We won’t be seeing a rapid decline in cases anytime soon. There’s likely to be a 60–90 day emergency around the second surge followed by an economic crisis and lastly a mental health epidemic.
Sitting in the US, there are a few learnings we can apply from our own experience around what’s likely to take place in India:
The pandemic has most acutely affected the less fortunate in our society. Black and Brown communities have seen massive disruption, the poor have lost their livelihoods and savings and children on the bottom of the economic spectrum have regressed in terms of education. India will likely see the same phenomenon in slightly different ways. The news now is noteworthy given it’s hit the most affluent cities (Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru) and affected all social classes. It’s likely though that the virus will ramp in smaller towns and villages where people have less access to social media and news coverage is sparse. 70% of India’s population lives in villages and just above or below the poverty line. They have even less access to healthcare and may be abandoned as the world sees less of them on Twitter, Facebook, BBC, CNN and other major networks. It’s important to continue giving to those NGOs focused on helping them rehabilitate post pandemic.
The Indian economy will take a major beating between multiple lockdowns and the various surges that have upended life. The long term solution is to foster an economic boom fueled by entrepreneurship and innovation. India’s economy still has elements of the socialist heritage (even Bharat Biotech is partially owned by the Indian government with IP assigned to the public sector) and there needs to be sustained economic growth to prevent massive unemployment. 50% of the country is below 25 years old and nearly 2/3 is in the working age group (15–59). S&P just cut it’s credit rating for India and FDI is likely to ebb as a result. A vibrant startup ecosystem has been fostered in the last few years and without investment into seed and venture rounds, many founders will go back to safer albeit slower growth companies. Companies should continue to hire talent and invest in the incredible labor pool within India. And investors should look to fund venture and growth opportunities — if you take a longer term view there’s no doubt that India will be among the most important economies in the next 30–50 years.
We have seen both massive social unrest and progress with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) movements over the last year. If we aren’t mindful, hate crimes against South Asians could rapidly increase. The rhetoric used by politicians and the media around the “China virus” directly led to hate crimes and racism within the AAPI community. Similarly, if politicians choose to blame the “India virus” for more precautions, we could see more hate crimes against South Asians. Local and national community leaders must advocate for solidarity not division. South Asians saw the ugly side of this during 9/11 when innocent Sikhs were targeted and killed during the backlash to the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington DC. I’m hopeful that this won’t happen but also know from experience that we are always only a stone’s throw (or tweet) away from unrest.
On a personal note, I’ve now had several friends and family members get Covid-19 and a number of extended family members pass away in the last two weeks. Some had received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Others weren’t able to get oxygen or hospital beds in time. As the situation unfolds, remember that we’re all connected in ways that we can’t even comprehend. The US and India are the last two large scale democracies in the world and need each other more than ever. Let’s pray for the victims in India, do our part to help those most in need and hope that better days are ahead. And let’s try to be proactive instead of reactive given this is unfortunately just the beginning of what’s likely to be a long road to recovery for India and South Asians across the globe.
Investor in growth companies (Amplitude, Brex, Discord, Humu, Lime, Lyra, Masterclass, Rubrik, Soundcloud, Thrive Global) and General Partner at IVP.