As India continues to battle a second Covid surge, people are slowly adapting to a new lifestyle and become more flexible in the changing situations. There have been many innovations around the society during this time to help people get through this special period.
As part of our ongoing Illume Guide featured blog posts, we interviewed our Indian Guide Umang to understand the changes in people’s lifestyle during Covid and explore the recent innovations around it.
Hi Umang! Tell us a bit about yourself and your passions.
I’m Umang from Rajasthan. I completed my major in Hospitality a few years ago and moved to Mumbai for three years where I worked as mixologist and learnt a lot about food, drinks and bar culture. Now I back to my hometown setting up my own business in real estate.
In terms of my passion, I love health and fitness. I’m a marathon runner and host a fitness podcast. Outside my work, I also did a lot volunteering work with various NGOs like TED, AIESEC.
How’s life for you during Covid?
Last year, when Covid first hit India, most people didn’t take it seriously and some people were actually happy that they finally managed to spend time with family. Indian people in general work very hard and rarely got holiday in life. Therefore, at the start, people spent a lot time making food, dancing, catching up with families. But when people became more aware of the danger of the situation, the joy was gone and people started to pray, try to be calm and stay at home and be cautious.
As for myself, when I realized this virus might last for a long time, I started learning about podcast, doing yoga course, running marathon courses. I also started to do online course on Digital marketing. I take this period as a time to learn and prepare for the future. This time really opened me up to many new experience and things.
What’s Indian people’s attitude towards the situation?
The situation is obviously tough and people are getting on with life in different ways. During the first wave, many people lost their job and ended up very anxious. For this second time, I noticed people are becoming more flexible with their mindset. Instead of being pessimistic, many try to find different ways to work and make money. Everyone is more prepared with changes. We are more acceptive of the idea that nothing is permanent, everything can be changed.
I also noticed a growing conversation around mental health. It used to be a niche topic in India and people didn’t pay much attention to it. Nowadays big companies are taking initiative to help employees with mental health and encourage them to talk about their mental problems openly. Companies offer private mental health sessions. We see a lot discussions on IG, FB, Twitter and people are setting up Online sessions on to help each other. There are also more professionals qualified to help specifically on mental health.
Have you noticed any changes in people’s lifestyle during this time?
Work life has been changed a lot in India. Flexible working or home office used to not be a thing in India. We love going out and meet people. We enjoy the chit chat, tea and coffee with colleagues. People used to go to big cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore on daily basis for work. Whereas nowadays many are working from home and this might continue when things go back to normal.
When first started working from home, people really enjoyed the flexibility and the extra time with family. These were very precious in the past. But through time, many found it difficult to focus on work as most Indian people are living with big families. The noise and distraction might influence on productivity. On another hand, different ideas spark when you work together with others. Indian people extremely love talking to each other to create new ideas and solve problems. Work from home makes this less likely.
I think that in the future there will be more co-working space where people can work and socialise. Although this is not as common now here as in western countries, I believe that very likely flexible working will be the new normal.
In terms of shopping, more and more people swift online, which makes Amazon the biggest trader in India. Their local competitor Flipkart is also growing a lot in sales. They are trying their best to provide ‘made in India’ product. There is also a growing of small and independent business on Instagram and whats app. Nowadays it’s quite easy to get a licence to open shop online. One example is a local brand of Jaipur – OMAY – Which makes healthy snacks and deliver all over India. They started few time back and today it is one of the leading brand in India.
In terms of communication, people start to connect more online through zoom. People organized cocktail dinner and wine catch up on video call with family and friends. Many Yoga teachers started to take online communication lessons to keep themselves up to the change. My brother actually had wedding this year and we celebrated through zoom. We called families and friends from all over the countries, so they can join our event as well.
In terms of entertainment, Netflix and Amazon prime have become the most popular sites. People spend much time on shows and films. Thanks to this, Formula 1 replaced cricket’s place and became the most popular event nowadays. As people watch F1 online and learn more about it through internet.
Are there any public figure who stands out during this time?
I would also like to mention one of the super stars in India who helped many during covid times. His name is Sonu Sood and he helped millions of people with transportation, jobs, food and water and also medicines. He is true legend of Bollywood.
Chef who also helped millions – Chef Vikas Khanna – Providing food to millions of people who were struggling during covid 19. The biggest thing is he was not even in India, his team was working day and night planning and helping people.
Have you seen any innovations to help people during this time?
Many entrepreneurs and innovators across India have introduced new ideas and solutions. Asimov Robotics, a start-up based in Kerala, has deployed robots at entrances to office buildings and other public places to dispense hand sanitizer and deliver public health messages about the virus. Their robots are also used in hospital isolation wards to carry food and medicines, which eases the pressure on medical staff. Other start-ups including KlinicApp and Practo, are providing COVID-19 tests at home and online consultation with doctors through their platform.
Our government launched a Covid tracking app called Aarogya Setu which uses GPS and Bluetooth to inform people when they are at risk of exposure to Covid and also people can book online slots for Vaccine.
Crowd sourced platforms also made a great difference by bringing together the wisdom from universities, industry and government. The national government launched the COVID-19 solution challenge on that invites innovators to offer ideas and solutions for tackling the pandemic. Similar crowd sourced platforms Break Corona received 1,300 ideas and 180 product solutions within two days of launch. In another effort, volunteers have set up an online crowd sourced portal called Coronasafe-Network, a real-time open-source public platform containing details on COVID-19 precautions, tools and responses which serves as a useful starter-kit for innovators.
What do you think are the biggest challenges during this time?
The first is definitely the pressure on healthcare. India is not ready for such a surge in virus cases. Indian people in general are very casual with life and health and didn’t take up much protection. So when there are so many patients, the health system broke down and we start to get support from many other countries.
Apart from healthcare, the job market has been hit heavily. There is huge unemployment at the moment and it’s making life very difficult for many families.
What changes do you think Covid will bring to India in the future?
The first is people’s attitude to health. In the past, people were too busy with making money and getting on with life. Many people were very casual and not proactive enough with health. In the future, I believe people will pay more attention to their physical and mental health, and become more conscious with their lifestyle. This is already showing with the increase demand for health insurance.
In terms of work, home office will be more common. More people will also look for different ways to generate income. A lot people are thinking about new business ideas or taking on freelance work. For myself, I’ve started invest in stock, funds and some other business.
Although the situation is difficult, I believe that these two years is a meaningful lesson for Indian people. Many people suffered and lost their loved ones. For a better future, we have to be more careful with our health, security, hygiene. I hope people can take this forward with life. Pay more attention to mental health, nutrition. Be more careful with decisions in life.