Advertising today is barely 20% of the normal levels: Uday Shankar

According to Uday Shankar, President, The Walt Disney Company, APAC and Chairman, Star & Disney India, the need is to do something equally radical like the lockdown in order to kick-start the economy

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: May 5, 2020 8:08 AM
Uday Shankar

“We have seen a widespread discontinuation of advertising all over. The advertising today is barely 20% of the normal levels and going forward we might suspect it will get worse,” Uday Shankar, President, The Walt Disney Company, APAC and Chairman, Star & Disney India, said during an online conclave on Monday.

Sharing his thoughts on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the media industry, Shankar shared that with manufacturing, distribution and retailing coming to a standstill there is little advertising happening in media. “The advertising sector is a bellwether sector. It represents what happens to the industry and generally tells us the story earlier than any other sector. The first thing companies do in times of such crisis is cut down their advertising.”

Shankar was speaking at India Today’s e-conclave - Jump Start Series with Rahul Kanwal, News Director, India Today and Aaj Tak.

With India set to move into the third phases of the lockdown, the major cause for concern – apart from the spread of the virus – is the revival of the economy and getting businesses back on track. Some surveys suggest that it will take six month to one year for the industries to function normally but the biggest question of the hour is what should be the immediate steps to start reviving the economy?

“Lockdown was necessary and it was an absolute success. India is one the sterling stories as far as containing the spread of the virus is concerned,” said Shankar. “Now we need to do something equally radical in order to kick-start the economy. We should appreciate that it is not a pause, it's a reset and every part of the industry has to be kicked back into action. Our economy is so integrated that it's tough to take a slice of it. It is not a modular economy. To restart we need to collaborate with everybody.”

Speaking about the media sector, Shankar said, “Migrant labourers need to come back to work for the plants to restart. In the media sector, not a single television show or film is being made today and these shows need presentation from all walks of life. People come from all parts of the country to make a show whether it's a makeup artist or technician, they need to come back. It's not an easy problem to solve because of interlinkages. People who have gone away need to be first confident that it's okay to come back. First and foremost, we need to start stimulating both supply and demand. People’s earnings have been disrupted badly. We need to put money in their hands. The government has put some on their hands so that they can survive but a lot more needs to be done. A lot more needs to be done in urban India. Sometimes we equate poverty with rural poverty and we forget about the degrading and absolutely brutal effects of urban poverty.”

According to Shankar, the lockdown has been in effect for nearly six weeks now and this means it has been a setback for not just small businesses but the big ones too, and with revenue getting hit a lot of companies have resorted to layoffs. Speaking on how to minimise job losses, Shankar said it's a brutal reality that people are not able to afford paying their employees even at the risk of being arrested.

“Nobody wants to fire people. You hire people to produce more and sell more and to make more money. Getting rid of people is an option of the last resort. There has to be some kind of support. Governments across the world are trying to step up and help people and pick up the salary bills. It's very important in this country to do this at all levels. I don't think that without that we will be able to carry the same number of employees with much lower production and sales and massive setbacks to the business. Life has changed and business cannot be as usual.”

In conclusion, Shankar said, “The government needs to step in and build an environment and take concrete initiatives to give confidence to enterprises that they should do their best and that if they fail they will be looked after.”

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