Note: This is a developing story and will be updated every now and then. Last Updated: 24-04-2020 16:58 P.M. (IST)
A few days ago, I owned a company which I had built up over the past four years. We were an established legally registered business operating in India’s most busiest city, Kolkata. My company used to generate a steady flow of revenue and I was working towards expanding our business client base abroad. By the 14th of March 2020, every government-aided institution was shut down. It didn’t seem that bad at first, we thought we would still be leading normal lives with increased safety measures and self-care. Least did we know we were actually heading towards a complete lockdown.
What happened next was scary. The situation spiralled out of control. Each and every country has now been affected by it and literally everything is under a strict lockdown. COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on this world. Thousands of people have lost their lives. A thousand other people have had their lives changed forever and the pain that has been placed upon a few countries will take an entire lifetime to heal.
15th March, 2020: The Indian government issued a partial restriction that prevents unnecessary movements by shutting down schools, colleges, bars, restaurants and most commercial businesses. We have been asked to self isolate as much as possible while the nation desperately tries to slow down the movement of Coronavirus within our demographics. This is, “the calm before the storm”. This was just the beginning of the worse to come.
New appointments with potential business owners and prospects on my calendar had been cancelled, new business was cut by a 40% loss on time, productivity and finance.
19th March, 2020: Till now, everything appeared to be fine. Cases in India were very low and there was no sense of panic. People however began panic buying and within a few hours every respiratory mask, sanitizer and other essential commodities were sold out. People stocked food supplies and medications at their homes. We stayed home, ate and slept and everybody felt the situation wouldn’t worsen and within a couple of days we would be able to get back to our normal lives.
22nd March, 2020: The viral outbreak started deepening into several countries around the world. Since its inception began in China’s Wuhan province during December 2019, the COVID-19 has taken a huge toll on several countries and has taken a massive number of human lives. Nations are trying their best to control the spread of the contagion and cure those that are already infected. Partial or full lockdowns have been one of the prime quarantine strategies adopted by nations across the globe to control the exploding infection.
In India the Central Government declared a complete lockdown in several districts, suspending passenger trains, public buses and metro railways till 31st March, 2020. State Governments came out with their own respective measures. Curfew has been implemented across the country and violators shall be prosecuted thereafter. Skip to the end for updates.
This year of 2020 has been a very unusual time to live in. To wake up and go about your day, knowing that there is so much pain, so much suffering happening in, in the world around you. The same places you’ve spent some of your favourite memories in over the years are now abandoned ghost towns.
It is sad to see all of the people who are fighting this virus. Saddening to see the doctors and nurses who are tirelessly making irrevocable decisions somewhere in the world at this very moment and even more saddening for the families that lie in the rubble of chaos that this pandemic has created. I have never seen anything else like this in my lifetime.
I wish I could be stronger. I wish I could thrive in my bubble of isolation but I just can’t. I can’t happily go through my day, knowing what we know, and waiting to see if anyone I know is affected by this virus. I am trying to figure out how to live in this new normal. I am trying to find purpose in each day and not dwell on what could happen and be grateful for the moment we are in.
If there is any silver lining to come from this madness, it will come from what we learn from it. So far, I have learnt that gratitude isn’t a word that belongs in personal-development books it is an emotion that should fill your heart at every given chance.
One of the biggest lessons in life, learning to forgive and let go of resentment, is usually taught too late and that living every single day as if it could possibly be your last is what it means to be truly alive.
Finally, the most important and the most powerful thing that I have learned so far, is that there is a strength that lies dormant within each of us waiting, for when it is needed most.
Accepting that I have lost a significant amount of my freedoms and liberties is very hard swallow. Watching our hustling-bustling town turn into a ghost town with police patrols to ensure civil obedience and curtail the activities of an entire country is still a very nerve wracking experience.
There’s speculation of the quarantine being extended further if things do not come under control, meaning a month of living under lockdown. Everyone is trying to digest the reality of the situation. This is a process that each one of us manages very differently. For me, I have arrived at a phase where I am starting to accept this as the reality, but the anxiety and apprehension over how life will be over the next few weeks is piling up, the future of my business and the economic repercussions that could last for months or years after hasn’t quite sunk in yet.
Over the next few weeks I’ll try and document how the situation progresses, from facts on the ground to more subtle subjects like the psychological effects of the lockdown.
