From Leap Year to Hope Year

Communication is everything that we do. The communication of declaration of the pandemic by the WHO has shaken the world and life with us, not just around us, suddenly changed triggering a series of lockdowns, closures. Then, there was a deafening silence. The already slowed-down economy that was looking for a big leap in the Leap Year has been shattered. All eyes were on the Government and the WHO for communication for a prolonged period. In line with the rest of the economy and industry, the communication business has also taken a big, big hit. Though the message was Corona Se Darona (don’t be afraid of corona), it was the fear psychosis that actually ruled our lives. Even now, one is unsure as to when the newspapers and magazines will return to full-fledged printing with the original bulky pages and to the ABC charts. This means that communication professionals will continue to face challenges in finding space. Vaccine, though started creating hopes, has dented the positivity with its side effects. Will we have to deal with Corona Positive for long?

All indications are that the New Normal will become the actual normal. Guess what, the real estate developers too have begun to factor WFH in their new offerings. Some are creating business centres within gated communities as working from home for longer time has its own challenges. For instance, I find it tough to control kitchen movements behind me when I am on video calls!

Many offices have started creating hot desks. It reminds me of the rush in Mumbai suburban trains where we used to rush to occupy the available seats. On a serious note, travel to offices will continue to be cut. WFH becomes WFA (anywhere).

Once the cost-cutting becomes the normal, many establishments may not go back to the old normal. Instead, need-based recruitment, assignment-oriented jobs could well be the new normal. Just like multi-brand retailers, many professionals may be forced to work as consultants to multiple clients or organisations. Will this lead to communication poly-clinic culture? We may see the birth of informal aggregators of different services – from strategy to, content, media relations, photography and to translations.

At the risk of repeating a cliché, necessity will force us to reinvent ourselves. But the ghost of job losses continues to haunt the industry. After COVID’s first victim, The Hindu’s Mumbai edition, the shutting down of Pune Mirror and conversion of Mumbai Mirror into a much thinned down Sunday paper comes as a year-ender bad news. Media managements, citing festival related ad flows, continue to report losses. History tells us that hardly any publication has been revived after its shutdown.

Of course, job security is thing of the past. Skilling, reskilling and up-skilling are the new mantras. How many jobs provide for such opportunities? Take the case of my newspaper vendor Sanjay. He managed to complete graduation. It’s not enough and as he wants to do his PG, he is faced with cash crunch. His business is down to (mark it, not down by!) less than 25%. There could be many Sanjays in such Crash-20 situation.

The Finance Minister promises a one in 100-year kind of a budget. Much of the economic revival may well depend that. The end of moratoriums will begin to show their impact now as the New Year dawns.

Various industry forums would like to paint a rosy picture for 2021 and hope for a better year than 2020. But unless consumption rises and jobs and pay-cuts are restored to 2019 levels one cannot expect real growth – GDP or real.

Let us hope for transparency in communication at all levels – from the government to corporates. Hope we are not asking for too much.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

BN Kumar
Director, Samachar Foundation (Media NGO)
He started his career with Free Press Journal in late 1970s, worked with United News of India and wrote for The Daily, Times of India, Mid-Day and Indian Express. He also ran a county paper called Newsbank New Bombay catering to the needs of Navi Mumbai before returning to mainstream by joining Business India. He started his PR career with the legendary Dhirubhai Ambani's Reliance Industries and was part of the team that set up O&M PR - the first PR arm of an Ad agency - 30 years ago and till recently, Executive Director – Concept PR.

He runs media and environment related NGOs, five websites, including,, and YouTube channel and does podcasts under Radio Connect brand.

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