VELUMANI chairman and CEO of Thyrocare
VELUMANI chairman and CEO of Thyrocare

It is very rare to find people who can convey their views and futuristic outlook without being offensive. In a 45-minute webinar, A VELUMANI, chairman and CEO of Thyrocare, delivered some sharp, intense effects of COVID-19. But also highlighted the opportunities it has brought on the table.

He was speaking about this at the fourth session in the India after COVID-19 series. It was a webinar organised by The Free Press Journal in association with IIM Indore, supported by radio partner, Big FM and outreach partner, Moneylife. Meanwhile, the session was moderated by FPJ's RN Bhaskar and IIM Indore's Himanshu Rai. Below are the edited excerpts of the session.

View the complete session here:

COVID-19 times

The pandemic has come as a shock, totally unexpected. This menace has been around for 150 days. While it started in China, it has travelled to other parts of the world. Western (rich) countries like the United States, United Kingdom and European countries have borne the brunt.

India has been on a parallel journey with these rich countries. For over 100 days, COVID-19 has been present in India. In this journey, we have learnt few things. I would like to summarise it. India is safer than any other western world because:

- India is a young country.

- India is a poor country and most of its people live in unhygienic conditions.

- India is a cradle for Tuberculosis and Malaria.

It is very important to understand that India is safer than any other country. For instance, if you take into consideration infection per million.

For a country that has a population of 1.35 billion, the death per million is 1-2 deaths, whereas for the western world, it is around 200 deaths per million. This shows how safe we are. It is not that we started late; we started together in this journey. There has been a lot of criticism that India has not been doing adequate tests. But tests don’t really matter much during the pandemic.

Deaths matter more. One should not forget that India cannot spend on testing as much as other (rich) countries. Testing doesn't change the way patients are managed, after he or she is detected with COVID-19. In January, I said India is safe. This is because China has a mean age of 38 and India has a mean age of 28. Majority of the people who died in China were above the age of 60.

I think India is a safer country as we are a young country. Yet another advantage for India is that it is a poor country and most of its people live in unhygienic conditions. In India, the child mortality rate is quite high. This is because a child starts fighting from a young age. For Indians, COVID-19 is one of the many pathogens Indians fight in their daily life.

But in the case of the United States, it is ‘the’ pathogen. The more you pamper immunity, the more often you fall sick. Indians have higher immunity. There is no doubt about it as the child is fighting since his or her birth. India is a cradle for Tuberculosis (TB).

We have developed the BCG vaccine programme to fight it. If you see the (countries) least affected (with Coronavirus) have a Tuberculosis background, the worst affected don't have Tuberculosis background. The rich countries said TB is the problem of the underdeveloped countries.

So, it has helped India in more than one way. It is not due to the lockdown but factors such as poverty, demography, TB, and malaria, that saved us. Lockdown did not really work in some ways. Lockdown One was wonderful, but its implementation had gone haywire. This failure can be seen in the case of people walking in the streets to return home.

The memories of migrant workers walking on the streets will remain in everyone's mind for the next 100 years. Leaders are not supposed to panic. But all the chief ministers and other leaders went into panic and fear. This was the reason some wrong decisions were made. Leaders should stand aside and take their decision without succumbing to pressure.

Today, there are two religions non-COVID-19 and COVID19. Both will exist. After more than 50 days, the government announced that we have to live with it (COVID-19) and this is not going anywhere soon. We all are learning lessons in this journey.

Opportunities after COVID-19

Healthcare will be the fastest growing industry. It will grow by 25-30 per cent year-on-year for the next 10 years. There is a huge opportunity there. Wellness, fitness, and nutrition will play a huge role. Now people will understand the importance of nutrition. The next industry that will grow is the personal hygiene segment. After COVID-19, things will not come back to normal. We will have to adapt to the new normal.

Do not expect things to come back to your comfort levels. Digital will play a major role in every sector. Everyone is using digital to grow as it is cost-effective. Every sector in some way or other will go digital. In the long run, hotels will become hospitals as the hospitality segment is facing a survival challenge.

At present, some of the hotels have already turned into quarantine facilities. By December 2020, there will be 10 national-level hotel chains that will become national-level hospital chains. In India, the shift from unorganised to organised will be faster in the case of diagnostics. I thought it would take about 20 years for the unorganised to vanish, but it is happening faster.

Position of insurance in the future

Indian population has not understood the importance of insurance. In the last ten years, insurance has grown from 5 to 10 per cent. In the next ten years, it will grow from 10 per cent to 40 per cent.

After COVID-19, people will understand the importance of insurance. While people on the top of the pyramid will buy insurance from private players, the government through its various schemes will have to cover the people at the bottom of the pyramid.

The underprivileged population will not consume insurance unless the government covers them. For instance, Ayushman Bharat will help the bottom of the pyramid. There is no doubt that insurance will be the forward moving industry.

New World Order

India and China were the fastest growing compared to the western world. It was estimated that India will be the fastest growing nation by 2050. But with the arrival of COVID-19, everything will change.

Both countries(India and China) will witness decline in (economic) growth, but the biggest impact will be seen among western countries. Due to this decline in growth, China will not become number one, but India will become number one in 2040.

Every challenge comes with an opportunity. For India, COVID-19 will start a different journey. Villages will become powerful and metros will lose its importance.

Rich countries will become less powerful and small countries will become more powerful. A powerful lesson has been taught to the world by this COVID-19.

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