As of now, I will share a few tips, the current statistics in India and what may lie ahead of us.
We now find ourselves in isolation, forced to shelter, practice social distancing and effectively spend more time at home.
Video gamers and Netflix consumers have probably been training themselves for this, their entire lives. But for most of us this period might test our emotional fortitude, this is all because of an uncertainty that exists around us as to when this experiment in social isolation will end.
Isolation has the capacity to and is already triggering a number of mental health issues as a result of:
- Financial stability.
- Social distancing.
- Fearing the health of our close ones.
- Anxiety over catching COVID-19.
- A survival mindset.
- Loss of focus.
- Lack of control over everything around us.
- Feelings of hopelessness.
Therefore, it’s a no brainer that solitary confinement is used as a form of punishment at prisons.
Here’s a few tips to help you get through the lockdown without losing your sanity:
- Focus on what you control.
- Socialise online (with Video). You’ve got WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook Messenger? You’ve got people to talk to? Go make use of it.
- Create stuff, draw, start a podcast, write blogs, poems, build things, write songs, or do anything you have a passion for.
- Meditate. Close your eyes, clear the clutter, calm your mind.
- Get out of bed! You need to seriously get yourself moving.
- Eat well. As Pollan says, ‘Eat food, not too much, mostly plants’. Maybe it’s even time to learn to cook something new?
- Sleep well.
- Helping others takes the focus off ourselves, and also leaves us feeling happier for extended periods of time.
- Discover new music.
- Learn a new skill. There’s no excuse not to learn something new nowadays with tens of thousands of courses available online and accessible at the click of a button. Heck, you could learn a bunch just from scrolling through YouTube videos!
- Read. You’ve got books, eBooks, articles, blogs, so much content to start with. Educate yourself further.
- Optimise your finances as best you can under the circumstances.
- Play Video games, they can capture our attention for long periods of time, come with a host of cognitive benefits, and are – let’s face it – plain fun! I am also currently distracting myself playing PUBG and Township.
- Reflect on your life.
- Philosophise. If you’ve never picked up any philosophy or asked life’s big questions, well there’s nothing like a global pandemic and forced isolation to get you to do just that.
- Watch some films.
- It might be tempting to do nothing but watch Netflix, and mindlessly scroll through Instagram – don’t do it. Not just for today because you’re in a lockdown, just don’t ever do it.
- Consume minimal amounts of news. Stop spending countless hours each day consuming nothing but news related to the Coronavirus, limit the amount of time you spend reading the news. It is definitely very important to be informed, but being informed instantly and often makes you overwhelmed, and creates feelings of helplessness and leaves you back at where you started.
Lastly, I will discuss about the current status of the economy, and what lies ahead of us.
On 24th March, 2020 the indian Rupee breached 76 a dollar, and hit an intraday low of 76.29.
A very narrowly traded market has been creating problems for the Indian Rupee, as any minimal demand for the dollar or slight sales of the dollar by the RBI are changing the complete course of the exchange rates.
The spreading of the virus and total death toll right now across the globe makes the world look like a very dark place. Hospitals are over their capacity and the number of infected people is growing exponentially. It will take some time to stop the virus entirely. But how will our economy look after the coronavirus pandemic is extinguished?
Key points to takeaway:
- Europe and the US must prepare for a complete lockdown between April and June, and 60% working capability from June to August 2020 before they slowly go back to normal.
- Coronavirus outbreak will cause a major financial crisis with a meltdown at a level of similar to the 2008 financial crisis, or probably worse.
Working Assumptions: Remote work only may be in place for 2 months of heavy restrictions, after that businesses should be back to normal but working at 60% capacity for the next two months.
According to Bloomberg Economics, Chinese factories were operating at 60% to 70% of capacity in the last weeks, which is also confirmed by New York Times, evaluating it at 50%-60%. For example Starbucks reopened 85% of their coffee shops in China. Going back to normal is a lengthy process. A lot of businesses are still working remotely in China. No province in China has already fully resumed its operational capacities, and thus 2 months of 60% output is just an educated guess and should be treated more as a lower bound for what might happen. Also 2 months of total lockdown might be inaccurate for certain regions. Some cities in China managed to end the lockdown just after 3 weeks, but in many the lockdown is still ongoing after 2 months.
