Apply brains for windfall gains

While many employees were working from home, comfortably in their house clothes, what did the state miss out on?
express illustration
express illustration

KOCHI: Life does not give you a third or fourth chance. At least that’s the case in the normal course of events. What’s true about individuals is truer for governments. For Kerala, it looks like life has given it another chance (is it third or fourth?), in the form of an unlikely candidate: The pandemic.

Sure, Covid has brought untold miseries across the globe since its outbreak in 2020. Hundreds of people have lost their lives, thousands of hotels have shut shop, travel and hospitality business came to a halt and a large number of people have been rendered jobless overnight across industries.

The last two to two-and-half years also saw companies getting used to the ‘new normal’. Both small and big firms allowed their employees to work from home (WFH). What followed was an unexpected windfall for Kerala, which has a large number of software engineers working from investor-friendly states, in cities such as Bengaluru, Mysore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune and Gurgaon. Several techies have relocated to Kerala lock-stock-and-barrel since the pandemic outbreak. Many have also enrolled their children in schools in the state. As schools adopted online mode, many families who did not wish to disrupt their children’s classes also moved to te state.

What’s the point I’m driving home? Simple: Assume 50,000 professionals software engineers, graphic designers, content writers, etc were working from home in Kerala during the last 24 months. It simply means the state has created 50,000 jobs (it’s a conservative number, I reckon) by doing nothing, thanks to the pandemic. This means that all these professionals were drawing their salaries here, and ideally spending it here, enriching the local economy. Unfortunately, this has not happened, at least till recently.

One, because of the Covid and restrictions on travel and leisure, the money earned by these WFH professionals largely stayed in their bank accounts. Perhaps there could be some exceptions here and there, such as a big spend on marriage or purchase of a new car. As one said, the entire pandemic period was managed with a pair of lungis and a couple of T-shirts. There was no extra expense on new shirts, trousers or jeans.

Now comes the challenge. Companies have slowly returned to work from office mode. Shopping malls, film theatres and tourist locations are open. People who stayed here are opening their wallets. Kerala was one of the pioneers in the concept of IT parks with Technopark back in 1990. But, it missed the bus even as software parks in Bengaluru, Mysore, Chennai and Hyderabad stole a march on Kerala. The task for policymakers is how to capitalise on the WFH concept. Factors such as 24X7 connectivity and peaceful atmosphere will swing things in our favour. But Kerala has to get out of its comfort zone and ensure those who returned, stay and spend here.

Young couples with kids are severely affected as companies return to WFO mode. The pandemic allowed them to be more comfortable while working from home, as their partners were just a call away. New studies reveal that working women are ready to let off their conveyance allowance and office-food coupons just to continue WFH.

Related Stories

No stories found.

The New Indian Express