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BW Businessworld

2020 In Review: Industry Reactions

The pandemic has transformative impacts on many businesses. Despite all the challenges due to the situation, many people have jumped into startups.

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The year 2020 dubiously suffered it all – rising quick, falling quick, tweaking or rotating to endure, revaluating business. This year has seen an unusual measure of disruption in each sector. 

COVID-19 hit nearly every strand of the global economy. Many industries from tourism to startups, traditional businesses etc. are reshuffling their strategies to adjust to the new normal.  The Covid-19 pandemic has stunned businesses across the world like never before.

The pandemic has transformative impacts on many businesses. Despite all the challenges due to the situation, many people have jumped into startups.  Still, many are looking for a better opportunity to survive in the industry. Let us look at how the industry is shaping up in a post COVID world.

Here are Industry Reactions on 2020:

Vikas Bagaria, Founder, Pee Safe
The outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic created an unprecedented disruption in India’s hygiene industry. Central and state governments, public and private healthcare sector entities released guidelines on maintenance of hygiene. Suddenly, the usage of hand sanitizers, soaps and disinfectants reached a crescendo unimaginable until the end of 2019. Hygiene emerged as the most effective tool especially hand washing and the sanitization of frequently touched surfaces. The sale of face masks gained traction. In fact, the hand sanitizer market grew by 53% within the month of February 2020. At Pee Safe, we branched out and launched our sister concern Raho Safe to provide affordable hygiene and wellness products to consumers. This major calamity that has infected nearly 1 crore people in the country, has also brought about a change in status quo. The much-neglected hygiene industry has been turned into an essential services sector. The personal hygiene market in India will go past the $15 billion mark by 2023 and the future looks promising for this segment.  The heightened awareness about personal hygiene and changes in sanitation practices will be crucial in keeping the Indian public safe from numerous other infections.

Sumit Kumar, Vice President – NETAP, TeamLease Skills University 
“When it comes to education 2020  has been a year which will have lasting memories. Zoom and MS Teams replaced physical classrooms. What more, it made the learners and the trainers adopt digital skills at a pace that they had never imagined. It made the shortcomings in our education system more glaring and even fast tracked the much needed changes like the New Education Policy. New Education Policy replaced the National Policy on Education of 1986 and redefined as well as set the road map for a new trajectory in learning. Be it at K12 or higher education, NEP will make learning ecosystem more flexible, accessible and employable. The new guidelines for degree apprenticeships that has been proposed by the government will help higher education to integrate with corporate learning and make way for creating employable talent as well as bridge the skill crunch.  Adoption of digitation was brought forward by a decade in 2020 which also led to the redrafting of regulations on online education by the UGC.

But to massify the adoption of digitization in learning and education, the regulations should be  further liberalised. Similarly, for these policy changes  to turn into success will require putting the changes into practice, which could be an arduous task if the guidelines to implement are not clarified as early as possible.  In fact, 2021 should pave way for a clear road map and even new era in learning wherein institutions are given the liberty as well as support to equip themselves better infrastructure, trained teachers and even mode of imparting training. The coming year should also set the foundation to create a learning eco-system that encourages active engagement from industry wherein corporate learning will take over the pie of higher education benefitting both employers and students. For students it will improve their employability and for employers productivity of the talent giving the desired returns on investment in education for all the stake holders.”

Sumeet Mehta, Cofounder & CEO, LEAD School
Thanks to COVID 19, Edtech is not a choice anymore, it is an essential. Technological innovations like online classes, learning management systems, etc. are now becoming a part and parcel of our education system. While everyone from banks, to news, to offices have adopted technology systems to operate more effectively & efficiently, the classroom and school had been stagnant for the past 60-70 years. Covid-19 disrupted this status quo and now school owners have been forced to embrace technology.

As we come out of the pandemic, core education will continue to be offered in schools but schools will look and act very different. There will be far greater permeation of systems and technology to make schools run effectively. Till about 12 years of age, mediated learning (learning assisted by a trusted adult) is essential. Teachers will continue to play an important role till high school but they will need to be enabled by technology. Going forward, learning will become more and more personalised. Schools will need to personalise for students' speed of understanding, interest in different subjects and language ability.

