dealing with a worldwide pandemic, lockdowns, the persisting threat of the coronavirus and the possible consequences in our own ways, unaware about how long is it going to take for us to completely defeat this virus and cope from the unprecedented damage that has been done already to the lifestyle, wrecked economy, different fields and jobs because of the havoc unleashed by COVID-19. The only thing that we know for sure is that the life that lies ahead of us is going to be very different than what we had pre-coronavirus outbreak. Never have we imagined or experienced anything even close to this total shut down and the aftereffects, much less have a framework prepared to deal with the frailty. Nevertheless, great disruptions open the door that leads to the golden opportunity to start afresh and find new ways to attain our goals.
Impact of COVID-19
A world where self-isolation and social distancing is becoming the new normal, what are the chances for the survival of a business built around teamwork and communal experience?
Out of all the industries, the substantial impact of the pandemic has been seen in the film industry and a ripple effect causing agony to the people around the world making living through this industry. The Chinese film industry was hit first and immediately after the outbreak- just the weeks after the first case appeared in Wuhan. The timing was devastating as it was one of the most gainful and profit-making weeks for cinema- the eve of the Chinese New Year holiday, the 20-day period that earned $1.5 billion in 2019. Soon after almost 70,000 theatres were shut down in China, the virus started spreading all around the world causing cinemas in other places getting shuttered like in Italy, Arab, Spain etc. while Ireland, UK and France tried to enforce social distancing and keep cinemas going but it was short-lived. Hollywood began to feel the effects and with time the impact grew even more, ranging from delayed or canceled film releases, film festivals, concerts and shooting of movies. For instance, San Diego Comic-Con has been canceled because of the pandemic and Warner Bros have released new dates for the movies like The Batman and In the Heights. The people related to the industry surely miss their job and the experience of working together but they would find it difficult and a little wary to return after the threat the virus has introduced. The independent cinemas may not reopen any time soon due to the overwhelming rental payments.
The financial ramification is likely to be felt by the filmmakers, studios, theater owners etc. According to the report of the US entertainment industry union International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), the shutdown has caused a great loss of about 1,20,000 workers that have been laid off in Hollywood. As for Bollywood, Atul Mohan, a Trade Analyst, predicted a weekly loss of about $10.5 million due to the pandemic for the Bollywood industry. With the cinemas and the movie theatres being closed all around the world due to lockdown, the film releases have been delayed indefinitely causing the global box office to drop by billions of dollars. The pandemic has already caused a loss of $7 billion for the box-office and it is expected to reach the mark of $17 billion by the end of May. Film productions have been halted and those that were scheduled to be released during this period have been canceled or postponed. Online streaming on the other hand has become extremely popular for passing time at home. By March 2020, the film industry in China lost US$2 billion while North America witnessed its lowest weekend box office collection between March 13 to March 15, 2020.
The fans who have been waiting to see their favorite characters in the movies are upset about the postponed dates like the 25th James Bond film “No time to die” has been pushed from April to November, Marvel’s Black Widow, that the fans were waiting for- eagerly since the release of Avengers Endgame, released in 2019, as that character has been killed in it already and this movie was the last the fans were getting, DC’s Wonder Woman 1984 have all been delayed. In India, a Rohit Shetty film, starring Katrina Kaif and Akshay Kumar and another one with Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh were the two movies that the fans were looking forward to- both postponed.
Revolutionary period or turning point
Apparently, exploring for other options, Universal became the first studio to transform from the traditional theatrical window of exclusivity by releasing some new movies to be watched by people directly at home instead of the 90-days wait, as the theatres have been shuttered like The Hunt, The Invisible Man and Emma. This led to more studios adopting the same strategy and then Warner Brothers’ Birds of Prey and Pixar’s Onwards followed the suit. Thus, it might turn out to be a turning point for the studios and mark the beginning of launching the films simultaneously on-demand as well as in cinemas, to become a common practice.
