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  • The reality of reopening a business in India todayRoshni P. Nair
    The reality of reopening a business in India todayInorbit Mall stands desolate, in a continuum where the indoors hum with life and the outdoors hum with silence. Three visibly bored security personnel at its entrance look on at Link Road, an arterial thoroughfare in the Mumbai suburb of Malad. There are flickers of activity here: the odd personal vehicle, fleet cab and autorickshaw, and migrant workers, with face masks drenched by the mugginess of June, still building the Mumbai metro despite the cold shoulder India as a whole has given them. A back road leading to Inorbit Mall from HyperCITY—the nearby supermarket, also desolate—was once closed to the public. But that was before 23 March 2020. It’s now the only pedestrian route to the mall. The security personnel rise, conduct the mandated temperature and contactless bag checks, and let one in. On the left wall, flanked by trophies and emblazoned in Italian marble, is a nine-letter word undone by its current surroundings: “Mumbuykar”.
  • The COVID-19 Report: Indian restaurants run on fumesPradip K. Saha
    The COVID-19 Report: Indian restaurants run on fumesWe don’t have a paywall for most of our stories on Coronavirus and its impact. Support us and subscribe here. It was the emptiness that crushed them first. Once bustling and overflowing with people, Indian restaurants had started to go quiet. The regulars stopped showing up sometime early in March. The sound of friends talking over drinks, waiters moving in and out of the kitchen, the smell of cut vegetables and […]
  • Innovation and empathy in the remote work epochFrankie Huang
    Innovation and empathy in the remote work epoch I remember when I was growing up in the US in the 1990s, our household had one desktop computer, a dial-up internet connection and long-distance phone calls to my grandmother in China was an expensive luxury we scheduled twice a month. Today, our consciousness partially exists online through every single one of our smart devices. Sometimes it can feel like we are overly connected, particularly in the way work invades our life by tethering us to our projects and our colleagues and our employers at all hours of the day. But all complaints of over-connected, overly digital life suddenly ended when the coronavirus put many of us under abrupt house arrest, and now, every digital connection is a lifeline to the outside world, one that is somehow simultaneously precious and inadequate. Technologies that promised to overcome physical distance and make remote collaboration seamless are being stress-tested with a rigour no was prepared for, and it is clear we are far from ready to join the digital singularity and abandon our earthly shells. Zoom, a modest enterprise video conferencing app, found itself being used to host everything from wine-tastings to lavish wedding ceremonies to school lessons to funeral services, and scrambles to keep up with soaring traffic as its servers are overloaded, as well as security breaches galore. Internet usage is surging everywhere, causing frequent slowdowns. On top of this, workers unaccustomed to suddenly losing their offices and daily interactions with co-workers find themselves distracted, unproductive and in low spirits. Everyone who is working from home is wondering some version of the same thing: “Is this the best we’ve got?”
  • The pandemic will redefine fintech lendingVardhan Koshal
    The pandemic will redefine fintech lending The transfer of money from me to you and you to me is what greases the wheels of the modern economic machine. We earn, we spend, and then, most importantly, we borrow to spend some more right now, betting on earning more later. Salaries and profits fuel deposits and capital, which get routed into credit, which drives consumption, resulting in the vital rotation of money. Over the past five years or so, India has seen a flurry of startups emerge promising to usher in a new wave of technology- and data-led lending. Venture capital tracking platform Traxcn lists 484 “alternative lending” startups in India, thanks to the easy availability of liquidity and rising consumption across segments. App after app proffered credit at a tap, each targeting a niche of an increasingly internet-connected population; many built large loan books in a short period of time on the back of aggressive segmentation and acquisition strategies. But in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and India’s lockdown, producers, makers, sellers and consumers are stuck across the economy. The holy flow of cash and credit is suffering heavily, resulting in one of the deepest economic impacts in the history of nations.
  • The COVID-19 Report: Indian restaurants run on fumesHarveen Ahluwalia
    The COVID-19 Report: Indian restaurants run on fumesWe don’t have a paywall for most of our stories on Coronavirus and its impact. Support us and subscribe here. It was the emptiness that crushed them first. Once bustling and overflowing with people, Indian restaurants had started to go quiet. The regulars stopped showing up sometime early in March. The sound of friends talking over drinks, waiters moving in and out of the kitchen, the smell of cut vegetables and […]
  • COVID-19 and the crippling of Indian manufacturingSaif Iqbal
    COVID-19 and the crippling of Indian manufacturingThe Haryana industrial belt starts as soon as you come in from Delhi, crossing the now-defunct toll booths on NH-48, passing Airtel’s gaudily coloured headquarters on the right, breezing past the non-sequitur Cyber Hub on your left, until 80 km later you hit the state border with Rajasthan. While there are no official estimates, this industrial belt around Gurugram houses more than 10,000 small and medium enterprises in manufacturing alone, where until a month ago over 1 million workers were employed. Only a few thousand have a permanent home in Gurugram. The Gurugram to Manesar industrial area in the state of Haryana caters to a variety of industries—auto and auto components, garments, leather goods, rubber products, etc. To understand the havoc that the coronavirus outbreak and India’s lockdown have wrought on small businesses and workers across the country, there’s no better example to take. Read on.
  • VC-funded startups want a government handoutAshish K. Mishra
    VC-funded startups want a government handoutI am usually not surprised by the various shenanigans startups get up to, but two events in the last month have caught me by surprise. First, was a recommendation document circulated by 30-odd venture capital folks and startup founders sent to the government of India advocating for a lockdown of the country to fight against COVID-19. And second, a collective of 75 startup founders, venture capital investors and industry associations […]
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