The Resurgents:

Winston Churchill is attributed the above line when he was in Yalta and used the crisis represented by the World War 2 to seed the formation of the United Nations between the unlikely trio of himself, Roosevelt and Stalin.

The word crisis represents unprecedented change – the kind of change that disrupts the current order of things. It’s an out of syllabus question. Something that’s out of our comfort zone. Out of our rule book. It’s our most feared enemy – the Unknown.

When Covid 19 came knocking at our doors in early 2020, it had all the features of a mega crisis. Things have gotten so bad, that Covid and 2020 have become synonymous for typical ‘between devil and the deep sea’ kind of situations. “Shit man, 2020 happened to me today”.  We have been affected in many different ways, since Covid is simultaneously a health, humanitarian and an economic crisis. Unfortunately, we cannot control to large extent, how Covid has done to us. But we can control what we can do about it.” And the premise of this whole series is to pick our response to Covid. Covid was given to us. Let us pick what we give back to Covid!

The current order of things is completely disrupted. Maybe some aspects of the way we used to do things may come back, but a lot of things are going to change for good. And when things change, especially for good, its wiser to change ourselves. For if you don’t, you will waste a lot of wisdom Charles Darwin left the world with. Adapt. Change. Learn the new rules. Darwin gave us a hint – The fittest survive. The ones who adapt, live to tell the tale.

These series of articles are meant to get a hint of the new rules. So in a sense it’s an attempt to uncover the Covid Playbook – The Word Playbook may look it’s a business strategy focused initiative. Actually its far from it. For the wisdom (If it at all it emerges) is not from me but rather the experiences and stories of various people coping with Covid. This series will have less gyan and more stories. Stories of you and me and people like us. People struggling with personal loss, financial crisis, disruption in business, anxieties of the future, loss of income, and then the resurgence of the human spirit, the innovations, the new beginnings and fresh learnings – attempts to understand the new order, learn the new rules, adapt, change and hopefully make Mr. Darwin smile.

The playbook is based on our conversations with lots of people – young, old, married, single, students and working professionals, artists and entrepreneurs. The lessons emerging from these stories are organized into themes – each of them landing in the Covid Playbook. How Covid19 has attacked us, and how each of the people in these stories responded back. Some of the new rules uncovered may be helpful to you. And you may also add some new dimension to the new rules making them your own. And while our twin series on Guts Glory Stories focuses on industry perspectives and trends, Covid Tales focuses on micro-stories. 

So here goes our first one:

Covid Playbook Rule #1: Geography is Dead

How a small yoga business from Bandra to Borivali now caters to Los Angeles, France and Pakistan.

Ritesh Shah is a young yoga teacher who runs a Yoga Studio called RS Yoga. Having started off early in life, he had a healthy set of loyal clients whose homes he visited every week for conducting personalized yoga sessions. He operated from Borivali to Bandra, starting as early as 4 am in the morning and conducting as many as even 12 sessions in a day. Ritesh’s warm disposition makes him a much loved instructor and a favorite amongst his clients. His popularity ensured that he always had more demand than he could ever deliver. But a day only has 24 hours, and he could only squeeze in as many sessions, given his commute time between sessions. He always explored the option of marketing himself online and did his best with rudimentary efforts to establish a digital persona.

And then suddenly Covid happened.

Given the intimate nature of his work, the lockdown immediately impacted the quantum of work. All home visits pressed the pause button immediately. From 20 sessions the business came down drastically. Cash flows were hit and no one knew how long this would last. So, he did what the world around him was doing – Take the sessions online. Now that involved 2 things – learning the online game. And then figuring out how many people were willing to accept the online medium to continue the classes. Lastly, if they did accept it, would they be happy with paying the same fees? Let’s worry about whether people would join in later, Ritesh thought. Might as well focus on his own learning since that was in his own hands. He managed to figure out Google Hangouts, Facebook Live and thought of even conducting classes on WhatsApp Video. He was now ready to take his class online. Next was to speak to people and ask them if they would like to continue online. To this end, he discovered people were still wary of signing up. Slowly though the Work-from-Home and Work-At-Home routine began to get to people and most of them realized the importance of health. They all needed yoga, pranayama and meditation all the more. Most were also missing the regular sessions, interactions etc. Slowly, people started showing interest in starting online. Ritesh now realized that if it was a matter of practicing yoga online, combining batches would not just save him time but also offer a chance for batches to have some social interaction. Ultimately Ritesh was able to conduct all 20 batches in the time slots of just 5 batches. All saved time was spent learning digital marketing to expand the customer base. He used to serve clients between Bandra and Borivali earlier. Today he has batches in Los Angeles, Dubai, France, Baroda and one batch from Pakistan too. Ritesh is not just digitally savvy today but caters to 100 % more students post Covid. His enhanced social media presence attracted two sports brands to appoint him as a brand ambassador for their yoga mats. “Covid may have shut down many borders, but it opened up quite a few for me”

Covid Playbook Rule #2: Explore a new business model

How a COVID affected events business is trying to invent a new business model.

Hemal is a seasoned event industry professional. After a long stint in various Event marketing agencies including Percept, Hemal embarked on her own and launched Mercury Integrated – a boutique Events, Communications and Marketing services company. In 2012, She launched Weddings by Mercury – a specialized division of Mercury focusing on weddings. Everything was going very well and two international events were lined up for March this year. Little did anyone know that Covid was creeping in.

The nationwide lockdown sponsored by Covid gave a heart attack to a number of industries and the Events industry was one of the first to bear the brunt. Needless to say the two international events were cancelled and business and cash flows came to a complete standstill. Months went by but no solution seemed to be forthcoming. Everyone was cooped up in their homes. With the social scene slated to be absent for a long time, no events were going to be possible. Yet, Hemal observed that the need to celebrate hadn’t disappeared. She saw that people were still improvising. Housie was being played on Zoom. Birthday cakes were being cut and even Antakshari had made friends with Zoom. That’s when it struck her that if one can’t leave the safety of the home to go to the party, why not bring the party to the safety of the home. That’s when she thought of Maison by Mercury a home party solution. Maison – meaning Home in French was a solution to bring themed parties to the home. The solutions include pre-plated contact-free food, readymade easily installable decor themes and musicians and artists who can perform online. She is confident that even post Covid the home celebration trend will stay and home parties will be big. Some online components will move offline and become more intimate. Its early days, but a new business model could emerge from the limitations of the current crisis. She has already got her first event and is now learning digital marketing to scale up from there.

– Sangram Surve

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