Catalyst

Let’s shop and get India ticking!

Harish Bhat | Updated on September 17, 2020 Published on September 17, 2020

Many of us have shelved personal and household needs for the last six months   -  Getty Images/iStockphoto

We the consumers, on a corona pause, have a role to play in rebooting the Indian economy

Recently watch brand Titan launched a marketing campaign urging Indian consumers to buy something more — that little bit more — during this pandemic. Anything we feel the urge for — garments from a favourite label, a take-away meal from the neighbourhood restaurant, or even that beautiful set of dinner plates you have been eyeing for a long time. This campaign has a simple thesis — every product you buy helps get India ticking, because it feeds the economy.

This appeal is directed at every Indian consumer who has the disposable income to buy something, either big or small, in today’s stressed times. Millions of Indians have the financial wherewithal to consider not just essential purchases, but small indulgences too. The argument to do so is compelling.

When we buy, we help that shop or restaurant down the road which had closed its shutters for so many weeks during the lockdown, to survive, protect jobs, and thereby also fuel future demand. On the other hand, without adequate consumer demand, there is a real risk that many good commercial establishments will shut down forever, leading to even sharper economic contraction. A good antidote, therefore, is to do our bit as consumers in reviving demand.

Yes, of course, many agencies need to fulfil their respective roles to pull up the economy. The government needs to provide the required stimulus. Banks need to provide liquidity to businesses. Scientists need to develop coronavirus vaccines. But we need to also focus on what we ourselves can do. As consumers, what we can do is ensure that we buy what we need or desire, and what we can afford, without holding off our purchases.

There are multiple reasons why we should resume buying. Here are a few of them:

Unbox a need

Many of us have shelved so many personal and household needs for the last six months. Initially, we did not make purchases, except for daily essentials, because during the lockdown all the shops were shut. In the next phase, we did not buy non-essential stuff, because things were in such a flux and we were uncertain of what would happen next. Now that some sort of new normal has emerged for the next several months, with social distancing and safety requirements, this is the time to make those purchases which we put on corona-pause.

Perhaps a new cutting board for the kitchen? Or a new pair of sneakers for your evening walks, since your old ones are looking rather worn out? Or a new, firm mattress for the bed, so that you can sleep well at night and also keep fit? The important thing is, each time you fulfil your own need, a factory somewhere has to make a new pair of sneakers or a mattress to replace the one you just bought — this , in turn, creates jobs too. Given the high levels of unemployment in India today, jobs are the need of the hour — and those jobs will, in turn, create a virtuous cycle of purchasing power.

Feel good

Amidst the accumulated ongoing stresses of the pandemic, we owe it to ourselves to feel good. Last weekend, our neighbours drove off in their car for a staycation at a safe resort in nearby Alibaug, and returned feeling refreshed. My wife went across to our neighbourhood restaurant, which had recently but rather tentatively re-opened, to get two packs of our favourite egg fried rice, and everyone felt so good eating it — after a very long time. These are small indulgences, and they also help the hospitality and restaurant industry, which are integral parts of the engine of our economy.

Do good

Sometimes, we should buy not for our own personal need, but for the explicit purpose of doing good. When we buy hand-woven scarves or ceramic mugs directly from artisans, we are doing so to help them and their families tide over a very rough patch, even as they take great pride in the beautiful creations that they sell us. When we buy a few books from a local bookstore which is badly suffering for lack of business, we are helping it survive — even if we don’t read those books ourselves but gift them away. And as a bonus, it also makes us feel happy.

Festival lights

For the Indian consumer economy, the next three months are crucial, because this is the peak festival shopping period of the year. Consumer demand for products ranging from mithai to electronics to gold during the Puja and Diwali seasons will determine whether manufacturing units will re-open fully, and whether retail stores will come back to vibrant life. This is an opportunity for all of us to buy whatever we can afford, to brighten up our homes, and to do our bit in ensuring that India gets ticking again.

Harish Bhat is Brand Custodian,

Tata Sons. Views are personal

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Published on September 17, 2020
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