The pandemic was like a Tsunami that hit our underprepared, underinvested and fragmented public health system. It acted as a venom to the already tanking economy and became all encompassing for our daily wage workers. A dark phase like this needed re-imagination of our systems but unfortunately reactive economic reforms continue to instigate growth and put this on the back burner.
One positive evolution however that I believe will last is how we imagine service delivery. Various on demand platforms switched gears and became all inclusive portals for everything from groceries to medicines, hospitals found ways to provide at home care and local kirana stores moved to a more efficient and competitive delivery only model to most large e-commerce powerhouses. An important one was when the government failed miserably at providing transport for migrant workers multiple college alumni groups across India came together to raise funds and buy plane tickets for many migrants, our networks of NGOs in the nation became the guardians of equitable food distribution during this time as well. Frugal innovations have defined Indian entrepreneurialism, it has the ability to challenge bureaucratic red tape and corruption and I thus hope that it will positively guide our path ahead.
Some initial thoughts on this include:
Even with the economic downturn personal vehicle ownership in India is increasing.Changing the service delivery of on-demand transport through pricing mechanisms would encourage people to order cabs and leave work at different times of the day. This will significantly reduce congestion in our cities and make public transportation more accessible to those who can’t afford AC cab rides.
As covid numbers started surging again in March 2021, I was walking on the streets of Bangalore and saw multiple instances of migrant families fleeing to bus stands with packed luggage. I wonder if they feared a second lockdown, I wonder if they will ever rely on a city and its people. We thus need new interventions that increase support for migrant workers, how can we leverage platforms like Vahan to connect offline blue collar workers to jobs in the city. Can we imagine a support center for migrant workers that is designed to give them a network, stability and cushioning in order to access new opportunities.
The pandemic is an inflection but in a very idealistic way it needs to be a reset. Until we truly believe that, I will place my bets on the positive spillovers that come from expanding our application of frugal entrepreneurialism.