In this concluding part, Mr. C. K. Ranganathan, Chairman and Managing Director, CavinKare, in his inimitable way, speaks his mind on how entrepreneurs and the industry should come out of the crisis triggered by a global pandemic.
“The pandemic has only extended the night. You need not wait for daybreak. Yes, it is a challenge for many industries. But you should convert it into an opportunity,” says Mr. Ranganathan. In the earlier breakout of SARS and Ebola, health and hygiene products saw 25 to 40 per cent spurt in sales in 3-4 years. Similarly, COVID-19 has provided many opportunities. Changing lifestyle, health consciousness and changes in social behaviour throw up more opportunities. “Any industry related to food, health and hygiene will really gallop.”
Mr. Ranganathan firmly believes in the native resilience that will see the country bounce back to normality. “Entrepreneurship is still alive and kicking. The government has played its part well. The initiatives under Atmanirbhar Bharat are really good. During the lockdown, the government has ensured that money is available to people. It is now the turn of the industry to reinvent itself in a changed scenario.”
Though lockdown has meant job reduction and salary cut, Mr. Ranganathan feels that doing away with certain jobs is inevitable. It is rather a double whammy for workers as job cut has been necessitated by the digitalisation of processes in addition to the pandemic. But by reinventing and reskilling, it will be possible to tide over an employment crisis caused by the pandemic. Even if certain industrial units are closed, new entrepreneurs will spring up to open new units with the available resources. “As long as the demand is there, supply has to continue.” The government, he says, should open up opportunities for reskilling of workers so that they adapt to changing demands of the workplace.
The economy has taken a big hit. The immediate response in the form of Atmanirbhar is welcome. “The government has provided oxygen, steroid and required medicine to save people from death. People have recovered but they are not able to get up from the bed [due to lockdown].” When the markets are opened up, the economy is sure to bounce back, albeit slowly. He feels that it will take a longer time to register 7-8 per cent GDP growth.
More buses and trains should be operated to enable movement of the public, especially workers. More hospitals and other health care facilities should be created. “Let the government also take care of the medical expenses of bottom line workers.” At the same time, the government should think of long-term measures to tide over the impact of lockdown.
PF, ESI holiday
Mr. Ranganathan is worried more about the common man. His recipe for revival includes, in the first place, improving the ordinary man’s monthly income. “The government can announce a PF and ESI holiday for medium and small units so that the money deducted for this purpose goes into the salary of the employee. It can also think of depositing at least half of the monthly PF contribution into the Aadhaar-linked bank account of every employee. Wage structure should be exclusive of PF and ESI deductions,” he says.
On the education front, Mr. Ranganathan, who is also an educationist, is happy about the transformation brought about by the pandemic in learning. Using technology, now the best teachers can teach children in remote places. “Remote learning is a great opportunity for rural children. The best teachers should be involved in remote teaching. The government should ensure the availability of technology and connectivity.” According to him, the government can identify the best teachers in the State and ask them to handle online classes for all children. Teachers of local schools can supervise the proceedings. This way, children across the State will get enhanced teaching support. He is confident that e-learning will bridge the gap between village and metro children. “What matters here is the software,” he says.
His message for entrepreneurs: “Where there is a will, there is a way.”