Artists in distress
The major players are equally vulnerable as the industry itself. Rita Walson and Tom Hanks announced that they were tested positive for the virus on March 12. Moreover, many other actors have revealed about their diagnosis like Game of Thrones star Kristofer Hivju, British stalwart Idris Elba, Olga Kurylenko, Daniel Dae Kim and surprisingly Harvey Weinstein– a disgraced producer and convicted sex offender, was tested positive in the prison on March 23.
The festivals are also in jeopardy. The cancellation of the SXSW, which was scheduled to take place in Texas from March 13-22, was the first and foremost major blow for the filmmakers. To cope with the financial loss, the organizers had to let go of the one-third of their staff (estimated loss being $350 million) and those who were employed- caterers, staff etc., wound up with empty pockets. A week later, the Tribeca Film Festival was postponed followed by the Cannes- all within a gap of one week each. Jostling for position after rescheduling when possible, would be troublesome for the small film festivals beside Telluride, Venice and Toronto and may result into altogether cancellation.
The Paused Productions
Those who were in the middle of producing a movie have been hit even worse due to pandemic. The pandemic has already halted 144 TV shows and 34 films like The Matrix 4, The Batman, Jurassic World: Dominion, Stranger Things, Euphoria and many more on the list. The approximate cost of putting a halt on the production and crew is $350,000 per day. (for Disney as told by the Hollywood Reporter)
Post-crisis scenario for cinema
There are opportunities to be found in the new world the cinema would enter. The industry has felt the need to be better prepared to bypass the roadblocks and hurdles. The sets are closed but the rooms of the writers are still in the work-mode. The communication is done online for coordination and for the remote casting and virtual promotion, SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild- American Federation Of Television and Radio Artists) and The Casting Society Of America are pledging to adopt the measures of online screening as well as sales.
Moreover, in China the cinemas are reopening now. On 20th March, around 486 theatres were open yet the sales of the tickets have not reached the expected marks after the prolonged wait. Apparently, no tickets were sold in coastal regions of Fujian and Guangdong.
In summary, the people are likely to take some time before they finally regain the confidence to visit theatres and return to the cinemas the way it was before the pandemic. Cinema would definitely endure, but the time and the form it would take after the crisis is still a mystery.
The drill for the photographers
With the wake of coronavirus, all the industries and workers have faced repercussions. Among them, the demand of the photographers has declined shockingly with the practice of self-isolation and social distancing. With the economic recession, the Photography Industry has been hit. With the decline in demand, the small photographers do not have any source revenue and are left with no other option than taking out their savings to feed themselves as well as their family members. Whether it is a big gathering or simply a wedding, the clients are postponing and canceling them in order to save themselves from the coronavirus. Yet, as a tackling measure, the photographers cut back the cost and the flexibility comes into play to meet the declined revenue and reduced budget.
Apparently, the bright side of this industry is that there is always a scope to do something new and innovative with the skills and it is the time to show all those scrolling through their feed and surfing the net at their homes, your unique photography skills to stand out among all the competitors. Promoting the business and gaining potential customers by putting oneself on the work is the hack for this pandemic.
Many different ways of doing the same is:
- Improving the portfolio by working on the website
- Increasing the activity, interactive sessions and using social media management skills right now would turn out to be beneficial to get a good hold on the internet.
- This is the time one can binge watch series and whine about the situations out there or truly work up to the potential to lift the business as much as possible.
Yet, practicing safety measures during the photoshoot is advised as “Health is more important than wealth”.
Different strategies to deal with different situations in different areas
The businesses and enterprises both the small ones and the medium ones have been hit hard due to the pandemic suffering immensely and those which survive are also on the same road headed to recovery as others. Most of them have adopted short term strategies for survival, by retaining the cash and the core team in the business by cutting costs and putting off the cash outflow to retain it wherever possible as “cash is the king”, and long term strategies to rebuild the business by not taking anything for granted this time, challenging all status quo, focusing on the core business and ways to expand it.
