It is no news that our social media timelines are flooding with friends, family, strangers spreading the messages of covid resources, sourcing Remdesivir, vials and ICU beds for patients they haven’t probably met or even heard of.
Social media has become a platform for crisis handling, not only for governments, but also for ordinary citizens like you and me. The mishandling of the pandemic by the central government of the country has led citizens to come together and join forces to fight the virus. A sense of collective consciousness is being seen in ways people are donating to fight covid, helping strangers in whatever way possible and urging others to do so.
Never before has the country seen such solidarity among its citizens on social media. People who would generally flaunt their lifestyle, academic accomplishments, personal accomplishments have taken a conscious step to not do so during the second wave of covid.
My LinkedIn timeline is filled with people looking for job and others commenting on it with leads. Instagram story line is filled with people asking for leads for a friend’s brother for ICU beds in Delhi, for vials for a stranger in Hyderabad, for food delivery services in Indore etc. Entrepreneurs on Twitter have collated pan India covid resources consisting of hospital beds, contact information of local authorities, food delivery services, Remdesivir leads etc. Employers on LinkedIn are helping affected employees and their families and have announced 4-day work week to cope with the mental and physical effects of the pandemic.
Social media which was the platform to announce, flaunt and rub one’s accomplishments and privileges, has turned into a community for help, for assistance and for empathy. People are consciously not posting about their good days on social media because of the fact that many are not lucky enough to even survive this year.
Is our social media, then, turning into a collective community? Does this mean that whenever the state fails us, we users, will turn to each other for help? Could this alter the way urban users share things online? Does this mean that social media users are re-instigating collectivism?
Even after the pandemic subsides, users are going to be conscious about what they post. The collective consciousness will still prevail. Does this mean that our society is turning a bit selfless? Should brands then offer products and services which promote group loyalty and collectivism? Should brands focus on ‘we’ more rather than ‘I’?
From billionaires adding numbers to their income to the privileged roaming and socializing without the worry of contacting the virus, the debate of Haves vs Have Nots has only risen amidst the announcement of second lockdown in various cities and towns.
While the debate always existed, it has now taken the turn towards the matter of life and death. The Haves have always had more of everything, but never has the discussion of the Haves having more access to life been in the limelight. If anything, until a few years ago, the Have-Nots aspired to be like the ‘Haves’. However, their discomfort with the system started becoming palpable. With the Modi Government coming into power, the Have-Nots started questioning the status-quo. This was further dialed up with the popularity Kangana Ranaut garnered by standing up to the industry-biggies.
However, the second wave of the Covid-19 Pandemic in India has started to verbalize and call out the ‘Haves’ for showing their privilege when others are distressed.
The screenshots represent the Have Nots facing acute shortage of medical and financial help when the privileged class sits in the comfort of its wealth.
The conversations and memes posted on social media are a clear shift in the chatter turning to the Have Nots raising the questions of equality, social justice and the widening economic gap. The under privileged are seriously questioning the social significance attached to the privileged class and to the respect attached to wealth, money, upward class mobility and the power that comes with it. The Haves are realizing that opulence of wealth and vanity is not the real power anymore, and that power, is up for grabs.
Does this mean that the culture of opulence, abundance and wealth creation might take a shift towards genuine societal care and charity? We think that the ‘Haves’ will now have to find a different way to enjoy their wealth in private and not flaunt their privilege. They would also have to find a different way to fulfill their status and self-esteem needs. Would this give rise to more exclusive apps like Clubhouse? Can brands create products for discreet consumption? Will the symbols of status – wealth, branded apparels and accessories, travel become more altruistic and represent charity, helping others and staying humble? Will brands start betting on conspicuous consumption and create offerings which symbolize more by having less?
Indian Railways has been working tirelessly during the Lockdown to ensure that India wins this battle against COVID and we decided to create a small video thanking them for their selfless service.
While we were researching the facts for this video, we stumbled upon the huge infrastructure that Indian Railways has created in order to be self-sufficient.
With this infrastructure and news of privatization doing rounds (source: Economic Times), we think it would be interesting to see the implications of this for brands & industries.
In one of the biggest moves towards Privatisation, Indian Railways partnered with Amazon in Oct-2019 to facilitate faster, effective and secure transportation of e-commerce packages with future plans of optimised freight movement solutions- a first in the e-commerce industry.
What does Indian Railways have that brands can leverage?
- A large loyal customer base who interact with it multiple times a year if not more regularly
- A captive audience who uses the train services to move from one place to another
- Connectivity to the most remote locations of India, irrespective of the terrain
- Largest employee base in India that is extremely proud to work for the Indian Railways
- Prominent Sports Personalities who are recruited by the Indian Railways
- Fully owned subsidiaries that work on:
- Metals & metallurgy:
- Own plants to manufacture the locomotives
- Own production of spare parts
- Tailoring & textile:
- Own subsidiaries creating their own linen
- A platoon of tailors producing & repairing of uniforms across genders & body-types
- Food & beverages:
- Own brands of water (Rail Neera)
- Own canteens for the production of food
- Own supply chain for sourcing raw materials
- Distribution network across each station and each platform
- Metals & metallurgy:
- The Indian Railways also has a lot of lands that they own whether for railway tracks or for repair sheds or for railway colonies for their workers
How can brands leverage this?
Logistics & Supply Chain:
- Logistics is generally the biggest pain point for any FMCG brand, especially the smaller ones. So if you are starting out or are in your nascent stages of expansion, consider using the existing logistics of Indian Railways to ensure that your product is available in every city, every village, every town.
- Strike a deal with the railways to use their on-station counters to sell your products & gain visibility
- Tie-up with food delivery partners and ensure that the customers who are travelling by train can get your products delivered to them at their seats
- Railtel is a vast network of telecom services for the railways. They provide free internet on stations and also provide VPN services. Using the network to promote the brand is something that should be looked at more carefully now and should become part of the media spends actively.
- With RailTel also comes the opportunity to introduce social commerce – consumers who are on the train, with nothing else to do, will spend time shopping! Sell your brands online by tying up with RailTel! Think “Delivery at Destination” as a model with Amazon already working closely with Indian Railways.
- Just like the post-office, Indian Railways can engage their large network of stations with clerical staff and offices to provide exemplary services.
- Think of using this network to help your consumers go digital. All you need is to station a few employees on each station with mobile phones. These employees can help consumers to start digital banking, buy insurance online or even buy products through eCommerce.
- Right from mobile phone recharge to refilling wallets like PayTM or even getting the KYC done, the services one can provide through Railway networks are limitless.
- Yes, it’s controversial but it’s also true. Indian Railway is sitting on a gold-mine of data – where are people traveling from, where are they traveling to, what are the foods they order, how much do they like spending on their train tickets, how often do they travel with their families, preferred mode of transaction, how much in advance do they plan their journey, who all they travel with, what are the kind of internet consumption behaviour while travelling; the list is endless
- Using this data, brands can create their customer personas and market to them in a more targeted fashion. Adding a layer of socio-cultural insights will only make this exercise richer.