Since students will come back after a year of interruptions, schools will need to plan for bridge courses and remedial to cover gaps of the previous year and prepare students for the new class. In addition, schools will need to invest in building the capability of their teachers for socio-emotional support, pastoral care and access to medical services so that the well-being and safety of students is taken care of. Schools will need to embrace technology to be able to handle a hybrid mode of operating, facilitate learning beyond the boundary of the school on days the child cannot come in and enabling teachers to handle the complexity of classes in this world.

India has to not only bring back all the students who have suffered massive learning losses in 2020, it also has to ensure it stays focused on improving the quality of learning outcomes in its schools. It will be easy to get busy with survival but true leadership would be to aim high, and bring back students to a new, better normal and not regress to 5 year old levels of poor access and poor outcomes.

Meena Ganesh, MD and CEO, Portea Medical
The year 2020 underlined the crucial role of innovation and technology in the home healthcare industry. During the pandemic, the conventional healthcare systems were overburdened handling COVID-19 patients. This meant that patients with chronic ailments, minor diseases, and those in post-surgery/injury rehab stage were left without any medical support as hospitals catered to critical patients or serious COVID-19 cases. Home healthcare emerged as the true champion this year given how many patients could be monitored and managed at home. At Portea Medical, we witnessed an almost 60% spike in the demand for remote healthcare after the pandemic outbreak. The home healthcare industry in India is growing at CAGR of 15%-19% a year and will be valued at around $11–$13 billion by 2025 compared to $5.4 billion at present (RedSeer Consulting). The pandemic has exerted great strain on the Indian healthcare ecosystem and the changes caused by the contagion are going to be felt for a long time. The emergence and expansion of home healthcare services are going to transform this sector. We will see superior remote care services that will cover even patients in the non-metro cities and the rural areas across the country.

Sarvesh Shashi, Founder, SARVA and Diva Yoga
2020 has been nothing short of an adventure for Sarva. Over the last 10 months, wellness has not just become more important but also more widespread, thanks to technology.  The SARVA App is a product of this ever-growing need and is the one-stop wellness destination for holistic wellness. The app hosts over 50K+ minutes of audio content for mindfulness and meditation, over 30k+ minutes of yoga videos and a range of LIVE content on demand.

Over the last 10 months, we’ve pivoted our business, our strategy, our goals and our teams, all towards one digital goal of connecting 7 billion breaths through the SARVA App. We’re gearing up to our second soft-launch of a revamped version of the app, more content, more instructors and a user experience that matches global standards.

With 2020 ending, people are not just entering the new year with more courage and determination, but also a heightened understanding of their fitness and wellness needs which is what SARVA is aptly positioned to deliver on. We hope to be able to not just widen the market for yoga and wellness, but also try and nourish a lot more lives through the power of yoga.

Nilesh Aggarwal, Director and CEO, Medtalks
The COVID-19 pandemic put more pressure on the already overburdened healthcare system in India. With healthcare establishments catering to Coronavirus patients, those with critical illnesses and other conditions could not undertake regular check-ups. Apart from this, there were apprehensions and questions around the COVID-19 infection, what precautions were to be taken, and other aspects. In this light, online platforms such as Medtalks emerged as the pillar of support. We experienced increased traction in terms of answering queries around Covid-19 and countering the fear and anxiety around it. 

In addition to simplifying and spreading medical awareness, we have also been conducting Medtalks with Dr KK, a special informative series of videos on various aspects concerning the pandemic. Medtalks is also offering CME and CPD courses online to train Health Care Professionals. We have an ever-expanding video bank through which renowned medical professionals answer basic health-related queries of patients. In fact, we witnessed a 10000% growth in numbers over the last 6 months and over 50 lakh plus views for our vidoes. Platforms like ours are likely to see more growth in the year ahead. We expect 2021 to be the year of telemedicine and teleconsultations and online platforms will lead the way.

