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Will An Entrepreneurial Spirit Become Part Of The ‘New Normal’ Post Pandemic?

This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

The Covid-19 pandemic has gripped a major part of the world in its horror. The new infected cases being reported every day are on the rise. India is still struggling to contain the first wave of the widespread pandemic, which shook the world in the early months of 2020. Considering that many other countries are reporting to their second wave of the virus, it seems that respite might be short-lived; that is when India gets some.

The effects of the virus are not only limited to the health and safety of human lives, even the economy and social life cycles of human civilisation has been ruptured. World as well as national GDP growth has taken a dip to a negative 23.9%, the lowest in the history of independent India. Big corporations have laid off people, many smaller ones have closed up shop altogether. The laying off didn’t help improve the purchasing power of consumers, and starting a new business seems improbable.

Entrepreneurship is a career choice that is considered one of the toughest in the industry. It involves risk-taking, dealing with every aspect of a business, and navigating through the ever-changing market trends and situations while competing with the existing giants in the market.

Covid-19 has pushed even well-settled market-leading companies off the track. This poses a question on the future of almost every entrepreneurial venture out there. The unprecedented situations prevailing in the world demand cash influx by the businesses to survive, which startups are short on. So, how feasible is the entrepreneurial route in this new normal?

How feasible is the entrepreneurial route in this new normal?

Let’s take a minute here to digest what this “New Normal” is. Pandemics such as the Covid-19 have been a once-in-a-century event so far, and end up radically changing how we operate in the world. They profoundly impact various aspects of life, ranging from the environment, culture, social norms, technology, businesses and how we perceive the world and prioritise; everything undergoes change.

This evident transition from the previous setting to the updated acceptable norms brought on by Covid-19 has given rise to an illusion of, rightly coined, the ‘New Normal.’ This new normal transcends environmental, social, economic, physical, psychological and business realms of humans as a species. It brings with itself its share of new obstructions and opportunities. The last economic depression brought on various startups such as WhatsApp, Uber, Instagram, etc. As there have been various changes in our way of living, new opportunities are to be found and explored in a similar fashion.

Covid-19 has brought an onslaught on the future prospects of most businesses, the effects of which are not easy to contemplate. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry shows that there has been a 50% drop in the number of newly registered businesses as compared to last year. The hospitality industry has its revenue take a nose dive with a 65% decline. Fin-tech, logistics, aviation, retail, non-essential FMCG, entertainment and many other industries saw a huge margin of their revenue streams being completely wiped out.

The supply chain and logistics, both of which are crucial for availing essential goods to the masses, were also left crippled due to the imposition of the nation-wide lockdown. Since it’s anybody’s guess at the moment as to when we will win this fight against Covid-19, corporations have already started taking up necessary to survive until the dust settles.

Only the toughest and most strategic businesses would be left standing. Startups are finding it the hardest to survive, given the cash crunch they’re facing. With revenue streams being cut down to less than half in most cases and investors lining up to fund in such uncertain times, startups face the biggest risk of being wiped out of the map.

When a business is closed down in such scenarios, its implications are felt by many. Entrepreneurs who have put in their blood and sweat in the company have to see their dreams shattered. An entrepreneur brings together a team to execute his idea. Some members of this team make the leader’s dream their own. Others look at the company as a step towards progress in their careers. When a startup closes down, its employees lose their jobs, career track, dreams and earnings. Investors who have funded them face huge losses and probably wouldn’t be comfortable partnering up with a new startup anytime soon.

Businesses create a larger ecosystem, wherein one broken connection affects many other nodes. Companies that provide services to these startups see their revenues shrink as well. Be it supply chain, marketing channels, dealers, vendors or distribution channels, all face the heat of a company’s lost business.

Customers are also at a loss in such situations. Such mass closure of businesses due to the pandemic makes me wonder how many wonderful products and services would now not never the day of light or get the recognition they deserve. As a consumer, we are deprived of these products as options in the market.

On the other hand, there are certain industries such as OTT Platforms, Edu-tech, life and health insurance that have not been affected to such an extend. Yet, most businesses are impelled to reassess their strategies in light of sustainability becoming a matter of concern.

Technology adaptation as the industry norm is being done at the fastest rate ever in over a century. Technology is hence expected to keep expeditiously change businesses as well as lives of people for a couple of years to come. Human civilisation is moving towards a digital age at at a much faster pace now than ever before. This pace will bring in new gaps in existing methods, which in-turn will bring new avenues to be explored by free-spirited entrepreneurs.

One of the other major shifts that Covid-19 has brought is consumers prioritising hygiene, nutrition and safety in their day-to-day lives. Assuring zero contact service has become a measure in ensuring the safety of both the consumer and the employee. More than that, safety is the first parameter with which consumers have started changing their perception of the brand. Entrepreneurs coming up in this age would need to inculcate this in their basic business values.

The world has gone haywire since the pandemic started spreading through civilisations across geographies. Uncertainty in the market and personal life is high and risks for entrepreneurs are much dire now more than ever before, though there is a silver lining.

Entrepreneurs are innovators, they see the world in a different way than others and solve problems instead of getting limited by it. These are the capabilities that one needs to steer through never foreseen scenarios. The ‘New Normal’ will bring a new age of entrepreneurship ventures and time will tell what’s in store for them.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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