Realizations and improvements
Some improvements and amendments might be a game-changer for many by observing what is blooming even during the hardest of the time. For instance, online booking of sales and the luxury provided by home deliveries in the e-commerce sector is something that the retail should take notes of; the auto sector and real estate should integrate with home and auto loan providers; banks should consolidate or merge instead of being hung up on the ideology that opening more and more branches is the key to develop.
Physical to digital
Converting as much of the processes as possible from physical to digital is the need of the situation, be it for business or almost anything that one can imagine- order processing, communication, client servicing etc. It should be taken as an imperative measure instead of just a trend.
Wherever necessary, cost structure should be made flexible by introducing staff compensation, performance bonuses, (based on the performance of both- the individuals and the company) and also to keep the business going and not appear as selfishly business-minded- one should refrain oneself from raising the cost of products or services when they are most needed by the consumers/customers, just to earn a profit during a hard time leads to a degraded reputation and loss of customers.
In all spheres of business, technology development is going to become the most crucial investment. The pandemic is acting like a fillip to the pace of technological development- a chance to catch up with the missed opportunities. The sudden boost in the usage of applications like Zoom for communication and OTT platforms for entertainment in just a couple of months is evident enough to state the fact that during the crisis, what could have taken several years to develop and gain popularity in terms of new technology, reached that mark in mere months. Also, the technologically developed and advanced businesses or companies kept working enforcing “work from home” strategies.
Work from home
Hot-desking would become a thing of the past and staggering shifts would be looked into and thoroughly planning the way things would work when it comes to discussions, meetings, sharing the same equipment, same walking routes etc. without putting anybody in danger. Securing personal protective equipment or sanitizing buildings timely and wearing masks is the very least that is bound to be considered. Adopting the “work-from-home” strategy is supposed to be the safest way of working and more and more companies and businesses would look into the adoption of this strategy now.
Recently, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has announced that as many as 75% of the 3.5 Lakh employees would be working from home by 2025. N. Ganapathy Subramaniam, the executive director and the chief operating officer of TCS, called this philosophy as 25*25 i.e. 25% of the employees of TCS would be working in the office to ensure that the productivity is 100% while Tech Mahindra is planning to permanently move to the hybrid model- 25% employees likely to work from home for long-term.
Kate Lister predicted that the workers would be looking forward to this “happy medium” as it would save the time for those who used to put up at a fairly large distance from their workplace and as a result, it would split the time between remote work coupled with less pollution, showing up at work and on top of that, it would save the money spent on fuel and the daycare. Moreover, it is an opportunity to prove that they can work without the need for constant supervision from the managers or the boss. According to the Global Workplace Analytics, 25 to 30 million employees in the US would be working from home regularly for the next two years while presently, only 5 million workers would be working from home/ half-time.
The new normal would be about a self-realization that nurturing all the relationships is the basic thing for a happy life that we were taking for granted. Employees, friends, customers and family members- all the relationships need proper and clear communication, care, time and respect.
The new normal lifestyle
Social distancing would be the negotiated tough path into the new normal life to keep the coronavirus at bay along with moving forward with our lives in a feasible way allowing economic activities to start. The pandemic has resulted in a different approach and behavior of people, as warned by the researchers- some are temporary while others are potentially permanent. Large gatherings, weddings, malls, places of worship, concerts etc. are supposedly ruled out. The list of the day-to-day normal things that became almost normal and unnoticeable like traffic jams, would not be a part of our lives now for the time being. Moreover, all these changes that are being introduced as the pandemic is becoming a bigger and indispensable part of our lives even dampening the festivities, the psychological effects are also a topic of major concern. Studies have shown that outbreaks like Ebola, swine flu, SARS etc. trigger depression, stress and anxiety among people. The highly expected victims of anxiety and stress are frontline workers, doctors and the family members of the patients infected with the coronavirus or those who couldn’t make it because they are the people who are facing with the direct and intensified effects of the pandemic. The struggle to regulate the emotions and the PTSD that follow the traumatic situations and crisis haunts for a long time even after the end of the crisis. The continued lockdowns are temporary solutions and definitely not affordable given the deaths due to hunger and the threatening unemployment. The safest and the most realistic way to deal with COVID-19 without compromising the valuable lives of those not suffering from the disease but because of the lockdown, is quarantining potential patients and strict norms for hotspots, while the rest move on with their lives while following social-distancing as to not spread the virus.
