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Revival & Survival: India grows despite its circumstances, not because of them

 Mihir Karkare, Executive Vice President, Mirum India
Mihir Karkare, Executive Vice President, Mirum India

Prepared or not, India has to gear up for an exit strategy for the lockdown period. It is definitely a changed world that India is entering now, and we will have to learn to live with the Coronavirus in our midst.

A lot has been written, debated and discussed over how much the economy and business operations have been hit. We, at Adgully, aim to look at the revival story. What does it take to jumpstart an economy? That is the great narrative that we are following up as part of our ‘Revival and Survival’ series. 

While Mihir Karkare, Executive Vice President, Mirum India, doesn’t subscribe to the new ‘normal’ view, he and his agency are ready to be aggressive in their strategy and execution to achieve the annual targets planned for this year.

What does the new normal look like? How much has the COVID-19 crisis disrupted business operations?

I’m not entirely sure that this is a new ‘normal’. Over time, some of our old behaviours and realities will come back. Many will not, but I don’t necessarily subscribe to the new ‘normal’ view.

The crisis has, of course, disrupted business operations. However, being a digital agency, we have been able to ensure almost complete business continuity – except things like video production, etc., which are not possible currently.

Clients have become more tentative about spends, but even in this case, there is a spectrum. Hospitality is on one end (almost complete stop in marketing spends) and online education is on the other (huge bump in online marketing spends). We have a good spread of clients across this spectrum, so things are better than if we were more industry focused, especially on an adversely affected industry.

What should be the blueprint for a post-COVID-19 economy?

This is, needless to say, a very broad question. There are two specific points that I want to make:

  • Economy is not just about GDP, Stock Market performance, etc. A strong economy also means things like strong infrastructure (healthcare and otherwise), a decent social security net, creating a system which gives equal opportunity for everyone involved. This should be a part of the blueprint of a post-COVID-19 economy.
  • Business focus will shift to fundamentals – profits, cashflows, productivity, etc., more than vanity metrics that we would hear so often in the pre-COVID-19 world.

What are the 5 key measures needed to ensure a speedy business revival for the advertising industry?

  • Listen to the customer – what the customer’s requirements were before COVID-19, are NOT likely to be her requirements after COVID-19. The secret to finding out what has changed? Listening!
  • Have an open mind - maybe you were an expert in something before COVID-19. Maybe that something is not unbelievably valuable anymore. Accept it, and adapt.
  • Tighten your belt – self-explanatory.
  • Revaluate what is really necessary – if we could all be so productive while working from home, with your husband sitting next to you and your kids attending a music class on Zoom... what does that mean about our dependence on offices?
  • Be Empathetic – not everyone is going to come out of this situation okay. While being empathetic does not sound like a business revival tactic, balancing hard decisions with empathy is going to be a must.

How are you strategising for the remaining quarters of this Financial Year 2021?

We had some annual targets planned for this year. We fully intend to do everything in our power to reach those targets. What that means is, be aggressive in our strategy and execution.

How do you see businesses and the Government working together to undo the lockdown disruption and address the market uncertainties?

What I hope will happen is that both businesses and governments find alignment and a realisation that we have a common goal. I am a firm believer that most people on both these sides have their hearts and intentions in the right place. If only they were to believe the same about each other.

How do you visualise the economy and your sector a year later? How much would it have recovered by then?

When it comes to India, recovery needs to mean a strong growth, not just stability. I think within a year, the economy and sector are likely to be well on the way to this strong growth trajectory. To adapt what someone has said, India grows ‘despite’ its circumstances, not because of them.

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