All together it seems reasonable to assume that a complete lockdown period in most countries in the West will last from April to June, 2020 and from June, 2020 until August, 2020. we will have a period of 60% output, going slowly back to normal.
The industry which will be most heavily impacted by coronavirus outbreak is definitely tourism and travel. Tourism is totally shutdown and travel completely suspended between countries, meaning loses especially for international operators (airlines). Tourism itself contributes about 3% of GDP worldwide and about 10% of GDP indirectly through entertainment and adjacent services.
Shutting down tourism alone will make the USA lose over $2 trillion which is around 2.2% of global GDP.
Let’s make this concept more solid by comparing it to 2008 financial crisis and GDP growth on average before and after the situation. The GDP in the year 2007 grew by 4.2%, by 1.8% in 2008 and shrink by 1.73% in 2009. Then it got back to the before the crisis growth in 2010 with 4.32% growth. Assuming that the growth in 2008 would be similar to 2007 if the bubble hadn’t burst, that is 4.2% instead of 1.8% we see a loss of roughly 2.4% in GDP due to the crisis in 2008 and then of roughly 5.73% in 2009.
This calculation is not very accurate because of a couple of simplifications I’ve done along the way to make it easier to understand, but I’m going for the easiest estimates now to understand the scale of current events. And what becomes evident is that lockdown of tourism alone might cause a meltdown at the level of financial crisis in 2008.
Tourism and travel relies on people willing to travel and we don’t know how coronavirus will influence people willingness to travel. The above might be an optimistic scenario.
Manufacturing constitutes 16% of global GDP or roughly $14 trillion. Executing a similar scenario of a lockdown for 2 months, and a 60% capacity for 2 months, we can estimate the losses. $14 trillion makes roughly $1.1 trillion monthly. Therefore, this system using the 2 by 2 method gives us losses at the level of $2.2 + $1.3 = $3.5 trillions. While the global GDP has been evaluated at $88 trillions this delivers $3.5 trillions in losses and makes almost 4% of GDP worldwide.
Putting manufacturing and tourism losses together we get roughly $5.5 trillions of losses or 6.2% of GDP worldwide more than not only the loss we suffered in 2008 but also more than the loss in 2009, 5.73%, most likely the largest loss in GDP since The Great Depression.
This can change by the fact that not all countries or regions are impacted in the same way. But because our economies are all connected, especially at the global level when we think about tourism and manufacturing, lockdown in Europe and the United States will have an impact on the whole world.
Summing up we’re facing a global crisis scenario within 2 months, which has already begun with stocks on major stock exchanges falling in value by 30%-70%.
As of now we have only taken a look at tourism and manufacturing, but what about other businesses?
Other business domains are hard to evaluate as the loss will greatly depend upon how digitised a given company is and whether they implement remote work or not. Restaurants and coffee shops may shift their models to deliveries and collaborating with local delivery services to minimize the impact of the lockdown. A few tech companies and businesses might be the least affected if they have managed to put necessary measures in place before the crisis. But, if there is no business to conduct, what’s the use of a business existing online when there is no scope of business available?
The scale of these events will definitely cause a global recession. It’s hard to anticipate how our global economy will change because of this crisis as the outbreak will cause a general shift in the pattern related to how we work and operate our businesses.
Flattening the curve for an overtaxed healthcare system
If you haven’t heard this term yet, then here’s a simple walkthrough for you: If we are able to minimise the amount of people that get sick at a given time, our healthcare system may be able to handle an inflow of other people. If we fail to do this, our entire healthcare system will be overwhelmed, and more people will not get treated, this means more people will not survive the pandemic. Do we really want to be put in a situation where we have to make choices about who will live and who will die?
For example, we have a limited amount of ventilators in a hospital. The very sick who are in danger of dying due to respiratory failure, will need to be on a ventilator. A huge influx of the very ill will create more need for ventilators than what is available. Without ventilation, those extra people will not survive. This is where the medical care system will have to make choices: who gets a ventilator and who doesn’t? Nurses and physicians don’t like making those choices. We don’t have to do that, but we may need to. It is up to us as a civilised society to make sure this doesn’t happen, that we take the steps we need to minimise the virus infections. That begins by staying home, and following government protocols.
We all must do our part to help flatten the curve for our healthcare system. Regardless if you believe the media is hysterical or not, it’s up to all of us to mitigate the infection.