DP Vishwakarma founder of Fitapes 
The year 2020 was full of unexpectations - from a sudden pandemic to collapse of businesses-  we saw everything. Even though a vaccine for COVID-19 is in the process of official launch,  the pandemic is not yet over. Among all this chaos, one thing that was of utmost importance was 'our health'. Our recent venture in the health industry is a testimony to this. Making the most of the opportunity, we launched a health and fitness portal at a budget-friendly price. Here, all you have to do is choose a relevant weight loss /fitness program, book a call and one of our certified experts will call you on the time chosen by you. Promoting fitness at home, many have loved it. What's more? We even launched a FREE Health & recovery plan for COVID survivors.

Seeing such a huge response on FitApes, our online fitness platform, we can confirm people are becoming more and more aware about their health. Our expectations are even higher for the coming year, 2021. Thanks to our team, we are planning to reach ten times the user base in tier-2 and tier-3 cities.

Puja Kapoor, Pediatric neurologist  & Co- Founder of Continua Kids
The future of healthcare in 2021 would be technology driven change led by artificial intelligence and the internet of things( IoT) . With telemedicine and telehealth technologies the tracing of chronic  illness and their early management will be efficiently done. With the support of artificial intelligence the healthcare providers would be able to find the right approach easily. Also, the number of virtual visits has skyrocketed during the pandemic especially related to mental health, and this will become the future norm. It is predicted that telemedicine be worth $185.6 billion by 2026.

Mita Vinay, Founder, Bodhsara
The year 2020 has seen significant changes in the way we perceive health and wellness. The lockdown helped in taking time out to spend on focusing on our health and well being. This pattern is going to continue in 2021 with even more enthusiasm. The efforts to work on the immunity will be the goal of everyone for the lifetime who faced this Pandemic. The availability of online classes has opened up the whole new possibilities people can experience from across the world right at their doorsteps. This is going to stay forever, as never before these options were explored in its full capacity.


Karmesh Gupta, CEO and Co-founder, Wijungle
From Business & Technology Perspective

This has been an exciting year for everyone involved in the business of cyber security. Pandemic followed by WFH norm boosted the demand within the SMB segment significantly. Companies who grew the most are the ones who have been offering the solution in regard to remote workforce enablement.The pandemic phase has also accelerated the shift towards Cloud delivered security i.e. opex/pay per use model.

From Policy Perspective

Government's announcement of AtmaNirbhar Abhiyan and the subsequent revision in GFR & public procurement order to push the penetration of local players has added strength to Indian Cyber Security Companies. As per the current guidelines, only local cyber security suppliers (having local content>60%) are only eligible to bid in government procurements of upto INR 200 Crore.

From Investment Perspective

Cyber Security as an industry has actually harnessed the attention from venture capital firms in 2020 and many of them are looking to drive their investments soon. Firms like Blume ventures have in fact published their own reports.

Sandeep Sekhar, Chairman & Global CEO, C Ahead Digital
"Unfortunately it took a pandemic for the world to realize the value of IT automation. Technology innovation is continuously progressing, and it shall thrive to greater heights in the coming time. The cloud, data analytics, customer experience and cybersecurity along with automation, had a greater role to play during the pandemic.

Due to Covid, many businesses were thrown into a surprise ring of work from home - they urgently needed to migrate and strengthen their business models and utilise Digital technologies to survive and thrive. Besides this sector like E-commerce, Banking & finance and healthcare took massive support of IT to stay afloat in this unprecedented time. There is no denying that technological innovations played and would keep playing a crucial role in managing the crisis more systematically and calmly." 

Diwakar Nigam, Chairman and Managing Director at Newgen Software 
"2020 has made organizations more open to change, be it their business models or their aspirations for technological advancements. There is a desire to quickly add business value, drive simplicity in processes, and enhance customer journeys. 2021 and beyond will see software product companies play a larger role in empowering organizations across industries with the right set of cutting-edge technologies to future-proof their operations.

The next phase of the new normal is going to see the emergence of connected enterprises—where there is a perfect synergy between all the processes, people, and systems—inside and outside the organization. 2020 has made us realize that digitizing individual processes is no longer enough. Organizations must adopt a single, unified platform to drive enterprise-wide digital transformation and improve their business outcomes. There are structural shifts in the industry toward low code, hyper-automation, and cloud—critical capabilities that can facilitate agile and anytime-anywhere operations in a paperless environment."