The emotional impact
Hugging, kissing or any form of physical intimacy whatsoever, that is likely to pose a risk to people causing the spread of the virus, is supposed to be prevented for the well-being of our loved ones. People may have a hard time adapting to this but it would completely highlight the conventional factors building the relationships- trust and communication.
As the lockdown has resulted in shutting down malls, wholesale markets and showrooms, online shopping is the way to go shopping sitting in your house protecting yourself as well as people around you. Apart from that, some out-of-town shopping outlets can be reopened while maintaining social distancing and some strict measures like shopping alone, only card payment, shorter trading hours etc.
Public transport would be hit badly due to the unavoidable need of maintaining distance between people. There are likely to be fewer people using buses, trains etc. because keeping distance between passengers can be troublesome. However, a rail boss has suggested to reduce the capacity of the trains to board the passengers could be reduced by 70-90%. Apart from that, the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has speculated the possibility of businesses being asked to stagger the working hours of employees.
Apparently, a leaked report of Transport for London (TfL) says to maintain the 2m or 6 feet apart distance between the people, the speculated number is 50,000 passengers boarding the Tube every 15 minutes as opposed to the peak hour figures of 325,000 passengers boarding every 15 minutes. It is speculated that similar arrangements would be made and adopted everywhere in the near future.
As for the Airlines, John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow boss, said that maintaining social distancing is “physically impossible” for airports or airlines yet health screening, thermal imaging and limiting the number of passengers are the measures that can be adopted.
One thing is quite evident, people would be advised to keep their mouths covered by masks and frequently washing/sanitizing hands, especially while traveling, as all of us know the basic necessity and the demand of the situation is the safety of one and all.
Education or “Webucation”
There are a lot of possibilities that have emerged due to the crisis for a reformed strategy that can be adopted by all the different colleges and schools to keep the youth safe. They are- “a blend of at-home and in-school learning”, redesigned classrooms, online lectures etc. It would surely take time but so do all the revolutions and it will definitely turn out to be an improved and technologically sound system of education.
Gym, swimming pools, sports
As a result of lockdown, swimming pools, gyms, stadiums and many venues have been shut down or closed and their reopening would be probably accompanied by stricter norms now. The Pool Management Group has highlighted the need of disinfecting the swimming pools after their reopening for the safety of swimmers and also other measures would be adopted as well like decreasing the number of swimmers allowed to let in and also cutting short the duration of time allowed to each swimmer. While, for sports, there are similar negotiations that would be made. The Lawn Tennis Association, the England Golf and many other sports associations are discussing and waiting for government orders on resuming the matches and series yet it is “too early for any kind of speculation” and the optimized conditions for players to tee off are being thought of and planned. The sports experience might include matches with no spectators or a few only allowed to watch while maintaining social distancing norms. On the other hand, there are absolutely no words on reopening for the gyms. The basic strategy would be creating multiple batches at different timings, maintaining social distancing and regularly disinfecting the places.
Pubs, Restaurant and Cinemas
These are most probably going to be among the last places to reopen. The government guidance draft stated that seated areas, bars and cafes or restaurants must remain close even after reopening of the economy and only the takeaways should be served, the reason being mixing with people outside the household especially in a small environment is not a good idea. Moreover the waiters, cooks, cleaners and the staff alone would fill the place enough making social distancing impossible.
Although, Tim Richards, the boss of Vue Cinemas, has said that hopefully screens would reopen in mid-July along with implementation of social distancing measures but staging the musicals in theatres would still not be expected till next year.
The impact of the pandemic would ripple through every layer of our social fabric and uncertainty and changes can be overwhelming but we can reimagine our future brighter than ever once the curve is flattened and we win the war against COVID-19. The path to recovery is a long one but if we stick and stand together, we can make it through all the hurdles.
“Hard times do not last, hard people do.”