By late last year, we had brought the daily infection in the country under control, and we could have been coming out of the shadow of the pandemic today.
By Markand Adhikari,
We thought 2020 was a difficult year, but this year has been far worse. We have been caught unaware by the second wave of Covid-19. And now we are told a third wave is inevitable too. However, the second wave will have to end before that. By late last year, we had brought the daily infection in the country under control, and we could have been coming out of the shadow of the pandemic today. But we must admit that it was our own irresponsible behaviour and laxity in the government’s preparedness that has put us into this grave crisis.
As far as the entertainment industry is concerned, a majority of the players are very badly hurt. After the last year’s peak, the industry was slowly picking up and inching towards pre-pandemic levels, and there had been speculations of gradually opening offices and resuming work on full scale by April. That was just when the Covid-19 resurgence hit the country. So, from last year to this year, most of the employees in this sector have continued to work from home. Only a minimum workforce, whose presence is required to keep basic functions running, goes to office. In particular, Mumbai, the entertainment capital, has witnessed a very high number of infections, and in such circumstances, work-from-home is the only sensible solution. In this business, however, not all roles and functions can be carried out from home. Therefore, on the whole, work remains suspended except for the essential day-to-day operations. People are not in the right frame of mind to think creatively, to come up with new ideas, and to execute them with passion.
At the beginning of the outbreak last year, business in general had been very badly impacted in a short span of time. That was when the industry was forced to cut salaries or even jobs. Under heavy constraints, all expenses had to be rationalised. In comparison, the second wave has not witnessed layoffs – not yet, but if the second wave is prolonged, it will affect the employment scene severely too. On the other hand, those who are waiting for the next job opportunity or a hike in salary should harbour no hopes for the time being, not till we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. In the meanwhile, the best course of action for them would be to use this time to hone their skills, work on their ideas and improve their portfolio.
Grim signals are already staring at us. The IPL, a major event in the annual calendar of the entertainment and media sector, had to be called off midway. That has upset a lot of calculations. Shootings for film, TV shows and web series are already banned in Maharashtra. Some units shifted to other parts of the country to continue shooting, but unfortunately the wildfire of Covid-19 has spread to other states, and they too have imposed lockdowns and movement restrictions. Goa was the most attractive destination for tourism and shooting alike, and now it has also banned film and TV shootings. Thus, the industry is finding it difficult to generate fresh content. With the partial lockdowns, all avenues of outdoor entertainment activities remain out of bounds. Multiplexes, theatres, theme parks and similar places have been closed for most part of more than a year.
The only solace is that the situation in Mumbai is improving slowly. Hopefully, the rest of the country too comes out of it at the earliest. However, from the business perspective, we do not know how long the current intensity of the pandemic will persist. The vaccines are the only way out, and all efforts must be made to increase the vaccine coverage.
On the revenue side, we will have to see what approach advertisers take, as that will decide the future of television and will ultimately reflect on job opportunities. The current month is crucial, and we are likely to have a better idea of the foreseeable future by the end of May. On the whole, it seems that whether it is the question of jobs or of overall fate of the industry, we should have a better picture and clear answers in the next quarter.
(The author is Chairman and Managing Director, SAB Group. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)