‘Covidity’ is the mother of invention

‘Covidity’ is the mother of invention

A. Sushil Kumar

Imagine a young super successful globe-trotter, who after an accident, unfortunately, goes into a coma sometime in December 2019; and after treatment, fortunately, comes out of it after 20 weeks, all well and ready to start afresh. What does he wake up to? His experience may be akin to the fictional character, created exactly 200 years ago: ‘Rip Van Winkle.’ The story goes that Rip Van Winkle wandered into the mountains, drank free liquor offered by dwarfs, and fell asleep for 20 years. When he woke up and returned to town, he found that everything had changed completely.

Likewise, our super achiever, after a 20-day coma-hiatus, may be shocked to see the world: medical staff, donning PPE as if in a sci-fi movie; transportation grounded to a halt; hundreds of idling aircrafts on the tarmac; locked up malls and shops; masked folks scurrying around in public places avoiding each other; and the media repetitively chanting newly minted terms like Quarantine, Masks, Lockdown, Social Distancing, Sanitiser, COVID-19, Positive cases, Red Zone, WFH, Super-spreader...

Undoubtedly, it is an unknown, unprecedented and unfathomable situation. And in all likelihood, Covid's catastrophic consequences are here to stay for a long time to come, across the world. In fact, WHO has reportedly said that, Covid may not go away soon.

Going ahead, innovations, small and huge, both at micro and macro levels, have to be thought of for growth, albeit survival. Here are some shots in the dark…

• Re-evaluate education and learning methods—from KG to PG and beyond. The growing role of AI and virtual tools could herald the beginning of the end for conventional learning by rote and plain transmission of information in physical class rooms.

• Reimagine work & commercial spaces and homes, and these are innovative, challenging times, for architects, builders, designers, contractors...

• Restructure modes of transportation of people and goods--be it by road, rail, air, water or space transport-- a daunting task indeed.

• Re-envision channels of entertainment and leisure. Will the multiple-screen online platforms be the antidote?

• Recalibrate the physical infrastructure spectrum in every venture—from production to distribution and after-sales, including the supply chain.

• Revisit the sustainability of sports & athletics in current formats, especially the monetisation of spectator-sports.

• Recast the hospitality industry—should it diversify into health care for long term sustenance, particularly based on the experience of hotels doubling up as hospitals during Covid times?

• Retrofit existing thoroughfare spaces with basic health protocols including thermal screening, disinfection & distancing-centric infrastructure & processes, especially where people congregate for work, worship, shopping, recreation, weddings, celebrations, whatever. And thereby transforming work practices of all the players directly & indirectly associated with these products & services.

• Redefine the retail business model which necessitates a relatively higher degree of physical contact. (ref: https://www.pennews.net/simplify/2020/05/03/retail-sector-fears-mega-disruptions)

• Reboot existing systems across the board through greater digitalisation to maximise contactless transactions & dealings.

• Re-explore retention strategies for helpless migrants who are now 'Walking To Home' (WTH) for food, shelter, safety and basic necessities. True, WFH may be a great solution for many, but WTH is an avoidable atrocity, irrespective of the business or activities in which migrants are deployed.

To simplify: in these Covidised times, perhaps, four indispensable 'enablers' of a preventive nature may have to be woven into the 'Ecosystem DNA': Detecting, Disinfecting, Distancing and Digitalising--say the '4 Ds'.

Undoubtedly, the pandemic has become a great equaliser. Thus when it comes to Covid-related innovation, most countries are on a level playing field. Hence this is the time for India to exploit its local ingenuity, and unleash an army of 'Jugaad Innovators' for the Covid era.

On your ‘Masks’, Get Set, Go...in search of a reinvented world!


Currently, A. Sushil Kumar is Co-Founder, Grochange Global, and Chief Mentor, Mansions. Earlier roles include Dean, Amrita School of Business; Global Head (M&C), Amrita TV; CEO & Mentor, Popular Vehicles.