“We all know what anxiety does to us. If you are anxious as a consumer, you postpone consumption, especially of discretionary items,” he said, adding that 45% of consumers surveyed by Deloitte are anxious about their health, financial wellbeing, and the health of their extended family. “That really has a ripple effect on consumption.”
Rural India has seen the biggest impact of the pandemic’s second wave. A recent report by the Centre for Science and Environment showed that rural areas have seen a surge in coronavirus infections and are experiencing a more distressing scenario than urban centres.
“The problem this time is very deep in rural India,” believes Thakur. “In addition to a good monsoon and a good festive cheer over the next six months, I think we need some stimulus which will give more money in the hand of the end consumer,” he adds.
The rural economy and its wage index has taken a beating, while families have spent a large part of savings on Covid treatment and hospital visits. Unlike consumers in urban centres who have cashless insurance facilities, many families in the rural hinterlands do not have medical claims.
“A large part of their savings has been dented or has been consumed because of Covid,” Thakur explains.
Adding that free grains and other aids extended by the government have been a welcome move, “the stimulus from the government has to be in the form of a direct benefit transfer where we are actually putting money into the hands of consumers.”
Though the country is coming out of lockdown, it is not out of the woods yet, warns Thakur. “A lot depends on how some of these measures will get announced and get implemented over the next six months.”