Lalit Mehta, co-founder & CEO of Decimal Technologies 
“The COVID-19 pandemic definitely accelerated the digitization of the banking sector. This year Digital has been established as a mainstay and primary way of business for all small and big banks. While this year has caused much pain and grief but for banking it has accelerated the growth on the path of ways of banking. 2021 will witness Hybrid Banking become more mainstream. In a hybrid banking model, financial institutions combine the brick and mortar physical banking approach with virtual banking. The banks should be using the technology and digital for creating Integrated Banking with a Human Touch. While the regulations like Video Banking and widespread adoption of digital opens ways of expansion, banks will have to strive for retention of customers and convert this expansion and growth to bottom line. Banks need to move in the direction where banking moves into the lives of people and not the other way that people have to come to the banks for transactions. Banking needs to integrate and become part of what people do in everyday life and there needs to be a bond between the customer and the bank and that will come from human touch which needs to be embedded in digital.

Financial services will see many specialized players integrating to create world class banking services. Banks will partner with hi-tech specialized players for both backward and forward integration. Backward integration players will help create best possible products and forward integration players will create best possible experiences for the customers. This should lead to inclusive growth that is sustainable and comes with Human Touch. Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence that have been in the discourse for years will play a major role in creating new age banking and will see rapid adoption for implementation for various use cases.

2020 has been a year that nobody expected. It forced businesses to learn and evolve. 2021 is the time to implement those learnings. Undoubtedly, it is going to be a path-breaking year, one we hope will set new milestones for the banking ecosystem.”

Vandana Pakle, Managing Director - Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital 
"Recognizing the challenge of adapting to the ‘new normal’, the healthcare industry has risen to the pandemic with both public and private hospitals, nursing homes and doctors boldly confronting a volatile virus and evolving treatment guidelines. In the post-pandemic era, the healthcare industry shall emerge stronger with innumerable insights and prudent takeaways of overcoming the global emergencies.

The fast-tracking of medicine approvals (new and repurposed for COVID) and rapid progress in the roll out of vaccines, compressing the approval timeline to months from decades has metamorphosed the entire ecosystem of the healthcare industry. We are certain to resolve preventable causes of death with development of vaccines for global killers such as Dengue, Malaria and different types of cancers in a similar fast-track ecosystem.

The forthcoming decade will witness a rapid change in the perception and acceptance of digital technologies in healthcare. The future may see us reaching out to faraway villages that have traditionally suffered the lack of access to clinical expertise. With the help of information and communication technologies such as the digital stethoscope, we might be able to listen to their heart and lungs like a physical examination and subsequently prescribe relevant treatment.  

What is paramount, however, is that the healthcare industry will no longer like to adhere to guesswork and invest abundantly in a forecasting system to predict the likelihood of future disasters so as to ensure preparedness. Technological advancement in Artificial Intelligence (AI) based disaster forecasting mechanisms will not only help us save and protect colossal numbers of human lives but prepare us as a society to effectively deal with a global emergency.”

Nitin Sharma, Director Research, India, Fidelity International 
“While uncertainties persist on the Covid19 and vaccine availability front, overall a strong rebound is in order in 2021 as we come out of a sharp GDP compression witnessed this year. Such a recovery path is typical of event-led recessions unlike the ones triggered by cyclical excesses. Beyond regaining the lost ground to the pandemic, key will be a revival of the credit and investment cycle to get on to a structural growth path. To that extent, effective credit transmission will be more important than simply lower benchmark rates.

Government’s stance around kick-starting a capex cycle through infra spending and encouraging domestic manufacturing amongst other steps, are clearly positive here creating a multi-year growth platform. A revival in base commodity prices and a positive real estate sector will further support this growth in 2021. Finally, a widespread vaccine availability for the vulnerable group in 2H of 2021 will see a revival in the Services segment providing another growth lever.

In terms of equity markets, unlike in 2020, we expect 2021 to see a lot more dispersion in stock returns across and within sectors as liquidity trade gives way to an earnings and valuation focus. This will lead to sector- and stock-specific opportunities even as the markets appear fairly valued at an index level.”