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NEW DELHI: The chief executives of corporates are shifting focus from protecting the business to recovery to retooling with each new week of the pandemic. Supporting clients during these challenging times is consulting firm Bain India.

Managing partner of Bain & Company's India offices, Karan Singh, says that the covid-19 crisis is an opportunity to go on the offensive as turbulence enables significant reshuffling of strategic positions which endure. Edited excerpts of the interview:

How has covid-19 affected the business of Bain in India?

Like most businesses, consulting too is hit as customers significantly curtailed operations with CEOs, rightly focusing on addressing the crisis head on. However, our entire capacity is back to being fully deployed to help our clients address their toughest questions. We have pivoted the focus of our work to three areas: supporting clients to run war rooms, in helping clients zero basing costs including thinking boldly about digital transformation and very importantly, thinking through the retooling required to thrive in a different and uncertain environment. We also believe this is an opportunity to go on the offensive as turbulence enables significant reshuffling of strategic positions which endure.

How will this pandemic transform healthcare in India?

Health has become top of mind and we must seize this opportunity and focus on three opportunities. First, the government should continue to allocate more resources to health, enhance focus on public health and begin to wage war on non-communicable diseases with focus on primary care and screening to identify and effectively treat ~150-200M at risk. Second, healthtech is another game changer, and the government has moved quickly to enable telemedicine. This allows us to address accessibility challenges beyond top metros and allow e-pharmacies to scale. Third, India also has the potential to become a global pharma hub and an opportunity to become the research and clinical trial hub, a $35 billion opportunity over the next 5 years, enabling higher value added jobs.

Are we staring at a deeper recession?

The two key uncertainties are ability to control covid-19 and the quantum of fiscal stimulus. Data by consumer sentiment and spends by income, geography and employment suggests that in the best case, consumer expenditures will fall 10 percentage points, which is significant given consumption accounts for about 60% of the GDP. Consumer worries have shifted from lack of access to falling affordability to increased uncertainty. About 60 % of CEOs we recently surveyed indicate that the recovery might take till the year-end while other suggested March 2021, suggesting demand coming back, supply chains being re-established and workers settling into new ways of working.

What are some of the big concerns and priorities for Indian CEOs?

The biggest concerns for CEOs are consumer sentiment and demand, employee safety and productivity. CEOs, we are working with have a dual focus on “Act Now" and “Plan Now". Focus of Act Now is on employee safety, ensuring business continuity, and taking dramatic measure to manage liquidity and zero base costs. Plan Now is about preparing for recovery and thinking through retooling the business for future as we see significant shifts in consumer behaviour where there is a flight to quality, value, convenience and technology.

What is the biggest opportunity for India coming out of the crisis?

There are three major opportunities for India to tap. First is to expand healthcare infrastructure, coverage and emerge as a global hub for pharma and healthcare. Second is to pick our spots in making India the manufacturing hub for several products as CEOs look to actively de-risk global supply chains, providing a big fillip for jobs, FDI and turbo charging “Make in India". Third is to accelerate “Digital India", across a range of segments such as ed-tech, health-tech, fintech and E-commerce.

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