It is no secret that the Covid-19 pandemic is impacting businesses significantly and entire industries are feeling immense pressure. Economies world over are reeling under a recession-like condition, and many experts have predicted that the pandemic will leave behind in its wake a depression not seen since the 1930s. The desolation, with its eerie dystopia-like visage in streets, has crippled the very backbone of the market, which till now pulsated with a multitude of consumers.
All the same, there are a few industries that have proved to be immune to the ruin the pandemic has caused and actually benefited from the conditions caused by the lockdowns which have forced people into their homes. Such conditions may have forced this teeming crowd back in their homes, but the consumerist tendencies, nurtured for decades, are not on the wane. People have been quick to adapt to their new lifestyle (or its demise) and have changed their mode of sustenance – basic and recreational—almost in lockstep with the changing times.
The slump in the market has been somewhat offset by a few bullish industries, which gives us a reason to believe that all is not lost. Though they may alone be not enough in getting the economies back on track, it is worthwhile to see what makes these industries tick in such trying times.
5 Industries that are Doing Well in the COVID-19 Pandemic
Here is a look at some industries that are gaining from the pandemic, due to its natural or restrictive nature:
Healthcare and Pharma Industry
The COVID-19 pandemic has made millions of people scamper to hospitals world over. Healthcare facilities are witnessing a strain like not seen in several generations. To overcome this strain and give a fillip to the flagging healthcare resources, governments are doing whatever they can; in terms of grants or investment in drug manufacture.
For instance, India alone has set aside a Rs 10,000 crore (or $1.3 billion) fund to aid companies to manufacture key drug ingredients locally. The decision was taken after a fracture in the supply chain for such material from China, which happens to be a significant exporter for these ingredients. The investment may prove to be a cause of major overhauling of the healthcare and pharma industry in the country, which is responsible for 20 percent of the total global exports for generic drugs.
Drug-developers are playing a vital role in the fight against Covid-19, and understandably several companies are in the process of developing a vaccine for the virus. The prospect of a vaccine for COVID-19 is not lost on the investors, whose sentiments have caused stocks of such companies to rise even when the stock market, on the whole, has been experiencing volatility. According to this article, stocks of Moderna, a drug-developer company, were in the green for weeks, when it was known that the biotech firm has begun recruiting participants for clinical trials for a vaccine.
E-commerce platforms have risen as the real beneficiary of the lockdowns world over and for obvious reasons. With nowhere to go, more people are ordering their stuff online, venturing out as seldom as possible to the nearby brick-and-mortar. According to an analysis by ACI Worldwide, e-commerce transaction sales had risen by 74 percent in March compared to the same time last year.
The lockdown has caused many people to change their shopping habits. Industry experts have observed that peculiarity of the time has made even those people use Amazon, who wouldn’t think of doing it before. The shift in online shopping for groceries and other household items has been such that Walmart, a retail giant, registered a record high downloads for its Walmart Grocery app, surpassing even Amazon by 20 percent.
Similarly, Indian e-commerce platforms like Grofers and Big Basket, too, are grappling with an unprecedented demand for online deliveries for their retail products. The boom in demand, coupled with a depleted workforce as necessitated under the lockdown conditions, has even caused some strain on the delivery schedule of these apps. However, there’s no doubt that they are gaining new customers and their business will thrive once the restrictions are relaxed.
Over-The-Top Platforms Industry
With nowhere else to go for their daily dose of entertainment, people are now relying on OTT platforms, causing a surge in their subscription numbers. According to a news report, the stay-at-home engendered by the pandemic has caused a 20 percent increase in viewership across OTT platforms. Netflix, a prominent streaming service, clocked a record 15.8 million new subscribers in the first quarter of this year—a number double its expectations—taking the total number of subscribers to 182.9 million globally. The spike in the number of subscribers and their hours devoted to the platforms is not limited to Netflix. Similar increases have been witnessed across OTTs, which include but are not limited to Hungama, Viacom’s Voot, and Zee5.
According to a survey by Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India and Nielsen, a rise of up to 50 percent was seen in week 14 (starting April 4) over pre-COVID times in terms of movies watched over OTT platforms in India. Such increases may be temporary, as Netflix conjectured and may go back to normal after the lifting of the lockdown, but for the time being, it is certainly a good time for most OTT platforms as their demand has steadily risen. Many platforms are actually expediting the post-production and launching shows and movies slated for later months earlier than scheduled.
In addition to the OTT, the work-from-home condition has brought into prominence a new phenomenon which till now was restricted mostly to meetings that required the participation of members of which were scattered across locations. Video conferencing tools and platforms have risen exponentially in demand during the post-lockdown weeks. The number of users of Zoom, one of the major players in the video conferencing business, rose to 200 million in March from only 10 million in December last year. While the stock markets world over have been bled dry, the stocks of Zoom have fared better than firms like Delta Airlines, United Airlines, and American Airlines’ long-standing reputation.
Mutual Funds and Investment Industry
Contrary to the prevailing trends, the mutual funds market seems to have been growing robustly despite a nosediving of the stock market in the month of March. As per the data given by the Association of Mutual Funds Investors in India (AMFI), the net inflow into equity-oriented schemes stood at Rs 11,722 crore—a 12-month high, while the total money invested was calculated to be Rs 30,109 crore – a high of the last 24 months.
More so, according to Computer Age Management Services (CAMS), the number of mutual funds portfolios increased by 50 percent between February 15 and March 15 as compared to the monthly average since the start of the year. The rise in number has been explained in the deepening of the markets and the expansion of the domestic investor portfolio. The trend is opposite to the one seen during the previous recession when the net outflow stood at Rs 706 crore. The robustness of the mutual funds market also indicates an underlying hope among the investors of an impending recovery of the market in the coming weeks.
However, ongoing volatility and instability have also resulted in some setbacks as one of the top ten funds has closed some of its debt schemes and funds. This has naturally shaken investor confidence, but experts believe that long-term investors have nothing to worry about.
Online Gaming Industry
What was once considered a mindless competition with strangers straddling across countries for long hours has suddenly got the respect of the mainstream world as a legitimate means of passing time during the lockdown. Online gaming has emerged to be a spectacular time-killer during the COVID-19 lockdown, with Paytm First Games, a gaming platform, reporting a 200 percent rise in its user base in the last one month, during which the portal added 75,000 new users. WinZo games, another portal, registered a 30 percent increase in its web traffic only in the last two weeks of March, which were the beginning of the lockdown in India.
In March, 18 gaming companies launched #PlayApartTogether, championing the lockdown guidelines advocated by the WHO of social distancing and staying at home, highlighting the ethics of a community that has long been suspected of nurturing anti-social virtual-world addicts. By the first week of April, the number of gaming firms that pledged their support to the hashtag had risen to 50. Online gaming has found favor among more people than ever during the lockdown, not only because of the thrill it affords to the player, but also a sense of connection between players as most of these games allow multi-player gaming, instilling among them a sense of camaraderie during times of isolation.
It’s interesting to note that a majority of the above-listed industries are digital in nature, or have digital technology as an important part of their service. Even the BFSI is rapidly digitising to provide better service to their existing customers and onboard new ones. The rise of new industries and their flourishing in these difficult times does not have to spell the end for older industries, which will recover with time. But the trend emanating from the crisis gives an invaluable lesson about the nature of businesses that will thrive in the future.
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