New Updates: To make it easier to follow and keep a track on the latest developments, I am going to make updates at the end of this article.
25 March, 2020: I have been laying down on bed reading the news, waiting for this to end for the past couple of days. I am either sleeping or reading the news. The past few days have been very unproductive. I had a sleepless night due to oversleeping. Felt restless and woke up with a headache. Today is the 1st day of the 21 day lockdown period. As of now, it is now known how things will go on from here. Whether the situation will take a good or bad turn or not. Everything is uncertain. I tried to remain positive. These days must past and it will past. It will just be hard. Time passes by quickly. Everything must end and normalise. I spoke to my employees in the morning and things have been going well with the digital marketing bit of my business. We developed new marketing content for our business and I have also settled with a new lead generator. I spoke to my girlfriend, I miss her alot. I decided to watch Billions and got myself a Hotstar subscription, because Netflix India doesn’t have the show, duh!
I tried getting out of bed and doing something productive. But I couldn’t until 6:00 PM. I’ve been having a headache which is probably due to stress and my constant use of the mobile phone. It has subsided a bit now and I’ve begun updating this article.
The police are patrolling outside houses and beating people who are violating the curfew by leaving the house. I tried ordering groceries from Spencers and Grofers but those applications have been shut down and are not accepting orders. Flipkart has shut down today. Amazon has suspended the sale of all its items except important commodities. Everything seems hopeless, I feel bored. There’s nothing much to do. 20 more days is a long time. Right now, I’m hoping this will stop by then, so the lockdown does not need to be extended. It will hurt the poor and the economy.
Street dogs and stray animals are starving outside. I’ve seen videos of the police helping the poor and homeless by giving them food, which is a very good thing. Also, for the first time in my area, I have seen a cycle-van that is selling vegetables. A few shops are opened selling food and groceries. The streets are mostly empty. The roads used to be noisy with so many cars, but right now it’s looking like a ghost town.
I don’t think I’ll be working today.
26 March, 2020: Positive cases in India continue to rise. However, West Bengal cases still seem to be low. Maharashtra and Kerala are the most affected states. The feeling of uncertainty about this situation and the lockdown with the boredom is getting very hard to deal with.
Right now, I am on a metered connection. I thought of Installing Steam and getting some games rolling, but the network surge and the data cap is limiting me from doing anything. Other than this, nothing else has happened today. I have written four articles about marketing and entrepreneurship, that will be available on my company website pixelvise.com very soon! That’s all for today. Tonight, I will continue watching Billions. I am a big fan of Suits and the character Harvey Specter. This show seems interesting, might write a review about it later on. Stay safe!
03 April, 2020: It’s been quite some time since my last update. That was solely because nothing much happened. The same old routine of staying home gets boring. You get up, there’s nothing to do. After browsing the news and social media there comes a time you get bored and irritated at almost everything. I however made some good amount of progress with my work. I have updated my company website and my personal blog to a great extent. I’ve added new features to them to help me with email marketing and generating additional leads. I now have a streamlined process in place for managing my websites and the content posted to each. I’ve developed two websites during this time and have written 3 articles on blogging and marketing, these can be found on the Pixelvise blog, as promised earlier. The condition in India has deteriorated rapidly and we’ve seen a spike in cases, but most of these cases are related to the Tablighi Jamaat incident. The government also confirmed that there’s no community transmission as yet. There is still hope. No extension news for this lockdown till now, the government have been working on a multi-staged exit strategy for the lockdown when the period of 21 days end. There’s a lot of hope, and this might get over soon. As all good phases pass, bad phases pass by too!
14 April, 2020: The lockdown was supposed to be over by now, but instead it got extended till 3rd May. Literally all my days have been the same during this lockdown. There’s nothing much to talk about. I think I will sleep and wait it out.
24 April, 2020: I have been feeling very lazy lately and have therefore not updated this blog. On the contrary, I have been writing other blogs on marketing and entrepreneurship, which you can read on craiggomes.com. At this point the total cases in India stand at 23,000 and its increasing everyday by the thousands. The extended Lockdown 2.0 ends on May 3rd, 2020. I’m really hoping things get back to normal after that. This lockdown is making people go crazy. I’ve resumed work today. We’ll see how it goes from here. I plan to design a few websites and publish and ebook on making a killer website and making money out of it, by the end of this month.
Also published on Medium.