The Silver Lining Beneath Pandemic Clouds

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February 19, 2020
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The Silver Lining Beneath Pandemic Clouds

A market researcher’s point of view


The world is not facing a potential pandemic for the first time. It must have learnt a lot of lessons from SARS and H1N1.

Most countries have successfully controlled a pandemic though they were far less prepared at the time. Corona virus (Covid-19) poses another such threat to the world. Let us look at its impact and how prepared we are to face it head-on.

To gauge the threat perception and readiness, we looked at available data since SARS. We also spoke to a few people from various walks of life (home makers, business decision makers and small business owners). A lot of interesting views came forward from an economic and social perspective. Let us look at the impacts first.

Social impact is immediate and clearly visible

The survival instincts of people kick in unknowingly and the safety and security of their family takes centre stage. A demarcation between family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, commuters, passer-by etc. start appearing. Though this emotion is not that of suspicion, there is a definite sense of anxiety in the air, be it while traveling, or while being away from home(at office, school, college, malls, restaurants or food courts). People have become far more conscious, showing a heightened sense of the surroundings they are in.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, the real enemy is fear. In the case of Covid-19, the fear is about the unknown. It is thus natural that some people start hoarding whatever they can, from food to toiletries. There is a rush to lay hands on cough medicines, fever medicines, sanitizers - all driven by this fear of the unknown. Will we be out of stock? Does my family have enough in the repository till the situation subsides? Do I keep a stockpile of masks? Which ones are better? These are just some of the questions that arise due to that fear.

People are most susceptible in such situations. They are looking for answers. If they do not get their answers from trusted sources, they rely on social media. That’s a default mode in the digital age. As human behaviour research shows us, we prefer information that suits our own personal biases (be it the food we eat, the ingredients we use, or the natural ways to fight this virus). We become ardent ambassadors of these messages, without fact checks or scientific basis.

Our emotions take precedence, and the ‘rational us’ takes a back seat. Places that seemed safe a few months ago such as schools, colleges, hostels, food courts, or even our own work environment are not trustworthy anymore. While being cautious and careful is the best thing, it is easy to become prejudiced as our personal biases creep in. Anxiety thrives in this emotionally charged environment.

Most countries have successfully controlled a pandemic though they were far less prepared at the time. Corona virus (Covid-19) poses another such threat to the world. Let us look at its impact and how prepared we are to face it head-on.