The COVID 19 Pandemic: Changing Landscape In The Tech Domain- Souvik Chakraborty, IIEST Shibpur

It’s safe to say that the COVID 19 pandemic has fundamentally altered the social and economic fabric of our world. First discovered in December of 2019, the virus has since then proliferated to every nook and cranny of our world, infecting millions in its wake. As a response, every other country has established lockdowns of varying degrees. These have ranged from draconian in nature to mildly restrictive, and have effectively shut down entire economies, transforming the global business space into a ghost town.

India has responded with arguably one of the most stringent lockdowns put in place by any country. An early initiation along with draconian measures surrounding movement has been the defining value of the Indian lockdown. Although noble in intent, it has had severe economic consequences exacerbated by the already declining GDP growth rate and an ever-increasing fiscal deficit. As a result, several small-scale companies especially in the unorganized sector have been pushed into a moribund state, one that they’re unlikely to recover from in the near future.

However, upon closer analysis, it’s evident how the IT domain has grown manifold during such pressing times and managed to reap hefty profits. A deep dive into some of the recent trends in the IT domain along with the strategies adopted by some of the multinationals seem to be the need of the hour in order to win a battle otherwise seemingly lost.

The Winning Strategy

The one defining feature that separates the IT industry from the rest is the flexibility that they’ve adopted for combating the COVID 19. An innovative and flexible approach towards operations is what seems to have been the winning strategy for these corporations. Let’s now have a closer look at some of the sectors that have flourished amidst the global predicament.

Social Media

The lockdown has effectively confined people within their homes, with nothing productive to do. A direct consequence has been a massive increase in user engagement over major social networking platforms. Reportedly, there has been close to an 87% rise in daily social media usage across messaging platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp in India. Twitter has reported a 23% increase in its user base as compared to last year. These sites have provided people with their daily dose of ‘entertainment’, and keep them hooked on to their screens for hours on end. As a result, social media platforms are in line to reap gigantic profits from the madness.

Data Mining Corporations

Data is the ‘gold’ of the modern economy. Data is what drives the tech domain today, with every major enterprise relying heavily on user data to cultivate a strategic roadmap towards higher profits. The lockdown has been a boon for companies that specifically deal with gathering and analysing user data. With such a massive increase in user engagement online, they have more data to work with today than was ever previously possible.

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However, a caveat here is the privacy risk that we’ve all been exposed to as a consequence.  Governments around the world have made use of data mining enterprises to track movements of people. Such a strategy has been the epicentre of efficiently dealing with the COVID 19 predicament for several countries including South Korea and Singapore. Although noble, the several other facets of the data mining process are obscure to the average Joe on the street and can be a viable cause for concern. However, there’s no denying that data mining corporations today are swimming in a winter hinterland.

E-Commerce

With the advent of social distancing protocols, physical shopping methods have ceased to be a viable option for gathering necessities. This in turn has been a blessing for the E-commerce giants. The primary advantage that online shopping dictates over its traditional counterpart is the flexibility of having goods delivered at homes, keeping hygiene and customer safety paramount.

It’s crucial to note that some of these major corporations had already established a growing market space in the Indian ecosystem, especially in the metropolitans. The lockdown has provided an extra nudge that has truly skyrocketed profits for these companies.

OTT Platforms

Another sector that has been gravely affected amidst the chaos has been the entertainment industry. The lockdowns around the globe have closed shopping malls and movie theatres thereby pushing the entertainment industry to the brink of death. However, another facet of the entertainment sector has emerged victorious in the form of online streaming services.

Apart from the global giants such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, India is also host to several Indian streaming platforms. One of these Zee5 India reported a whopping 80% increase in subscriptions, and a 50% increase in the time spent on their site within the first couple of weeks since the lockdown commenced. Another such platform MUBI reported a 28% rise in its viewership in India a mere week after the lockdown had commenced.

Such data is a lucid indication of the trajectory for the entertainment industry moving forward. A global mobilization towards online entertainment seems to be the status quo in the near future.

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Video-Conferencing Platforms

‘Work from home’ is the new norm today in the professional world. Social distancing has mandated a need for reliable video conferencing platforms that streamline the virtual working experience. Unsurprisingly, major players that operate video conferencing have reaped massive profits during the lockdown.

Arguably the most popular of the bunch, Zoom, has reported a whopping 418% increase in user engagement over the first two months of lockdown. Another such platform, the Microsoft Teams collaboration suite, operated by Microsoft, has reported over 12 million increase in its user base in the very first week of the lockdown in the US. This data is only likely to have an upwards trajectory considering the increasing pace at which industries are going online.

The Indian Landscape

According to Rajesh Gopinathan, chief executive officer and managing director of Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., the ‘work from home’ model of operations is set to be the new norm in the Indian IT domain. Tata Consultancy Services, one of the giants in the Indian IT landscape, has shifted almost 90% of its workforce into a remote border-less workspace model, and other smaller firms have followed suit.

Another revelation by Mr. Gopinathan suggested that the firms only require a mere 25% of the workforce to be physically present for the execution of any project. What this number tells us is that we’re moving towards a ‘need-based’ model where employees will be summoned as and when they are required. The rest of the workforce will be expected to keep working from home; a trend unlikely to change anytime soon.

The Path Moving Forward

An unintended and rather unfortunate consequence of the current predicament is that MSMEs (Micro Small and Medium Enterprises) will continue to run out of business whereas some of the sectors we’ve discussed will continue to flourish. The need of the hour is to assess the era of the lockdown with a filter and carve out a path of sustenance rather than a systematic disenfranchisement of the small-scale businesses, within the tech domain or otherwise.

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