Vaccines are here. Does that mean the end is near? Yes and no. Yes, you can get immunized BUT there will be millions (maybe more) who will not get the vaccine for years (or never). No, because now Covid-19 will change from being a pandemic to an endemic (stay for decades or longer – like our common flu).
In the meantime, we will be turning the corner as we go through months (maybe a few years) of vaccinating the willing and the scared. That is a period of transition. What will happen then? And, what can you expect to see after we round that corner? Here are a few thoughts:
1. False sense of invincibility will lead many to get infected by Covid-19. Some people think that since there is a vaccine, they can ‘do whatever’ right away. Well, you’re only protected after you get the vaccine yourself. And, we don’t yet know how long a single vaccination will protect you for, and whether you will be among the 95% (or whatever the efficacy of the vaccine you take) who will be ‘protected’. For example, a flu vaccine needs to be take annually, every time they find a new variant of the virus; maybe we need regular (annual?) Covid-19 vaccinations for years to come. Also, what about the people who take the vaccine but don’t get protected (the 5%)? And, what about the many who refuse to take the vaccine. They are likely to get the virus and also spread it to others (who may not be social distancing or wearing masks, etc.).
2. As more people get vaccinated, consumer confidence will grow. “Revenge shopping” will sweep through many sectors – think of things you were unable to buy/use during the pandemic, like dresses, dining out, etc. A lot of spending will be on wants rather than needs – think Chinese junk that you probably won’t use more than one or two times.
3. You will also see a big uptick in parties as people crave for social interactions. Dating will jump as the single (and lonely) come out in droves – make sure you take adequate protection to avoid picking up STDs.
4. Domestic travel will (has already) grow quickly as people go on vacations, travel to visit family/friends, etc. The desire to explore and enjoy is a basic human desire, driving people to travel. International travel, on the other hand, will be lethargic as people have less confidence going to a different country as compared to staying ‘at home’. Moreover, there are lockdowns and severe restrictions in many countries, including the UK and France.
5. There’ll be a big jump in people going on cruises. Unfortunately, many of those yearning to go on cruises are the older crowd, and you’ll see many outbreaks of Covid-19 on cruise ships as those companies balance the need to ramp up revenues
6. Business travel and conferences will be slow to rebound. More conferences will be virtual and, perhaps, stay virtual. Business travel will probably rebound regionally and domestically before people get on international flights. As economies around the world recover and rebound, that will lead to increased business travel.
7. Disruptions, like this pandemic, create new needs. There will be a big uptick in innovation and entrepreneurship as people see new needs in society and jump in to capitalize on them. One area which will see a huge jump is e-commerce. In the third quarter of 2020 alone, there were more than 1.5 million new-business applications in the United States—almost double the figure for the same period in 2019.6 Interestingly, most of these startups are single-member startups – people going into business for themselves – a restaurant chef becoming a food blogger or delivering fresh-cooked meals to homes.
8. Small businesses will continue to shut down across America. I learnt a long time ago, that a viable business is more about cashflow than profitability – you need to have enough cash coming in (revenues) at the right time to pay for expenses which also keep coming in. Even if your business is not profitable, you could survive as long as you can pay for expenses. Many businesses have no cash coming in while their expenses remain (rent, payroll, etc.).
9. Your job may have been protected during the pandemic but many of those jobs will be eliminated. I know people with salaried jobs who are logging in at 9am and ‘moving their mouse’ several times a day and collecting their paychecks. Companies may have been tolerant for months. Business owners and managers are not stupid. They will suddenly ‘realize’ that they do not need as many people as they currently employ and then ‘cull’ the excesses.
10. There will be much relocation of manufacturing and where companies will buy from. China is still the major manufacturing hub for the world but the pandemic has encouraged many buyers to switch to suppliers elsewhere, or much closer to their home markets. With cost differences between developed and developing countries narrowing, the adoption of new technologies like AI, machine learning and such will level the competitive field across the globe. In other words, you will see a big shift in supply chains to regional suppliers from global ones.
11. Telehealth is here to stay.
12. Remote working is here to stay and will continue to grow. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that more than 20 percent of the global workforce could work the majority of its time away from the office—and be just as effective.
13. The pharma industry has changed, with ‘cures’ coming much faster. Many long-term diseases like cancer, ALS and such will see a big acceleration towards finding a cure based on new methods and processes learnt in developing vaccines for Covid-19, and the public-private partnership model.
14. Strong companies will become stronger, and weak companies will become weaker, get bought out or go out of business. Private equity (firms with investable funds) will go into overdrive, buying up weak companies and consolidating many of them into new companies. Many businesses and brands you’ve known for years may disappear, particularly the smaller and weaker ones.
15. Bankruptcies will JUMP as soon as the government support ends. Whether it is the PPP (payroll protection program), grants or aid given to companies of all sizes, all of these are propping up several companies which were weak, and others which are in sectors with anemic demand. Once those supports end, you will see a jump in bankruptcy filings.
16. Highly skilled people will see increased demand (and salaries) while less-skilled ones will lose their jobs and may need to reskill to become employable again.
17. The huge drop in government revenues (taxes, due to higher unemployment and reduction in economic activity) means that city, county, state and federal governments have higher debt. You will find them raising taxes or cutting spending— or both. You will see a reduction in services. They can’t spend money they don’t have. You will also see a reduction in workforces at these institutions, renegotiation of raises and retirement plans, and such. And, you will likely see your taxes increasing – sales tax, gasoline tax, income tax, real estate tax – and you will see new things being taxed – like a tax on remote workers living in a town.